Boston Celtics: 3 Key Changes Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge Must Make to Contend
It was almost certain that fingers were going to be pointed to the Kendrick Perkins trade if the Celtics fell short of their goal again this year.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, head coach Doc Rivers finally fessed up on the negative effects of The Trade.
"It was just a lot of moving parts to a team that the advantage that we had was that we had continuity, everybody else was new. Chicago was new and the Heat were new. They couldn’t fall back on what we could fall back on with our starting five. Once we made that trade, we took that advantage away."
To say that the Celtics chose the future over the present seemed like a slight overstatement at the time but watching Boston crumble against Miami left little room for another explanation.
The Celtics' star veterans didn't have the quickness to compensate for the loss of the league's greatest lane cloggers and next season just means that the veterans will be one year older. As a result, the supporting cast will be relied upon more heavily than ever.
So what are the most vital decisions that the organization needs to make to contend with the NBA's new Evil Empire next year? After all, the Heat is only going to get better (as LeBron's “not five, not six, not seven” remarks repeat in my head).
These Celtics may have one more run left in them and the off season decisions will be factors in how much of a run it could be.
The aforementioned topic takes us right into our first adjustment.
Life Without Perkins Continues...
The Celtics can thank Jermaine O'Neal for helping them save a little post trade face.
O'Neal did everything that he could to fill the enormous gap left by Perkins while giving the Celtics at least some sort of legitimate shot of making a run.
Think about it.
At the time of the trade, O'Neal's ability to play again this season was not only in jeopardy but bordered on unlikely. Shaq was also dealing with nagging injuries that looked to be closer to infinite than finite.
Who was going to step up? The trade was a roll of the dice that went well beyond losing one of the best defensive centers in the league.
What if the Celtics were left with Krstic/Davis for the playoffs? It was entirely possible and their play proves it would have been an absolute disaster.
According to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Shaq's mom said she thinks her little giant might return to the Celtics for the final year of his contract. Shaq would only be making $1.4 million, so the move would only be a seemingly prideful effort for a man whose season all but ended while running back down the basketball court.
After making plans to undergo surgery on his left wrist, Jermaine O'Neal could easily return to Boston with $6.2 million awaiting him.
Yes, I know you must be shaking your head, but the Celtics should have enough usable roster space to hang onto the old and older O'Neal's, should they try to combine for a season's worth of games dressed.
Sure, one or both players could wind up being a reasonable asset, but neither are an answer to Boston's post problems.
So, let's take a look at the unrestricted big-man market.
Centers that could be looked at as major difference makers:
Nene – yeah, right.
Marc Gasol—currently making $3.6 million? The Grizzlies will at least triple that to keep their tandem down low. Gasol will be able to buy the restaurant where he'd buy his meal ticket. File under unrealistic.
Tyson Chandler—you have to respect the Mavericks for realizing they had the perfect situation to help reignite a career. I am sure they will get rid of one of the most important pieces to the revival of a team that was counted out despite a ridiculous record against the top teams this season (I will be the first to say I was not a believer. I'm sorry, Dirk. I'm so sorry).
Samuel Dalembert—Now this is more realistic. Although Dalembert suffers from a lack of quickness and some inconsistencies, 30+ minutes would probably push him into double-digit rebound land (not that that's what he would get) and he can rack up the blocks when he is on his game.
Even though he is 30 now, Dalembert has only missed playing in two games in the past five seasons. What am I saying, I'm sure that streak of reliability would end as soon as he got in green.
DeAndre Jordan/Chris Kaman—the former is the FA of the two but if the Clippers elect to keep their budding, highlight-inducing center, they will probably look to get rid of Kaman. Don't get me wrong, I would much prefer the physicality and athletic ability of the former but Caveman could certainly be an asset.
I would imagine that the Clippers would be happy to get rid of Kaman's contract and wouldn't request too much in return. Congratulations, DeAndre, you will be making $.9 million a year no longer.
As for Jamaal Magloire, Dan Gadzuric, Theo Ratliff and Eddy Curry-the Celtics will just have to get in line.
Given the current streak of decision-making, I expect a Kurt Thomas signing soon after the season is over.
Backing Up the Big Ticket
Garnett averaged 31.3 minutes a night during the regular season and at 34 years of age, his time on the court will probably need to be adjusted further.
Garnett struggled to maintain what used to be an everlasting amount of energy and intensity for the first time in this year's playoffs. It's not injuries anymore but the wear and tear of those injuries, coupled with age, are finally taking toll on the future HOF.
Glen Davis was probably the most disappointing player of the postseason for Boston. A previously physical player seemed to take on a “score first” mentality, playing more like a wannabe starter than the gritty and confident role player we once knew.
According to Forsberg, Rivers commented on Big Baby's role in mid-May.
“Scoring was too important to him, instead of being who he is...if we can get him for the right price, it would be nice, but we can't overpay.”
The Boston Herald reported Danny Ainge as saying, “We'll take his whole career with us into consideration, as we determine if the price he demands is fair. He will definitely look at the market. We know that.”
Davis has voiced that he will be looking for a bigger role heading into next season, despite wanting to stay in Boston.
Regardless of his less productive season, Baby changing uniforms would mean a major hole to be filled for the Celtics.
With Rivers eying three five-minute spurts per half for Garnett, Boston desperately needs a player that can carry more minutes.
My overly hopeful dream options? Unrestricted FA's Kenyon Martin, Chuck Hayes, Kris Humphries and David West. I'd say Martin and Hayes are the only mildly realistic possibilities here. Hayes' ability to play bigger than his size as a center would play for a great fit in Boston.
Speed, Speed, Speed
All three teams were devoured by teams that were quicker than them or quite simply, more athletic.
The Spurs were the best example of this.
The Grizzlies were not only quicker at getting down the court but they were faster making adjustments defensively.
The Lakers couldn't get inside on the Mavs and the Celtics couldn't close the gaps they used to fill quickly against the Heat.
There is little doubt that each team will retain their stars heading into next season but not looking to add some tenacious youth would be fatal to their title hopes.
Now, regarding the slide picture.
It was quite a coincidence that Tony Allen worked as the ultimate x-factor for the Grizzlies run to defeat the 8th seed and pushing OKC to seven (while being robbed of an NBA 1st team all-defense spot). Allen was probably the most underrated reason for a less active Boston team in the playoffs (along with the loss of Marquis Daniels-back when Boston was in first place with Perkins just barely having graced the court).
Can you tell me that Allen wouldn't have caused absolute mayhem for Dwyane Wade? Gah. All he wanted was a third year, Danny!
Unfortunately, this year's class of FA's is fairly limited in terms of young and speedy guards.
I like Reggie Williams and Arron Affalo (with the latter being less likely). I would love to include Thaddeus Young as a possible small forward hybrid but that would be overly optimistic.
The Celtics may have to look to the draft class for some youthful legs off the bench at the guard spot. I worry that Avery Bradley will never make the impression the Celtics had hoped for.