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2011 NBA Preview: Is the Boston Celtics' Reign Over?

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2011 NBA Preview: Is the Boston Celtics' Reign Over?

On the day Celtics' GM Danny Ainge engineered the deal that brought the Celtics Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, many predicted another dynasty was looming for the NBA’s most storied franchise. Four years later, the Celtics have netted four playoff appearances, two NBA finals appearances and one title.

The Celtics have held a fairly comfortable stronghold among the Eastern Conference’s elite, perennially going on deep playoff runs and challenging for a championship, but an aging Big Three to go along with an uncertain future can only validate the fact that the Celtics’ best days are behind them.

Assembling a roster of three perennial all-stars in their primes was certainly no easy task for Ainge, but transitioning towards a prominent future will be much more of a challenge for the Celtics.

By the time the Celtics enter next season Paul Pierce will be 34, Kevin Garnett will be 35 and Ray Allen will be 36. The big three that was brought together four years ago is still productive, but past its prime.

Regardless of his age, Allen will be amongst the league’s top sharp shooters, shooting is not a quality that can diminish from age, also consider the fact that Allen has prolonged his career through his stellar conditioning. Allen is entering the final year of the two-year contract he signed during the summer of 2010. A year ago, Allen took a hometown discount to re-sign with the Celtics, but even at 37, many teams will attempt to pry Allen away from Beantown.

Pierce is still a great offensive player, leading the team in scoring at 19 points per game. He remains the Celtics' go-to guy late in the game, and the team’s top offensive threat. He may not be the same Paul Pierce who averaged 25 points per game, but he’s still a more than viable offensive player. Defensively, Pierce is above average. He’s not a shutdown defender on the perimeter, but he can still hold his own when guarding the league’s best.

Kevin Garnett is the real question mark. Garnett was very inconsistent last season. At times he’d show flashes of the Garnett of old, and at time he’d struggle to make the slightest impact on a game. Overall, Garnett’s numbers were solid as he averaged about 15 points and nine rebounds in only 31 minutes per game. The 35-year-old power forward is still very much a solid defensive anchor, but no longer among the league’s premier post defenders.

The two biggest concerns with Garnett are health and consistency. He did play 71 games last season after coming off knee surgery, but even when he is healthy enough to play, how often can he sustain a solid level of play.

Garnett’s inconsistency was most evident during the Eastern Conference Semifinals when the Celtics faced the Miami Heat. During Game 1 of the series Garnett had six points and eight rebounds, but during Game 3, Garnett scored 28 and grabbed 18 rebounds. He then followed up that Game 3 performance with a seven-point, 10-rebound performance. Garnett isn’t an elite player anymore, but he should still be playing at a more consistent level.

If the Celtics plan to keep the Big Three intact—which it seems they will, considering all three are signed for next season and Doc Rivers just inked a five-year extension in May—they will be going for another title. This could be their last chance as their title window is quickly closing.

Over the last two seasons Rajon Rondo has emerged amongst the league’s top point guards. Overall, Rondo isn’t the player Chris Paul and Deron Williams are, but as a pure distributor Rondo may be the league’s best.

The 25-year-old point guard is the team’s franchise player, the future of the Boston Celtics and the best player on the current Celtics roster. Rondo will have to improve his scoring as well as his leadership. Too often does Rondo attempt to distance himself from the older Celtics. He'll have to assert himself more both on and off the court and become more of a leader.

Considering the Celtics’ financial situation, and the uncertainty of the new CBA, Danny Ainge will have to get even more creative than when he orchestrated the Allen and Garnett deals and bring some youth to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are tied to both Pierce and Rondo through the summers of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Allen and Garnett’s contracts will expire after this season and the Celtics could utilize their expiring contracts as valuable trade chips in order to go after a younger player.

The Celtics were once rumored to have been pursuing Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is very versatile and would fit in well with the Celtics as Iguodala and Pierce would fill the wing positions. Atlanta has also been rumored to have been shopping Josh Smith; Smith can play both forward positions, and remains one of the league’s most prolific shot blockers.

The future for the Boston Celtics remains uncertain, with their current roster they won’t be good enough to get past the emerging teams in the Eastern Conference. It many just be that this era of Celtics dominance is coming to an end.

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