Strange and unpredictable are among the best words to describe the 2011-12 NBA season so far. While the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder look to be the league's best teams, everything after is very blurry.
A night after the Portland Trailblazers, who many thought were as good as the Thunder, took down the Los Angeles Lakers, they were blown out by the Phoenix Suns. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks have looked worse than the Toronto Raptors in four of their five losses.
For the Boston Celtics (4-4), they've heard it all. They know they're old, slow and have a lot of uncertainty. Of course, fatigue will be a huge factor going forward, but one thing remains the same:
Sixteen-year veteran Ray Allen looks like he's 25 again, looking like the team's best player through eight games.
Now 36 years old, Allen is averaging 20.4 points per game on 63 percent shooting from the three through eight games. The question many are asking, though, is where he'll be playing at the end of the season.
Doc Rivers said before the season that this year is probably Boston's last chance at winning a title with this group of Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. After this season, Garnett and Allen will both be free agents.
The upcoming offseason will feature premiere names like Dwight Howard and Deron Williams on the market, so many teams are looking to unload their rosters through the acquisition of expiring contracts.
This is the reason Mark Cuban did not resign any of the free agents from last season (all were looking for long deals) onto the Mavericks. Cap flexibility means making a lot of sacrifices, and so Boston is facing a tough decision.
It's difficult to assess where the Celtics are just two weeks into the season. At 4-4, they haven't looked too bad, playing three games without Pierce. All four wins have come against the three worst teams in the eastern conference, though they've managed to stay competitive in losses to the Heat and New York Knicks.
Are they a championship contender? As stated earlier, only the above three mentioned resemble anything like legitimate contenders so far. So at this point, we really don't know.
There's been too much inconsistency all over the place to determine where the Celtics really stand. Why is this important? Because now is the best time for Danny Ainge to get the best value for his two oldest superstars.
Allen is bound to attract many offers when he enters free agency next year. He stays in shape better than anyone else and is shooting the ball the best he ever has, which says a lot for the career leader in three-pointers made. He's the type of player several hopeful contenders would kill to have.
March 15 has been set as the trade deadline, so we'll get a better idea then on whether or not Ainge should unload Allen. If the team continues to play inconsistently up till then, there is no reason for the former UConn star to remain on the roster.
This June's draft looks to be very deep, highlighted by Rivers' own son, Austin, who is a freshman at Duke. Trading Allen and Garnett for expiring contracts will put the team in good position to pick up multiple first round picks, along with great cap flexibility.
If Allen continues his great play throughout the rest of the season, and the Celtics do not win a championship, it wouldn't be smart to keep him around for another two years. The reason being, if Boston can't get it done this year with this group, then they clearly will never be able to.
With the Heat looking like the clear front-runners, it's doesn't seem as if the Celtics will be able to compete this year, either.
The wise decision: trade Allen for great value now while you can.
If not? Rondo could become the next disgruntled superstar on the market this summer looking to switch teams.