The Celtics are getting hot at the wrong time.
If there's a time for a team to have uncertainty about their abilities, it's the time leading up to the trade deadline.
The trade deadline is the point in the NBA season where elite teams attempt to acquire the missing piece that will bring them a championship, young, developing teams stock up on cheap assets that will help them in the future, and when rebuilding teams ship out their most valuable to restock the franchise's cupboard.
What category do the Celtics belong to?
Right now, they're in the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Barring a major injury, they will make the playoffs unless something extreme happens.
But, unless they continue their exceptional play of late for the rest of the season, they will end up without home-court advantage.
In fact, with the re-organized Knicks as the eighth seed, they'll very likely have to play the Bulls or the Heat in the first round, and they won't have a good chance of getting past the first round against either of those two teams.
The only players locked up for next year are Rajon Rondo for $11 million, Paul Pierce for $16.8 million, Avery Bradley for $1.6 million, Brandon Bass for $4 million, E'Twaun Moore for $500k, and JaJuan Johnson for $1.2 million.
Paul Pierce's contract ends in 2014, and by then, his skills will most likely be diminshed. Rondo's contract runs through 2015, as is Bradley's, and Johnson is signed through 2016.
Should the Celtics rebuild now?
It's obvious that they don't qualify as a young, developing team—starting from scratch seems to be the best thing for the franchise to do.
Kevin Garnett, once a great player in the NBA, is a shell of his former self.
He hasn't had any major injuries this year, but he's only averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game while playing below-average defense.
At one time, Garnett was considered one of the best basketball players in the game. Now, he's nothing more than a solid post-player.
If any contender is lacking an inside presence, Garnett might be of service to a contending team.
While it appears contenders around the NBA are set with their starters, many teams could use Garnett as a player off the bench to secure their front-court depth, like Philadelphia, New York, the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando, and Dallas.
More importantly, his $21 million dollar contract expires at the end of the season, making Garnett more valuable for any team looking to clear cap space.
Paul Pierce is an aging All-Star with two years left on his contract for roughly $16 million per year. Pierce can score from the wing with the best of them in a variety of ways, and he's one of the best clutch players.
If a team needs his services and are willing to take on his contract, Boston would be wise to listen.
Who is the best trade asset on the Celtics?
On the surface, there's no obvious reason to trade Rajon Rondo.
He's signed long-term, and he's one of the NBA's premier young talents. While he's yet to prove that he can lead a team without a note-worthy supporting cast, the Celtics will have some room to sign big names.
However, there has been tension between Rondo and the organization, namely head coach Doc Rivers. While they claim their relationship isn't an issue, Rondo has been shopped around this season.
Still, any team would be happy to build around him.
And then there's Ray Allen, whose $10 million contract expires after this season.
Allen's contract is reasonable, and could be the missing piece for many contenders. But, unlike Garnett, he could also be resigned to help contribute for the future, as he is still in unbelievable shape for a 36-year-old player.
Allen plays solid defense and can bring a remarkable shooting ability to any contending team this season and beyond.
In other words, the Celtics can really get something for him should they decide to trade him.
The Bulls, the Clippers, and the Timberwolves, assuming Rubio is okay, would all be prime candidates for Allen.
When you look at the salaries, the Timberwolves have the most to offer.
The Celtics could send Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus to the Timberwolves for Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson.
Ray Allen would be the perfect fix for Minnesota's shooting guard problem, and Pietrus is a solid backup on the wing. Both of their contracts end after this season, but even if the Timberwolves can't resign both players, that's still $11 million coming off the books at the end of the season.
Beasley and Johnson, who have been disappointments in their time in Minnesota, are both highly talented players with definite All-Star potential that just need more development.
If Boston goes into a rebuilding process, acquiring project players and hoping they pan out is one way to go. Johnson has two additional years on his contract at $4 million while Beasley's contract expires at the end of the season.
In summary, the Celtics need to officially go into rebuilding mode.
While it would be nice to hold on to Ray Allen's expiring contract, there are teams that might overpay for his talents, and GM Danny Ainge needs to capitalize on it.