Another NBA season has come and gone, and the Boston Celtics' chances of raising another championship banner with this core group of players seems to be diminishing. Boston general manager Danny Ainge did an outstanding job putting this team together in 2008, but now he must determine what is best for this franchise moving forward.
With the possibility of a lockout shortening the 2011-12 season, the Celtics could remain a strong contender. On the other hand, if they miss out on a championship, the next few years may find the Celtics somewhere in the middle of the pack, which is a place no NBA franchise wants to be.
In the end, trading their best piece in Rajon Rondo may be the best option for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics if they are able to acquire another superstar in the process.
The New Orleans Hornets are most likely to move Chris Paul, who will be a free agent after next season and is looking to join a championship-caliber roster. Rajon Rondo is signed through the 2014-15 season at a reasonable price, a salary that never exceeds $13 million.
Jeff Green could also be included in the deal through a sign and trade. The Hornets may not see an offer that matches a package the Celtics could produce.
However, there are several issues that arise in a potential blockbuster deal like this. The biggest issue is the Celtics trying to sign Chris Paul to a long term extension. Chris Paul needs to believe there is a bright future in Boston, which is a hard sell when he is surrounded by three aging superstars, all near the end of their careers.
But the one advantage the Celtics have is salary relief after the 2011-12 season. If this Chris Paul trade were to occur, only Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley and the potential draft picks would be on the roster. The Celtics would have the room to add two superstars to max contracts, which would allow Chris Paul to envision playing alongside the likes of Dwight Howard.
Danny Ainge would certainly be taking a major risk in a deal like this, especially if he is unable to work out a long-term deal with Paul as part of the trade. Ainge needs to determine where his team is heading and what path gives the Celtics the best chance to be a consistent contender sooner rather than later.
Ainge needs to evaluate whether Rajon Rondo can be the leader of a championship contender or the leader of a team that is always on the edge of making it into the playoffs.
In the NBA, the worst place to be is stuck in the middle. Danny Ainge knows this, and he may see that taking a chance on Chris Paul may be the fastest way to rebuilding this franchise.
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