Boston Celtics: How Can the Celtics Get Younger This Season?
There was much speculation about 2010-11 being the final go-round for the Boston Celtics' core group. Rumors abound that Head Coach Doc Rivers would resign. Jackie MacMullan told ESPN's Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report on March 11 that she believed this would be Garnett's final season, that he was losing the drive to get ready for game after game.
After the Celtics' loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, I made peace with the fact that I would never see this core group — a team that's given me more joy than any other — together again.
Then Rivers signed a new deal and began talking about surrounding the Big Three with talent. As expected, Shaquille O'Neal retired, and we'll have to wait and see about Glen "Big Baby" Davis' free agency.
Most Celtics' fans I know were pumped about a new season getting started: one final run. Not me though. Like I said, I was ready to move on, get a new core group in place and rebuild. Watching 82 games with such an old team was a chore last season and it's only going to get worse as Miami and Chicago grow stronger.
Having said that, if I were Celtic President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, here's what I'd be working on this summer rather than trying to make one, final, doomed run.
Trade Ray Allen
Ray Allen is my favorite Celtic. It pains me to say, though, that he has to go.
At this point in his career, he's a 3-point specialist. With his great health and conditioning, Allen could play another four or five seasons, which means he'll get at least one more contract before he's done. It won't be with the Celtics, as by then, the team's title hopes will be long gone.
There was talk about Allen joining the Bulls before last season began, and I still see that as a possibility. Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer are not shooters. Allen would add a previously unknown dimension to that offense and a legitimate kick-out option for Derrick Rose. Ray Allen for Kyle Korver (the worst shooting "3-point specialist" in the game) and Ronnie Brewer checks out financially, giving the Celtics a slasher and a shooter, from which they could choose one to trade or buy out.
Trading for Golden State's Monta Ellis is also an interesting (unlikely) prospect. Stephen Curry and Allen would be the best shooting backcourt in the league, and Ellis would finally be able to play his natural two-guard position with Rondo running the point.
Draft a Big Man Incumbent
Jermaine O'Neal and Kevin Garnett are on their way out. (Hopefully) Glen Davis will be lost to free agency this summer. Troy Murphy and Nenad Krstic aren't the answer, either.
Enter Nikola Vucevic, the 20-year-old seven-footer from the University of Southern California. Vucevic averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this past season. He shot 50 percent from the field and can also step out and hit the three.
Vucevic had a workout with the Celtics in Waltham, Massachusetts on June 6.
Big men take longer to develop in the NBA, so don't expect Vucevic to make an impact any time soon. But, a few years down the road, he could turn into a solid NBA center.
Snag a Free-Agent Center
A friend recently mentioned the possibility of signing the Portland Trail Blazers' Greg Oden, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. I initially scoffed, as this friend also "guaranteed" that Dwight Howard will be a Celtic (not gonna happen).
But then I remembered how effective Oden is when he plays. He's averaged 11 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 82 career games while averaging just 22 minutes. Even though he might never play a full season, somebody will take a flyer on this once burgeoning talent.
It might as well be the Celtics, who transformed from intimidating front-runners to soft also-rans after the Kendrick Perkins trade. If Oden can stay healthy, he's the best backup center in the league. The signing would also allow the Celtics to deal Troy Murphy and Nenad Krstic, neither of whom fit the Celtics' personality.
Draft Another Young Guard
Ben Hansbrough is the sharp-shooting guard from Notre Dame who averaged 18 points per game during his senior season on 43 percent 3-point shooting.
The Boston Celtics have struck out on recent guard draft picks (Avery Bradley), and Hansbrough wouldn't be a popular pick as he seems to be just another unathletic point guard who can't hack it on defense.
However, I see Hansbrough fitting the Jimmer Fredette mold in the NBA. He won't handle the ball much, but he'll still be able to shoot. In a few years, he could look like Eddie House or, at best, Mike Bibby. At this point in a weak draft, that's not a bad risk to take.
Let Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo Walk
Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo and I made exactly the same contributions to the Boston Celtics' playoff run.
The veterans, both 31, figured to see playing time throughout the season. Arroyo was supposed to help the Celtics learn the Miami Heat's playbook; Murphy was supposed to be a sharpshooting, rebounding big man off the bench. But neither ever gained Doc Rivers' trust, and neither got off the bench.
The two made just over $400,000 combined this past season, so losing them wouldn't ease the financial burden much. But letting them go to free agency would open up two more roster spots, which the Celtics could use on undrafted free agents, who, coincidentally, would have the same impact on the team.