When the Boston Celtics decided to retool their roster, they knew they were headed for a new era of hope and uncertainty.
Kevin Garnett, the anchor and heart of the 2008 championship team? See ya.
Doc Rivers? Enjoy Los Angeles.
With the departure of these three iconic Celtics, a new chapter in the Celtics dynasty is being ushered in. A chapter led by new head coach Brad Stevens, Rajon Rondo (which could change if a report from CBSSports' Ken Berger is true) and talented youngsters Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk.
With those names on board, the future doesn't look so scary.
But rebuilding comes with plenty of risk, and there’s always an abundance of things that can go wrong.
Rondo Grows Tired of Rebuilding
Selected as an All-Star this season before he tore his ACL, Rondo is used to being great and having excellence around him.
It’s easy to get spoiled when you’re surrounded by Hall of Famers.
During the Big Three era, Rondo blossomed into a star and one of the truly elite point guards in the league. He’s a nightly triple-double threat (led the league with five this season), he passes, plays defense and rebounds like no other guard can.
He’s a superstar.
However, that denotation comes with one caveat: He’s only been a superstar alongside other stars. Prior to the arrival of Garnett and Ray Allen, Rondo wasn’t widely regarded as a star player, as demonstrated by this scouting report, via DraftExpress.com.
Even in his first season alongside those players, there were serious doubts about whether he was the right point guard to lead them.
Of course, Rondo went on to disprove his doubters and help the Celtics win their first championship in decades.
The question now will be how Rondo reacts to his new role as absolute leader of this Celtics team and whether he’s up for it.
They’re not Hall of Famers, but all of those players can ball.
However, they’re either young and experienced (Olynyk is just 22 years old and a rookie) or old and washed up (Wallace is 30 years old and had a 39.4 field-goal percentage last season).
Rondo has been vocal before about his feelings towards players (like when he called out Dwyane Wade for playing dirty), and it’s been reported that he can be toxic in the locker room, as per his reported bouts with Rivers, via Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, and Allen, via SLAM Online.
Best Case Scenario: Rondo leads his team with poise through a tough season and grows into a true mentor for the young Celtics players.
Worst Case Scenario: Rondo grows tired of rebuilding around youth and inexperience and either pouts all season or asks for a trade.
The Team Does Too Well for High Draft Pick, Too Badly to Make Playoffs
One of the worst fates an NBA franchise can endure is a prolonged state of average.
Too good to rebuild, too bad to get high draft picks.
Just ask the Atlanta Hawks, which have been good for years but were never serious contenders for either a high draft pick or a championship.
If the Celtics don’t decide on the direction they want to take this team, the same fate could befall them.
Yes, the team lost two Hall of Famers and a fantastic coach, but they still have some fairly decent pieces. Green, Sullinger and Olynyk all look like great players to build around, and if Rondo sticks around, that makes them even better.
It also helps (or hurts?) matters that the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference, where the bottom feeders have been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a long, long time.
So even when a team like the Celtics trades away two of its best players, it’s still not guaranteed that it ends up in the lottery. In reality, with the way the team is currently constructed, it’s not unthinkable that it will make playoffs.
It might get swept in the first round, but there’s still a chance it lands that eighth seed. It’s probably not ideal, but with the talent on this Celtics squad, they have the potential to surprise a lot of teams in the conference.
Best Case Scenario: Boston finishes 13th or 14th and gets a lottery pick, or it finishes seventh in the Eastern Conference and builds on its playoff success.
Worst Case Scenario: It comes in ninth in the conference and misses the playoffs, and it lands outside the lottery in the draft.
The Celtics are entering a new era.
Gone are the steady hands of Pierce, Garnett and Rivers.
In their stead, Rondo, Green and Stevens will try and cultivate a new future for the team.
It’s not an easy road, and there are plenty of hurdles the team will need to jump before it reaches its goals. It's a brave new world, and it's not an easy place to be in.
But for better or for worse, that’s the fate the organization has chosen.