After making the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Boston Celtics are in for a very different trend over the next few years. They committed to rebuilding with the trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, sending their Hall of Fame-bound duo to the Brooklyn Nets for a number of draft picks and an assortment of veteran players. While their intentions were good, the Celtics still aren't in a position of rebuilding the franchise.
The three draft picks received in the Nets deal will ultimately be the prized acquisitions of the trade, given that Boston will now have nine first-round picks up until 2018. Yet even so, the team does not seem to be developing the young talent already on the roster.
Of the 14 players on the Celtics' roster, seven have already reached their ceilings in terms of development. Some of you might say, "Hey, 50 percent of the team is developing talent? What's the big deal?" However, the fact remains that other rebuilding teams have an overall commitment to realistically getting new, young talent.
There are organizations that have jumped straight into the pool, while others are anxious about getting their feet wet. Teams like the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans or Philadelphia 76ers all have iconic talent that fans can recognize or name immediately.
While some are in a stretch of having successful drafts, which Boston will most likely experience next season, it still begs the question why guys like Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass are eating into the playing time of Jordan Crawford, Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger.
Other teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics are putting veteran players ahead of their youth, thereby putting themselves in a sort of NBA limbo where they don't truly rebuild or remain competitive.
There will always be the issue of "tanking", where teams can attempt to lose games purposefully with the goal of moving up in the following season's draft. Teams also have a sense of pride when it comes to remaining competitive, which is perfectly acceptable, but sooner or later the losing pill must be swallowed for the greater good.
It simply comes down to Boston trying to hold on to the wrong players.
Jeff Green is a solid scorer, however he's already 27 years old and past the stage of where he can become a better player. For instance, Green's 16.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season mirror his 15.2 points and 5.6 rebound averages from his 2010-11 campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The only aspect of his game that has dramatically improved this season is his ability to get to the free-throw line, averaging a career-high 7.3 attempts per game.
Avery Bradley is a fourth-year guard but will be in a seemingly redundant position when Rajon Rondo returns from injury. The Celtics trusted Bradley enough to start him over Allen in the 2011-12 season, but he has been unimpressive thus far. His 10.8 points and 3.1 assists are satisfactory if that's all you look at, as his 37.7 percent shooting, 4.3 personal fouls and 3.8 turnovers per game completely negate any positive contributions on the court.
Bradley's PER of 6.3 is abysmal for a NBA starting point guard and inexcusable given Boston's need for him in Rondo's absence. Aside from Phil Pressey, the 6'2" Bradley is the only point guard on the roster and the sole player who can organize this team's offense. You could certainly argue he's only ever played under Rondo, and this is a major role change for Bradley.
Boston cannot use this duo as the central components to their future core with Rondo in tow, as it will lead to the aforementioned situation where the Celtics will be neither good nor bad. Much like the Bucks in the past decade, a consistent refusal to break the roster down and start fresh has led to either just making or missing the playoffs. That isn't to say Green and Bradley aren't good players, but they can't be who Boston relies on for the future.
The Celtics went through a similar trend before Garnett and Allen's arrival, and while it ultimately paid off, it cannot be one that recurs.
In addition, the Celtics roster this season is one that will have them over the luxury tax threshold of $70.3 million with a $71.6 million payroll. They rank ninth in terms of team salary, according to HoopsHype, which has them ahead of contenders like the Thunder, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. Only the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors top Boston with payrolls that have a high chance of not making the playoffs.
There's still the chance the Celtics make a trade at some point this season, which hopefully comes to fruition as $21.8 million is committed to players Boston can do without. Courtesy of HoopsWorld, Gerald Wallace is owed $30.3 million over the next three seasons, in addition to Bass' two-year contract of $13.3 million. Lee's $16.3 million over the next three years will ultimately be the hardest to move, but every effort must be made to get the team's salary lower if it truly wishes to rebuild correctly.
It is still very early in the season, so ultimately head coach Brad Stevens may very well completely overhaul his rotation in favor of the younger players. It would make more sense to do it sooner rather than later, as Gerald Wallace leads the team in minutes at 35 per game.
It will undoubtedly be a difficult season for the team and fans alike, one that will require the utmost patience and support. But if played out correctly, it will pay off for the Celtics in the future.
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