Which Boston Celtics Are Destined to Leave Town in 2012?
With the Boston Celtics off to a dismal 4-8 start, is it too early to start thinking about next season? This team has grown long in the tooth and lacks the firepower to make another deep playoff run. Some argue that they may not even make the playoffs.
Not so long ago, this team was able to drive to the basket and draw fouls. Nowadays, the Celtics just settle for jump shots. Their defense was once a brick wall, but now it leaks like a sieve.
Looking ahead to the 2012-2013 season, rebuilding is imminent. The Big Four will be blown up to start this team over from scratch. Next year, as much as $45 million in cap space could be cleared up.
Who will stay and who will go?
Here's what to expect this summer once Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen's salaries come off the books.
Kevin Garnett: Gone
Kevin Garnett is 35 years old, and his points per game hasn't been this low since his rookie season when he scored 10 points a contest. KG's rebounds and steals have receded also, while his turnovers have risen from 1.62 last year to 2.25 through 12 games this season.
It appears that Garnett's run in Boston is over. He will make over $21 million this year, and his play does not warrant that type of payday.
Who knows what Garnett will do next season? Will he retire? Or will he give it one more go around?
One thing's for sure: He won't be playing in Boston.
Danny Ainge doesn't strike many people as a loyal president of basketball operations. Last season's trade, which sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, exemplified what type of businessman he is. Tenure means nothing to Ainge. Therefore, the days are numbered for an aging star like Garnett.
Ray Allen: Gone
It's safe to say that Ray Allen has been one of the most steady contributors for the Celtics this season.
Allen has averaged 16.5 points per game and is currently shooting a remarkable 57 percent from beyond the three-point line. Regardless of how well Ray has defied age, the 36-year-old will not be back for the 2012 season.
Ray should hop on with another title-contending team, rather than drag through another disappointing season in Boston. Pure shooters are often able to play the game at a high level for a longer period of time; Allen is no different.
It has circulated that Ray wants to stick with Boston and re-sign to a long-term deal. However, it just doesn't seem fair to keep a guy who wants another title in a situation where that is not going to happen.
Jermaine O'Neal: Gone
Jermaine O'Neal would have already been gone in a deal that would have sent David West to Boston from the New Orleans Hornets. However, O'Neal did not want to go to a team that wouldn't be a contender.
Nothing surprising here: O'Neal is a very old 33 years of age and has battled numerous injuries throughout his 15-year career.
Once his contract is up at the end of this season, don't anticipate O'Neal to return.
Paul Pierce: Stays
There has been talk that the Celtics would look to trade the cornerstone of the franchise at some point this season or during the summer. Except, it would not be wise to trade a player who has been the face of the franchise since 1998.
Paul Pierce is under contract through the 2013-2014 season and will someday have his number retired in TD Garden. If the Celtics front office knows what is good for the integrity of the franchise, then Pierce will retire a member of the Celtics.
It's hard to believe another team would want to overpay for the 34-year-old swingman, who is set to earn over $15 million this season, almost $17 million next year and over $15 million during the 2013-2014 season.
Rajon Rondo: Stays
Rondo is averaging 14 points, 10 assists and five rebounds per game this season.
The former Kentucky Wildcat is under contract through the 2014-2015 season, and he's not going anywhere until then.
Brandon Bass: Stays
Bass will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-2013 season, but his spark off the bench has been invaluable this season for the Celtics.
It just doesn't make sense for Boston to get rid of a guy it just acquired.
Jeff Green: Stays
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Although the Celtics' 2007 lottery pick will miss the entire season after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, expect Jeff Green back in 2012, even though he will be an unrestricted free agent after the Celtics removed his qualifying offer.
You can bet that the Celtics front office wants nothing more than to hold on to the only remaining piece from the infamous Kendrick Perkins trade.
Jeff Green never found his niche in Boston, but as the future shifts toward a youth movement, he may play a significant role.
Cap Space to Play With
It may be a pipe-dream, but the free-agent class of 2012 is one of the most impressive in recent memory.
With all that money to throw at players, as well as a promising NBA draft in June, one can only hope that the Celtics' future will be as promising as their past.