After a valiant effort against the eventual champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics realized that they were not at all far off from being the league's best team. Despite over half of their club (literally) dealing with some sort of injury in the Heat series, the Celtics were still able to do something no other team was able to do this season: push Miami to seven games.
Clearly, Boston was only a piece here and a piece there away from besting the Heat, and Danny Ainge made it his duty this offseason to try and compile those pieces.
Some felt that the C's should go into rebuilding mode, thinking that they had squeezed every last ounce out of the Big Three and that it was time for a change.
Well, things have changed a bit: now that Ray Allen taking his talents to South Beach, the Big Three is no more, and a new era of basketball has essentially begun in Beantown.
Danny Ainge has made a flurry of moves this summer to bolster his squad. Let's go through each and every one of them and determine how good each decision really was.
I feel like I (and Celtics writers everywhere) have beaten the draft to death, but it is a part of the offseason, nonetheless, and I think the Celtics did a great job in selecting Sullinger (No. 21), Melo (No. 22), and Joseph (No. 51).
Of course, it is well-known that Sullinger would have been a top five pick in 2011 had he entered the draft then, but he decided to stay at Ohio State an extra year, and due to the depth of the 2012 draft and the fact that Sullinger was medically flagged for bulging discs in his back, he fell into Boston's lap at No. 21 overall.
Sullinger will give the C's two things that they sorely missed this past year: another low post presence to pair with Kevin Garnett and a good rebounder.
Garnett was really the only player the Celtics could rely on down low in 2012, and he was also the only guy they could consistently depend on to hit the glass.
As far as Melo goes, yes, he is a bit of a project, but Boston desperately needed a true center. And at seven-foot, 255 lbs., the Syracuse product clearly provides that. He doesn't even have to put up big numbers to be effective. He just needs to throw his weight around and serve as a deterrent to opposing players who wish to drive down the lane.
That brings us to Joseph, a player who might end up being one of the biggest steals of the draft. A teammate of Melo at Syracuse, Joseph possesses outstanding athleticism and a great feel for the game. He has been so impressive in summer league that some have already compared him to Paul Pierce. I believe he is going to see some floor time this season.
I expect all three of these rookies to contribute this year.
This was the move that basically kick-started the Celtics' busy offseason.
Throughout the playoffs, it was rumored that this could have been Garnett's last hurrah because he was considering retirement. Clearly, K.G.'s competitive nature got the better of him, and he did not want to end his career with losing Game 7 to Miami.
Garnett decided to return to Boston, and while some questioned the length of the deal, keep in mind that K.G. does not necessarily have to finish out his contract. I think there is a solid chance that he will return before his three years are up and I don't think he'd have any problem leaving money on the table.
Garnett was the heart and soul of the C's this year. Once Doc Rivers moved him to center after the All-Star break, K.G. looked revitalized, and he breathed life into a Celtics team that many thought was dead in the water. He was arguably the MVP of the playoffs, as he did anything and everything for Boston throughout the postseason.
Garnett's return signals that he and Ainge believe that the C's are not done yet.
I absolutely loved this move by Ainge, as Terry's personality will fit right into the concept of "Ubuntu" that Boston has been preaching for years now. The guy is a winner, and he will provide the C's with something they sorely lacked this past season: some scoring pop off the bench.
The former Sixth Man of the Year averaged 15.1 points per game off the pine for the Dallas Mavericks this past season, hitting on nearly 38 percent of his three-point attempts. The energy that he brings should prove invaluable to the Celtics, and there is no doubt in my mind that he is going to become a fan favorite at TD Garden almost instantly.
Terry has one thing on his mind: winning, so he should have no problem finding a home in Boston.
The Glen Davis for Bass trade certainly worked out for the Celtics, and I think the re-signing of Bass will, too.
Bass was an extremely valuable member of Boston this past season, as his ability to knock down the mid-range jump shot along with Garnett gave the C's one of the deadliest pick-and-roll combinations in the league with Rajon Rondo running the show at point.
Bass was also enormous for the Celtics in the playoffs, shooting a ridiculous 92 percent from the free throw line (which is actually what he shoots career-wise from the stripe in the postseason; talk about clutch) and hitting timely shots all the way through.
I think his Game 5 explosion against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round was truly the moment where he cemented himself as a Celtic, and at that point, you just knew Ainge was not going to let the man walk.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Bass this past season was how much his defense improved. He was not known as a good defender before arriving in Boston, but with a little help from Garnett, Bass turned into a rather reliable defensive player.
Bass averaged career-highs in both points (12.5) and rebounds (6.2) per game in 2012, and I expect him to continue to produce this coming season.
Okay. This was the only decision that Ainge made that I had a bit of a problem with, and it has nothing to do with Green as a player.
The problem I have is with the contract.
I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you that the 25-year-old Green is coming off heart surgery, so, naturally, I am a bit skeptical about whether or not he is going to be fully capable of living up to the lucrative contract that Ainge has awarded him with.
Nevertheless, the re-signing of Green had to happen. He will provide the Celtics with some great versatility off the bench, as he can play either forward position.
It should also be fun watching him getting out in the open court with Rondo, as he displayed flashes of being a dangerous fastbreak player after coming over in the Kendrick Perkins deal in 2011.
I really hope that Green gets a huge ovation from the fans at TD Garden when he enters the game for the first time in 2012. If you're not rooting for this kid, then you have no soul.
Like Green, Wilcox's season was abruptly cut short when he was forced to undergo heart surgery.
Apart from robbing Rondo of a running mate, Wilcox's loss also proved to be extremely detrimental to the Celtics up front, as they severely missed his 6'10" frame.
Now, Wilcox is back, adding even more depth to Boston's frontcourt and giving K.G. some much-needed support inside.
Wilcox is not going to put up huge numbers, but when he is on the floor, you will know it.
The best part about all of this is that he wants to be a Celtic—that alone should make you love the guy.
Much akin to Green, Wilcox better receive an enormous ovation from the fans the first time he steps on the TD Garden parquet in the fall. He deserves it.
This was probably the most exciting move of the offseason for the Celtics.
Once again, Ainge worked his magic, working out a sign-and-trade that sent JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Sean Williams, and a second-round pick to the Rockets for Lee's services (also, Sasha Pavlovic was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers to make salaries match).
The contract that Ainge gave Lee was four years and was worth $21.5 million, a great deal for a player who should step in and fill a huge role for Boston this season.
Lee shot over 40 percent from three-point range for Houston this past season, and he is known for being a good perimeter defender. With Avery Bradley likely being out at the start of the season due to shoulder surgery, Lee will start at shooting guard for the C's, and he should serve as a more than capable replacement for the departed Allen.
Want to look at it another way? The Celtics replaced Allen not only with Lee, but with Lee and Terry. One can argue that both of those players are better than Allen individually at this stage of their careers.
This was a steal of a trade for Ainge, as he made the Celtics arguably the deepest team in the league while giving up nothing too valuable.
Ray Allen who?
I am not going to lie: I really hard my heart set on the Celtics going out and landing someone like Kenyon Martin or Joel Przybilla to fill out the frontcourt, but Collins isn't a bad addition.
If you have ever watched Collins play (or just looked at his numbers), you would know that he does not do much of anything offensively. However, he is a good screen-setter, and defensively, he is one of the best low post defenders in the game and is also a very good pick-and-roll defender. Pair him with Garnett up front, and you have a wall down low.
I think it's also important to note that the only playing time Collins is likely to get is against the likes of Howard, Andrew Bynum, and maybe someone like Marc Gasol. Other than that, he isn't going to get many minutes, so worrying about him inhibiting Boston's offense is rather silly.
All in all, this was a solid signing on the cheap. I don't absolutely love it, but I like it. I think Collins will fit in very well.
In what very well may be the Celtics' last signing of the offseason, Ainge decided to bring back "Reverend" Dooling, something that I think we all expected (what other reason would Boston have for not allowing Melo to wear No. 51?).
Not only has Dooling developed into a tenacious perimeter defender with the knack for hitting big threes, but he is an outstanding locker room guy, and he was a very good influence on Rondo this past season. That, more than anything, is why the C's wanted him to return.
Dooling will be an outstanding source of depth for the Celtics, and when Bradley returns, they will have the likes of Rondo, Bradley, Lee, Terry, and Dooling himself in the backcourt. Any other team would kill for that kind of depth.
Also, we absolutely had to keep at least one of the "Flexors" on the bench, didn't we?
Overall Grade: A.
I think it's safe to say that Ainge had an incredible offseason. He still has the bi-annual exception at his disposal, too, but my inkling is that he will hold on to that until the trade deadline where good players tend to be waived each year. Either that, or he will save it for next offseason.
Not only did Ainge make the Celtics better, but he also managed to make the team a legitimate title contender without mortgaging the future. Boston is actually a relatively young team now. Take out Garnett, Pierce, and Terry, and everyone else is pretty youthful.
Along with the Heat, the C's are undoubtedly the class of the Eastern Conference, and I think we are well on our way to round three (or round four if you want to count 2010 when it was just Dwyane Wade) of these two teams matching up in the postseason.
This time, though, I think the Celtics have enough to get the better of Miami.