How Long Will the Boston Celtics' Title Window Remain Open?
If you're a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, one thing that is really nice is that your team has locked up two of its most talented players, and both of those players are very young.
That's great, it removes some of the sting from last season's NBA Finals loss. After all, there is a deserved level of confidence that the Thunder will be back in the NBA Finals, and probably sooner than later.
Things are a little different in Boston. There's no question that the Celtics will be among a handful of teams expected to mount a decent challenge against the defending champion Miami Heat this coming season.
That challenge will be mounted with major contributions from players such as 36-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old (by the time the season starts) Paul Pierce. Newly acquired Jason Terry is also expected to have to have a strong season in whatever role he's assigned. Terry will be 35 when the season eventually begins.
The Celtics are very talented, but they're also pretty old. So if the Celtics falter this season and come up short in their quest for their 18th Championship Banner, how many more chances does this crew realistically have?
Unfortunately, not too many. Unless you're a dedicated fan, who assumes only the most positive of projections for all players wearing green and white, there aren't a lot of good reasons to think the Celtics will be raising any banners if they can't get it done before the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season.
That means they've got two seasons, the upcoming one and the one that follows it.
After that it gets real difficult to see a title being won.
The Celtics won't be entering this upcoming season as NBA Title favorites. They're likely to be projected as legitimate contenders.
This coming season is the final season of Paul Pierce's contract. That reason alone might make some question the wisdom of projecting the Celtics as title contenders beyond the 2012-13 season.
It is likely—not assured, but likely—that Paul Pierce will end up re-signing with the Celtics and finishing his Hall of Fame career there. That would make lots of Celtics fans happy. Pierce returning to Boston beyond next season is no guarantee that he performs at a high level much longer.
Pierce has already started to show signs of decline, which is to be expected for a player with the amount of games and minutes he's amassed over the years.
Pierce's eventual decline is only a part of the problem.
Kevin Garnett is not only the team's sole real rebounding force, he's also the only big man with fully developed offensive skills. Garnett, like Pierce, is a lock to eventually enter the Basketball Hall of Fame. Garnett's contract is not expiring at the end of next season. He's signed for three more years. That doesn't mean he's going to be a force for all three years.
When the Celtics lost veteran shooting guard Ray Allen this past July, the team all of a sudden had a massive void at that position. The Celtics probably signed the best guy on the market to fill that void as well. Jason Terry is a great three-point shooter, a solid ball-handler and a decent defender. He's also going to be 35 this coming season.
The Celtics have enough other pieces in place to make the playoffs if any one of these three aging but critical players heads into a real decline in their performance.
They aren't going to win the Finals without all three contributing mightily though. It seems naive to think that one of these three aging but talented players won't start to decline sometime over the course of the next three seasons.
I can buy into Pierce re-signing in Boston, I can buy into Garnett playing very good center for the next two seasons, and I can even buy into Jason Terry being solid in Boston for a few years. Not more than two of them though.
The other Celtics are good; Rajon Rondo will continue to be among the very best point guards and players in the NBA. Maybe the team gets Jeff Green to finally become worthy of his lofty draft position back in June of 2007? Perhaps Jared Sullinger or Fab Melo are both better than expected?
There are possible trades or future free agents as well. That's a lot of "maybes" and a lot of speculation. Things could change, this projection could be altered, but as of now it seems like the Celtics' current title window can't realistically extend beyond the 2013-2014 season.
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