Boston Celtics: Predicting the Celtics Starting Lineup for 2012-13 Season
The era of the original Big Three appears to be coming to a close.
While teams try to emulate the incredible talent that the Boston Celtics were able to accumulate in one offseason to complement lifelong Celtic Paul Pierce, they will nearly all be gone come the commencement of the 2012-13 NBA season.
The demand for money by some of the elder Celtics will further encourage the front office to part ways with some future Hall of Famers who have led the C's to prominence in the Eastern Conference.
One of the original Big Three will remain—the one who saw the era begin will be left when it all ends.
At first glance, it does look like a huge change from 2011, but keep in mind that three starters will return.
With talented youth like Rajon Rondo leading the way, Boston will more than hold their own next year.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is the new heart and soul of the Boston Celtics.
While he will be in the starting lineup come opening day, don't be surprised if he gets traded. If the Thunder don't win the NBA Finals a lot of blame will land on their young point guard.
A trade that has a foundation of Rondo for Russell Westbrook is a viable option. Why?
Rondo is the best traditional point guard in the league: unselfish, incredible passing ability, tough defensive presence, quick and can finish at the rim if he needs to.
Like Rondo, Westbrook is young and talented. But Westbrook is a scorer and alongside the league's premiere scorer: Kevin Durant. The Thunder will be better off with a Rondo-type point guard because something is wrong when the scoring champion is not getting the most shots on his team.
As for the Celtics, they will need a scorer for the future. Pierce is slowly fading and has shown he is more than willing to share shots (hence the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007) unlike one Kobe Bean Bryant.
If that doesn't work out, the Celtics are more than happy with their energetic young star. If he improves his jump shot this offseason, then he could easily be one of the best players in the NBA.
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
Ray Allen will be gone.
Other teams are attracted to one of the NBA's best pure shooters, and the Celtics shouldn't overpay an aging Ray Allen because they have Avery Bradley waiting in the wings.
Although NBA fans may only know Bradley as the defensive specialist the Celtics lost to injury during the playoff series against the 76ers, Bradley had an excellent finish to the 2012 regular season, as well.
During the month of April, he averaged 15 points on more 50 percent shooting on field goals and from beyond the arc.
Not only that but he had six games scoring over 17 points and put up 28 against the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks. Bradley is an inexpensive option at only $1.6 million in the short term and will be a solid guard for the future who can run the point if the Celtics decide to trade Rondo for a scorer.
The 21-year-old had an excellent first full season, and the Celtics should be very optimistic of his ability to contribute in 2012-13.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce
In his career as a Celtic, Pierce has won an NBA championship, been named to the All-Star team 10 times and averaged 22 points in more than 1,000 games played in the green and white.
And the funny thing is he grew up rooting for the rival Los Angeles Lakers.
Pierce is under contract for the next two seasons and will be making more than $30 million during that time period. That may be overpaying their star, but Pierce has earned it. The Celtics should respect the Celtic great.
While Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen jumped in on the fun when the Celtics were good, Pierce had endured some difficult years during the prime of his career in Boston and stayed loyal when he could have demanded a trade.
A Hall of Fame-bound forward, Pierce has scored more points in his career than Celtic legend Larry Bird.
Even though the 2002 scoring champion may be in the twilight of his career, he can still play.
Power Forward: Brandon Bass
Kevin Garnett will likely no longer be a Celtic come 2012-13.
He had a solid season this year and will command a large paycheck.
With his age, the Celtics should not go out of their way to keep Garnett. If he is willing to stay on a one- or two-year deal for around $10 million per year, the Celtics should jump on that offer.
The reality is that other teams who want the winning attitude and overall ability of Garnett are probably willing to overpay him.
And let's not forget that Brandon Bass was a vital player in the Celtics 2012 playoff run.
The 27-year-old did opt out of a $4 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, but his agent Tony Dutt told CSNNE.com that Boston is "definitely where Brandon wants to be."
He is a solid defensive big man with a decent mid-range game.
The Celtics would be wise to re-sign the 6'8" power forward/center that had a 27 point Game 5 performance against the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs.
Center: Chris Kaman
The Celtics will peruse the free agent market for a big man. Roy Hibbert would be an excellent option, but the Pacers have the restricted free agent in their power and would be crazy not to re-sign him.
There are other good bigs available like Brook Lopez, JaVale McGee and Spencer Hawes, but the Celtics probably won't be able to pry those players out of the hands of the teams they played for in 2012.
The New Orleans Hornets, however, should not be interested in re-signing seven-footer Chris Kaman.
As is obvious by now, it is nearly a guarantee that the Hornets will draft hopeful franchise player Anthony Davis in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The former Kentucky star will command big money and Chris Kaman made nearly $13 million in 2012, which should discourage the Hornets from re-signing him.
That is a high price tag, but in a league starved for good centers, the Celtics would be wise to grab him.
At 30 years old, he is a solid all-around post player who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last season.
With additional cap space after the losses of two of the Big Three, the Celtics should be able to come to an agreement Chris Kaman.