The big three of the Boston Celtics are in the midst of a farewell tour. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will both become free agents following the 2011-2012 NBA season, and few expect both to re-sign with the team this offseason.
The Celtics will have plenty of cap space due to the massive contracts they have coming off the books, but it’s in the team’s best interest to move on from their past and more forward towards their future.
What is going to happen to the team next season? Is it going to be a complete rebuilding process, or is the team going to try and win right away?
First off, we have to mention the players that will still be under contract with the team next season. These players are Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley and JaJuan Johnson. Brandon Bass has a player option for next season, and the team should unquestionably try and persuade the power forward to remain a Celtic. Bass was acquired from the Magic this offseason and has been a pleasant surprise for the team due to his perimeter shooting and overall solid play.
The first place where the Celtics can look to improve this offseason is through the draft. NBA experts have been mentioning how great this year’s draft class is both in overall talent and in depth. Still, even the best of drafts start to wear thin on talent once you get past the first 15 picks, so the Celtics should attempt to attain a lottery pick in order to maximize the team’s possibility of drafting a potential impact player.
Luckily for the Celtics, they have two first-round picks and can deal both of those in order to move up in the draft. The team desperately needs some young, athletic big men on their roster who provide interior scoring and rebounding. If the Celtics can move up into the top 15, they would be able to go after a big man, possibly Ohio St. star Jared Sullinger, who could provide talent and depth to the team's front court.
The other way in which team’s are able to improve their roster is through trades and free agency.
Dwight Howard was supposed to be the main attraction in this year’s free-agent class, but he opted to stay with the Magic for at least one more season. The other big-name free agent this offseason is Deron Williams. The Celtics will not be on the market for Williams because they already have a franchise point guard signed to a multiyear deal in Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics will need to look for second-tier free agents that will be able to help the team. Eric Gordon, who has missed almost the entire 2011-2012 season due to injury, is a young player who can score in bunches, which is something the Celtics need dearly. The team has struggled offensively this season and adding Gordon, who is a restricted free agent this offseason, would give them offensive fire power. Gordon is only 23 years old and has already averaged over 20 points per game in a season, giving him a great deal of upside.
The Celtics don’t have anyone who can consistently create their own shot—sorry, Paul Pierce, you can’t anymore—and they desperately need to add that dimension to their team. As I mentioned, the team has tons of cap space, allowing them to spend some money on a player who has dealt with injury issues but also possesses a great deal of upside.
The Celtics also have a few other holes on their roster that they will need to address this offseason. Their team lacks scorers off the bench, and they also need to find a reliable starting center.
Jamal Crawford can opt out of his contract with the Trailblazers this offseason. If he decides to, which is likely, the Celtics would be a great fit. Crawford could lead the team’s second unit offensively, and his shooting ability would open up the floor for players like Pierce and Rondo.
Chris Kaman would be a good player for the Celtics to go after to start at center. Kaman is a solid presence down low and has always been a reliable and efficient scoring threat.
The Celtics probably won’t be making any big deals to acquire veteran talent this offseason, as they don’t have the pieces to do so. Rondo is the team’s only trading chip, and management has voiced their desire to keep him on their roster going forward.
If the team decided to go the route I suggested, their starting lineup would be Rondo at point guard, Gordon at shooting guard, Pierce at small forward, Bass at power forward and Kaman at center. They would also have Crawford, Bradley and Sullinger coming off the bench.
The Celtics should not start from scratch next season. They still have Rondo and Pierce under contract, and if they creatively add pieces under them, the team will be able to be a competitive force in the Eastern Conference next season.