The Boston Celtics are a team on the decline, covered with growing weaknesses and a relentless, ongoing attack by the unbeatable Father Time.
But the upcoming NBA draft is an annual event allowing teams in Boston's exact situation to turn themselves around. It's a way for the Celtics to obtain a solid building block, fill their largest area of need or, if they win the figurative lottery, find a franchise player to carry them into the future.
This year's draft doesn't appear to have any franchise saviors, but it does have talented complementary pieces capable of improving a team that may be up for putting one more playoff run together.
Here are five prospects available, ranked by how positive an impact they can have on Boston over the next few years.
The next Serge Ibaka? Gorgui Dieng has height, length (a 7'4" wingspan, according to DraftExpress) and fantastic instincts as a shot-blocker from the weak side.
As the national champion Louisville Cardinals starting center last season, Dieng was critical in making their defense the No. 1 unit in the country.
He's 23 years old, which is old and a concern, and forces appropriate questions like "has he already peaked?" into all relevant analysis. But Dieng is good enough right now to positively impact an NBA team, particularly the Celtics, where on the offensive end he'd be perfect as a popping roll-man beside Rajon Rondo.
He can block shots with the best of them, but he can also knock down open mid-range jump shots. That's critical for any big man looking to play as many minutes as possible down the stretch of a close game.
The Celtics are always in need of size. Always and forever. Rudy Gobert is 7'2" (check) with a 9'7" standing reach (double check). That's size.
Only 20 years old, he isn't filled with technical coordination but instead physical astonishment. Gobert has the potential to be Boston's Tyson Chandler for the next 10 years, a gigantic person who impacts offensive possessions by tipping out missed shots from teammates (Boston was the second worst offensive rebounding team of all time last year) and sucking the opposing defense in on hard cuts to the basket.
Defensively he's the rim protector they've sorely needed. Even though Boston spent one of its first-round picks on Fab Melo last season, taking Gobert gives Danny Ainge too much of a good thing—another valuable yet expendable asset.
Once thought to be a prized jewel in the 2013 class, Shabazz Muhammad has watched his draft stock plummet in recent months.
Today he finds himself in legitimate danger of falling out of the lottery altogether, which was unthinkable a year ago. His skills are still there, however, and whoever lands him should find themselves with a player capable of getting his own shot in myriad aggressive fashions.
Muhammad stands 6'6" and would be pegged to eventually replace Paul Pierce as the forward Boston looks to when it needs a basket (a role that will also be allotted to Jeff Green).
If he's still on the board at 16, the Celtics absolutely have to take him. He'd be the most talented player and someone they could either incorporate in their system, or treat as a valuable asset on the trade market.
Trade rumors involving Rajon Rondo will be prevalent until his current contract expires in 2015. He's an incredibly unique talent, but the haul Boston could receive by moving him has the potential to hyper charge the rebuild they're headed towards.
Here's a possible replacement.
German point guard Dennis Schroeder has compared his game to Rondo's, except Schroeder can shoot. Last season, as a 19-year-old, he shot around 40 percent on three-pointers and over 50 percent on catch-and-shoot jump shots, according to Synergy Sports.
The Celtics have had a spell-binding run with Rondo as their floor general, but his inconsistent jump shot has strained his team's overall offensive efficiency. Bringing in an athlete like Schroeder to play behind Rondo, with a tentative plan to eventually replace him, could make Danny Ainge's draft a highly successful one.
And if keeping Rondo is on the agenda, well, Boston has yet to find a reputable backup at the position. Schroeder could finally fill that void.
Adams is another prospect with physical gifts that can't be taught. He's seven feet tall with defensive instincts that would help just about any team in the NBA. He isn't just a gigantic guy who sticks his hands up and jumps, but an athletic specimen with quick feet and an ability to change his direction in midair.
In today's NBA, having a very tall person anchor your defense with consistent rim protection is obviously important, but when said big man is also comfortable on the perimeter defending a high or side pick-and-roll, offenses are forced to stretch themselves tighter in figuring out ways to put the ball in the basket.
Adams can do both these things already, and he'll be only 20 years old by the time training camp rolls around. The room for improvement suggests getting Adams with the 16th pick would be an amazing grab, especially if the Celtics' plan is to match the size over in Indiana and Chicago in the years ahead.