5 Reasons Boston Celtics Should Make One Last Push for NBA Title with Big 3
While NBA free agency is a living and breathing organism that is constantly changing and evolving, current knowledge points to Danny Ainge sensing something in the Eastern Conference.
He is making a clear push to "bring the band back together for one last run." Where have we heard that before? Last year? Two years ago? For a man who has made public how unsentimental he is about these things, he appears to be clinging to an old hope.
Kevin Garnett will be back, signing a three-year, $34 million deal to kick off the free-agency period. Even after appearing to agree to terms with Jason Terry, the Celtics are making plays to bring back Ray Allen. Brandon Bass and even Jeff Green are high on Boston's priority list as well.
There are numerous reasons as to why Ainge and the Celtics are making these moves. Some of them may contradict the others, but they all wind up at the same conclusion: He sees an opening in the East and he is going for it at an all-out sprint.
Atlantic Division Overhaul
Does Ainge see the writing on the wall? The Atlantic Division, which Boston has owned since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, just got a whole lot more interesting.
Joe Johnson is making his way north and joining forces with Deron Williams in Brooklyn. This immediately makes the Nets a threat to end Boston's reign. The Toronto Raptors will also be no joke anymore. Andrea Bargnani will return from injury and they are still in play to land a free agent or two.
This couples with the everlasting worry that the New York Knicks will finally figure out how to win consistently with Carmelo Anthony. Also there is the ever-pesky Philadelphia 76ers who just took the Celtics to a Game 7 in the second round last season.
Ainge sees a rapidly-improving division and could be in danger of drifting back behind one or two of these teams and falling out of favor in Boston. A play to bring last year's team back, while these newer formed teams in New York, Brooklyn and Toronto struggle to mesh, means the Celtics should once again be favored to land a top-four seed in the East.
Weakening Eastern Conference
While it somewhat contradicts a strengthening Atlantic Division, the Eastern Conference is looking weaker by the day.
We already know some of this to be true. Derrick Rose's absence for a large chunk of next season will derail Chicago fairly seriously. The Orlando Magic are in shambles as they try to figure out the Dwight Howard situation. Stay or go, they are a damaged team and Howard may be leaving the Eastern Conference altogether if he winds up with a team like the Lakers or Rockets.
Atlanta was just weakened considerably as it sent its only pure scorer, Joe Johnson, to Brooklyn in exchange for spare parts. It also dealt Marvin Williams for a backup PG. Philadelphia is dealing with tough decisions concerning three of its top players in Spencer Hawes, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala. The Nets will still need to figure their chemistry out, and New York and Toronto have missed out on Steve Nash while damaging their teams in their quest to sign him.
That leaves Miami and Boston as the two constants and thus the two with the best shot of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
Keeping Good Players off Fellow Contenders
Two teams making a major push for Ray Allen's services this offseason are Miami and New York. Both compete directly with Boston in the East, New York more specifically in the Atlantic.
Is Allen such a significant upgrade for the Heat that he would make them unbeatable and a shoo-in to repeat? Absolutely not. However, he does represent a tangible upgrade in one aspect of a basketball game, and that matters so much in the playoffs.
Allen is the best there is at a skill that gives you one more point than any other shot. A crushing Ray Allen three has terminated more NBA teams' postseason runs than almost any other act. That is reason enough to try and sign him back to Boston to keep him out of enemy hands.
Even with the addition of Jason Terry, the Celtics seem intent on bringing Allen back to bolster their bench.
But We Wanted a Youth Movement!
The reality of this whole situation is that Boston isn't bringing back the Big Three. That ended a couple years ago when the Ray Allen slide began, Paul Pierce couldn't go eye to eye with the top wing players consistently, and Kevin Garnett started getting the five-in, five-out treatment.
They are simply bringing in some of the best available talent. Fortunately for them, that talent already meshes well together. Of the most desirable free agents on the market this year, Garnett and Allen are high up on that list.
Make no mistake, though: If Allen is coming back, it is as a complementary player. Avery Bradley should be starting alongside Rajon Rondo, giving them a young and quick backcourt. Garnett is coming back to start, but his minutes will be tempered once again as the Celtics spent two first-round picks on big men in the 2012 draft.
Boston did get younger—not through free agency, but through its own system.
One Win Away from the Finals
Fans and media tend to get caught up with "the future" a lot. This has been happening in Boston for the past few years to excess. Looking objectively, this team was one win in two chances away from competing in the NBA Finals.
You can yell out all the arguments of injuries to star players in the East until you are blue in the face. Boston took injuries as well. It lost one starter and two key reserves for the season in Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green. They lost starting two-guard Avery Bradley for the Eastern Conference finals, as well.
The clamoring for a youth movement is happening while an elite team is still playing in the TD Garden, no matter the age. Boston is "bringing the band back" not for sentimentality or because better options aren't available. It's bringing it back because it was a top-three team in the NBA a month ago.
That is what is on Danny Ainge's mind as he attempts to reach agreements with his free agents before July 11.