When the Boston Celtics current playoff run eventually comes to an end, the team's general manager Danny Ainge will be faced with numerous roster decisions. Rarely would a general manager remove any option from the realm of possibility.
Trading away either of the two first-round picks the Celtics have in this June's NBA Draft should be pretty much off limits.
The Boston Celtics will be a team in an enviable position this summer. Their best player, Rajon Rondo, is signed for three more years at an average of $12 million per season. That's not cheap, but it's far less money than the rest of the league's top point guards make.
The Celtics also have Paul Pierce signed through next two seasons.
That means that the team's two best players will return next season, along with rapidly improving shooting guard Avery Bradley.
Those two first-round picks that Boston has are in a draft that is one of the deepest in recent years. The players selected will have major long-term impacts on the roster.
The first is the obvious influx of young talent. More importantly, the picks could include a low post player. This year's draft has plenty of talented power forwards and centers. Meyers Leonard, Arnett Moultrie and Fab Melo are just a few of the names that could be available when the Celtics make their first of two selections.
The second, and even more important aspect of these draft picks is that they'll put talented young players on the team at very affordable prices. With the team having not having to commit a large sum of money to improve the team, utilizing the draft will be especially important for Ainge and the Celtics.
The Celtics won't have to spend lavishly on a talented free agent, or absorb salary if the team made a trade for an established NBA star. What that means is that the Celtics have a chance to set themselves up for serious success over the next few years—if they can turn those two first-round picks into solid NBA players.
They don't need to be stars.
The great thing about the low salaries they'll earn is that the team will probably have cap room to spend on free agents. They'll have the luxury of low-cost talent. That's nice in a sport like baseball, but in the NBA with it's fairly rigid salary cap, it's a near necessity for success.
Look at the current state of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks have almost their entire payroll wrapped up in three players next season: Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire has emerged as not just a defensive liability, but an injury prone one at that. His salary of almost $20 million a year over the next three years makes him almost totally impossible to remove from the roster.
If you don't think that's enough proof that teams need low-cost talent to succeed, then look at the current state of the Miami Heat.
The Heat famously inked Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to contracts in the summer of 2010 to form one of the league's most talented trios. That talent came at a cost, even though all three players took just under the maximum to allow the franchise some flexibility to sign other players. The size of their deals still restricted the talent level of players Miami could bring on board to support the three stars.
Fast forward to the current 2012 NBA Playoffs and Miami is in big trouble.
The reason is that Chris Bosh is injured and Miami—by virtue of the massive contracts given to their three stars—is now playing in a very compromised position. The team didn't have the wherewithal to bring on enough talent to surround their three centerpieces. With Bosh hurt, the team is struggling and it may end up costing them a run at the title they all signed up to win in the first place.
These are not positions the Celtics want to find themselves in. Hold onto those picks and instead of following in the footsteps of the Heat or Knicks, the Celtics could be looking at a vastly different scenario.
Imagine a possible Celtics' roster in a few seasons. Rondo is making $13 million. Perhaps Garnett and Pierce are both on short-term contracts of similar pay. The two first-round picks are making less than $3 million combined.
Then add in the likes of a David West, Josh Smith or Al Jefferson? All three players are slated to become unrestricted free agents following the 2012-2013 season.
If that sounds like a talented, balanced and deep team that's because it would be. The Celtics want to build a team that gives them the best possible chance to win a title. That's the ultimate goal, and keeping this year's two first-round picks could prove pivotal to achieving it.
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