One year ago today, the Boston Celtics administered a terrific beatdown to the Los Angeles Lakers, ending an unbelievable turnaround from a disastrous 24-48 season in 2006-2007. The Celtics headed into the offseason as World Champions, with few questions regarding their superiority, and their starting five intact for the following season.
This year, the Celtics lost their mantle as champions, falling victim to injuries and a tough Orlando Magic team. Now, instead of heading into the offseason as champions, the Celtics are in the midst of turmoil, a team looking to extend its closing window of opportunity.
The Celtics are swirling in rumors, and have been in discussions to trade up for a higher draft pick. According to the latest rumors, Rajon Rondo has worn out his welcome in Boston, and the Celts are looking to ship him somewhere else to get rid of his debilitating attitude. Rumors have also included Ray Allen or Kendrick Perkins being carted off, in exchange for either the second or fourth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
But why do the Celtics want to make those trades? How could getting rid of one of their established stars or budding young studs possibly help them get better?
I don't see how it possibly could because, as much as things have changed from last offseason to this offseason, so much has stayed the same. The Celtics still have the best starting five in the league, a five unrivaled by any in the league. If their starting five is healthy, the Celtics, with such a dominant starting tandem at both ends of the floor, should still be the favorites to win the 2010 NBA title.
Their starting five has everything you would want in a basketball team. Kevin Garnett and the rapidly developing Perkins provide low-post scoring. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce bring outside shooters and all-around scoring ability. Rajon Rondo is the guy who runs the club, finding open scorers and creating plays for everyone else. Lockdown defense? Yeah, they’ve got that, too, at every position. Allen and Pierce, once thought of as defensive liabilities, now play every possession with the Celtics’ trademark defensive intensity, applying pressure and defensive help on every play.
Where the Celtics really need to upgradeis their bench. Since the departures of James Posey and P.J. Brown, the Celtics have lacked a backup for Paul Pierce and a steady backup big man. Sorry, but a second unit featuring Tony Allen at small forward and the 6'7" Leon Powe at center just doesn't cut it.
Instead of trying to trade one or more of their established players for salary cap room and a draft pick, the C’s should focus on acquiring a backup big and a backup swingman via free agency. Using their mid-level exception to sign at least one player from the free agent group of Grant Hill, Trevor Ariza (who may have played himself into a bigger deal), Anthony Parker, Matt Barnes, Antonio McDyess, Marcin Gortat and Chris Anderson would serve the Celtics a lot better than trading away any of their starters.
The Celtics are at a critical juncture for their team, where they can either continue to build on the last two year’s success or begin the fall towards irrelevancy that victimizes so many NBA franchises.
Here’s hoping Danny Ainge pulls all the right moves out of his hat.
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