Rajon Rondo's pipe dreams of a six-game win streak and the postseason aside, the Boston Celtics have to start thinking about the offseason as soon as possible.
With that offseason will come another chance for Danny Ainge to rebuild his team through trades that maybe weren't available before the recent deadline.
With the NBA draft view more clear, and the pool of projected picks nearly solidified, teams will be more willing to more forward with deals. Everyone will be planning for the future this summer instead of holding out hope of a playoff run in a couple months.
As we've learned over the past handful of years, Ainge is a big proponent of using the offseason to do his dealings. The obvious examples being 2007 and 2013, which were, in very different ways, sizable victories for the Celtics.
The question now is whether the summer of 2014 will resemble either of those winning summers, or will it simply be a another straightaway on a long journey back from the lottery.
The Kevin Love Longshot
If you've been following along with the trajectory of the Boston Celtics since the 2013 NBA draft, it has been eerily similar to 2007.
The 2006-07 squad finished 24-58, (Boston is currently 20-39) with their best player missing half the season. Fans were nervous Paul Pierce would be asking to leave after that year, as some fans are nervous Rajon Rondo won't return following free agency next summer.
Danny Ainge had been acquiring assets leading up to that summer, in a similar manner to how he has conducted himself over the past nine months.
All of this is similar, but the creepy tipping point is a rumor started straight from the source. A Minnesota Timberwolves superstar in rumors with Boston. Over All-Star weekend, The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn extracted this quote from Kevin Love:
Boston is a great city. I’m sure free agents would love to go there, especially with [Brad] Stevens as a coach. He’s a guy that can win basketball games. He gets guys to play for him. They’ve been having good success there, even in his first year, and he has a lot of young players. The coach has a lot to do with it, but yeah, Boston is a great place.”
While certainly a bit of playing to the reporter, who happened to be from that area's most respected newspaper, coupled with all these other similarities, this becomes a solid rumor.
In 2007, Kevin Garnett was coming off a monster year, but still didn't have much to show for it. The Timberwolves were 32-50 with Garnett playing 76 games and averaging 22.4 points and 12.8 rebounds. He earned the ninth-most votes for MVP that summer. It was their third straight season without a playoff berth.
Kevin Love has never been to the playoffs, but was sixth in MVP voting in 2012, following a season in which he put up 26 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. That was the lockout-shortened season, but Love still missed 11-of-66 possible games.
Those are similar numbers to the 26.8 points and 13.2 boards he is averaging this year. However, the hard statistical data is where this similarity pretty much ends.
In 2007, Boston's offer of Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and two first-round picks was enough to entice Minnesota into sending Garnett away. What that wound up being was Al Jefferson and mediocrity. In 2014, it would likely take a more considerable offer to get Love, especially with the weight of that trade sitting on the Midwestern franchise.
The other difference is the type of player Boston is bringing back. As we detailed, the stats were similar, but the players are far from. Garnett was an established leader and defensive stopper at 31 years old. Love is an offensive revelation, with both leadership and defensive questions.
Also, while six years younger than Garnett was at the time, he comes with a major injury red flag. The elder example here was a regular for 80-plus games year in and year out. Entering this season, Love had missed 97 games in his first five NBA seasons.
Even with those risks, it will take a mammoth offer to get him to Boston. However, this is the type of trade idea that Ainge must get behind early. If Boston were to make this move, it may take more than just an honest trade for the player.
Love, like Rondo, is a free agent in 2015. When Garnett came to Boston, he immediately signed a three-year extension, ensuring his allegiance to Boston for five full seasons. He only did that after Boston was able to acquire Ray Allen to pair with Pierce.
The trade would likely include multiple first-round picks in the upcoming drafts, of which the Celtics have a bunch. It would also have to involve this version's Al Jefferson. That would likely become Jared Sullinger, though Minnesota may not covet him as highly as Boston does. Even that may not be enough to wedge Love free.
Revisiting Omer Asik
It became pretty clear what Danny Ainge's feelings were on Omer Asik when the Celtics nearly completed a trade for him earlier in the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, that deal fell through and was rarely spoke of again.
Asik remaining on the Houston Rockets through this trade deadline means he will enter next season with an expiring contract. If the Rockets fall short of their goals this season and then realize they have a talented player on their bench acting as dead weight, the trade rumors will heat up once more.
Also moving in that direction is the knowledge of who will likely be available at certain stages of the draft. With Boston loaded in that department, revisiting the Asik talks would be a smart move.
If the Rockets see someone they like in the middling stages of the draft, but their mid-20s pick won't do the trick, Boston will be sitting there with the Atlanta Hawks' or Brooklyn Nets' pick, along with Jeff Green or Brandon Bass and another piece asking for Asik.
Allowing Houston to trade up into the fringe lottery, coupled with a middle-of-the-road active player or salary relief in the Keith Bogans form, could be enough to swing the deal for Houston's nullified defensive center.
Of course, this could serve as another platform for the Celtics. Could Omer Asik be the Ray Allen trade to a Kevin Garnett trade for Kevin Love?
After attempts to say that five times fast, examine how Love and Asik would look side by side in a frontcourt.
Love plays with Nikola Pekovic currently, another player with defensive question marks. Asik is a defensive stopper that would be able to cover for Love on that end. At the same time, Asik has refused to try to fit into a frontcourt with paint-clogger Dwight Howard. Love is a perimeter-oriented offensive player, which would keep the area free enough for Asik.
Not to mention the rebounds. Oh, the rebounds.
The Greg Monroe Sign-and-Trade
The Boston Celtics should also be keeping an eye on Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons.
A restricted free agent this summer, Monroe may find himself the odd-man out in a crowded Detroit frontcourt. I discussed this at length before the trade deadline, but it is something that should remain on Boston's radar.
The options of an extend-and-trade are limited to within the confines of an NBA season, which wouldn't work over the summer. Instead, this type of deal would first require the Pistons to sign Monroe to his extension and then make a trade.
While the Celtics could simply go after Monroe in free agency, this is a more definite way of getting the player they want. Also, Boston's funds may be too tied up to allow them to make a necessary offer to avoid Detroit matching.
This deal would likely be independent of the previously discussed two, but another option for Boston to move forward while retaining more assets. Monroe will cost less than Love, which allows Ainge to retain his flexibility and draft power, while also getting a quality big who can legitimately play center, in a constant effort to convince Rajon Rondo of the franchise's forward momentum.
At the deadline this deal was discussed as a trade for Jeff Green and the first-round pick from Brooklyn/Atlanta. It was, at the time, an extend-and-trade, but the principles of the deal wouldn't likely change.
Green still gives Detroit more spacing as a real wing with a quality outside shot and allows Josh Smith to play power forward, which would hopefully rein him in a bit more. It also gets Detroit back into the first round in 2014's draft, since they owe a top-eight protected pick to the Charlotte Bobcats. The Pistons currently hold the 10th-worst record in the league.