Rajon Rondo (left) and Jeff Green are the two biggest building blocks for the Celtics
Kevin Garnett is hurting.
KG has missed the Boston Celtics' last six games with an injured ankle, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that KG was dealing with bone spurs—an injury that often requires offseason surgery (Ray Allen says hello).
Kevin Garnett is tired.
He is putting the finishing touches on his 18th NBA season. He has appeared in 1,455 games, logging 52,552 minutes in his career (both numbers include playoff games).
Every year we don’t know if it’s his last time. Obviously, I hope not and we all hope not, but you never know with Kevin. Every summer he’s deciding if he’s coming back or not. I would hope that it isn’t because you would want him to play his last game here.
Last summer, KG nearly walked away from the NBA but instead decided to come back to the Celtics on a 3 year, $36 million contract. However, as Rivers says, at this time in his career Garnett is on a year-to-year basis, no matter what his contract dictates.
With over $300 million made in his career, KG will walk away when he feels like it—not necessarily when his contract ends.
With that said, what would it mean for the Celtics organization if Garnett retired from the game this summer?
After a six-year run of success, the organization would be at a crossroads; it would finally be time for the Celtics to rebuild, a process that normally takes a half-decade or more in the NBA.
However it wouldn't have to take that long for Boston. Let's take a look at five moves that would expedite the Celtics rebuilding process.
If Garnett truly does walk away, Danny Ainge will be forced to make the toughest decision of his professional career.
Taking a look at the Celtics salary cap situation on HoopsHype.com, Paul Pierce has a $15 million option for next season, $5 million of which is guaranteed to him even if the Celtics decline. However, that $5 million would count against the cap, meaning that the Celtics would be forced to pick up the option and then amnesty Pierce to get the maximum financial benefit.
There is no denying that Pierce is an all-time great Celtic and that his No. 34 jersey will soon hang from the rafters at TD Garden. He has also reinvented his game over the past few seasons, maintaining an elite level of performance into his mid-30's.
However, if KG retires, the Celtics would still have $61.5 million worth of salary on the books next season, about $1.5 million above the projected cap. If Pierce is amnestied, that number drops to $46.2 million, leaving enough wiggle room to bring in an elite free agent.
Bringing Pierce back would be the popular move with fans, but it would cripple the team's roster flexibility, preventing them from adding any talent besides the mid-level exception.
Not to mention it would mean the Celtics were bringing back nearly the same exact team as this year, only without KG, and—as we've seen in recent weeks—this team just isn't good enough without him.
After amnestying Pierce, the Celtics would have enough money to make a run at an elite—but not quite max-contract level—player. Enter former Celtics big man Al Jefferson.
While it would be a weird situation to see the man traded for KG take his place, Jefferson makes the most sense out of anyone in this year's free-agent crop.
Big Al is 28 years old and has averaged 18.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks since leaving the Celtics in 2007. He has also recently expressed an interest in returning to Boston, and that is not something that very many premium free agents say.
Personally I think that a five-year, $60-65 million deal gets it done with Jefferson. A price that the Celtics could afford with Garnett and Pierce out of the picture.
With Jefferson in the mix, the Celtics would be very close to the projected $60 million salary cap for 2013-14. However, they would be well below the luxury tax, allowing them to utilize the full mid-level exception.
With the ability to dangle a four-year, $21.5 million contract, Boston would open themselves up to a host of quality players that they otherwise would not be able to target (if Garnett and Pierce stick around the Celtics currently project to be over the tax, and therefore, would not be able to offer more than the "mini-mid-level", which is 3 years and $9 million).
While those numbers aren't jaw dropping, Aminu is only 22 years old and would give the Celtics exactly what they crave right now—rebounding. Aminu's defensive-rebounding percentage is a staggering 26.3 percent (meaning he grabs 26.3 percent of all the available defensive rebounds while on the floor), the 9th best average in the entire NBA and the best among small forwards.
Aminu would be the perfect complement to Jeff Green, a strong, physical rebounder who can also guard opposing wing players.
While it is always possible that a team over-bids for Aminu's services, Hornets Report compared Aminu to similar players hitting the market, and estimates that he'll make about $5 million a year in his next contract.
Exactly what the Celtics can pay.
Dieng with one of his 4 blocks in the Elite 8 match-up with Duke
That would be the highest draft pick the team has had since they traded the number five selection in the 2007 draft (Jeff Green) for Ray Allen.
With a pick that high, the Celtics could potentially dip into a pedigree of college talent that has eluded them in recent years.
Dieng is quickly becoming a household name thanks to his play in the NCAA tournament. Through four games, the 23-year-old out of Senegal has averaged 11 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks for the Cardinals as they advanced to the Final Four.
Dieng is a true center, standing 6'11", and can alter shots from anywhere in the paint thanks to a 7'6" wingspan. He has also improved his offensive game this season, adding an 18-20 foot jump shot to his repertoire.
While Dieng would be a perfect fit for the Celtics, if he ends up playing himself into the lottery thanks to Louisville's potential run to a national title, Kansas' Jeff Withey would be a great consolation prize.
A 23-year-old-senior, Withey is a legit seven-footer, and while he doesn't have the same athleticism as Gorgui, he is a more polished offensive player—especially in the post.
As of right now, Gorgui is ranked 25th on Chad Ford's big board while Withey is ranked 21st.
When training camp starts, Rajon Rondo will be seven months removed from the ACL surgery that ended his 2012-13 season. By the time opening night comes around, Rondo will be nearly nine months removed from the operating table.
That means that when opening night comes along, the Celtics would have the following roster at their disposal:
PG Rajon Rondo, age 27 (as of opening night 2013)
SG Avery Bradley, 22
SF Jeff Green, 27
PF Jared Sullinger, 21
C Al Jefferson, 28
G Courtney Lee, 28
G Jason Terry, 36
F Al-Farouq Aminu, 23
F Brandon Bass, 28
G Jordan Crawford, 25
G Terrence Williams (partially guaranteed contract), 26
C Shavlik Randolph (partially guaranteed contract), 29
C Fab Melo, 23
The above roster would certainly go through some growing pains as they learned to play without Pierce and Garnett. The team would need to remake its identity, and without KG out there, its entire defensive philosophy would need to be altered.
With that said, the Celtics would have put together a young, deep and athletic squad that could beat opposing teams in a bunch of different ways.
- Want to slow the game down? Al Jefferson would anchor the team's half court offense, giving the Celtics a low post presence that they are currently lacking.
- Want to get out and run? Rondo would have a stable of young athletes to run with him, in Bradley, Green, Aminu and Sullinger. If Rondo is going to become the centerpiece of this team, it is essential that he is surrounded by players that compliment his skill set.
- What about the Celtics biggest current weakness? By adding Aminu and Jefferson to Sullinger, the Celtics would have three elite rebounders for the first time since, well, for the first time in a really long time. Overnight a weakness would become a strength.
Whenever an era ends, it hurts. Especially when that era was as successful and exciting as the previous six years have been for Celtics fans. However-era's must end. And if Garnett does decide to walk away this summer, as much as it may hurt in the short-term, it could help launch the next great era of Celtics basketball.
An era that may not take more than a few months to come together.