The question on everyone's mind is what Danny Ainge is going to do with the roster going forward. The way I see it, there are three separate philosophies. He could blow it all up and trade as many of the Big 4 as he can get good value for (meaning young players and picks). He could retool on the fly by trading just one of the Big 4 in exchange for a younger star that could still help us win a championship next year. Or he could do what he did this past year, which is to bring the core back and add as many pieces around them as he can. Let's break down the options.
Blow It Up
The idea here would be that you need to get value for these guys while you still can. The famous story about Danny urging Red to trade McHale and/or Bird never rang so true as it does today. The Heat taught us one lesson that should be heeded this summer: This team doesn't have the legs to dominate anymore. Would anyone really be surprised if KG regressed next year? How long can Ray keep plugging himself into the rejuvenation machine? And while it isn't age related, we have to start asking the question: Have we seen Rondo's peak value?
If you believe in buy low, sell high, the Celtics have until February to maximize the value on assets like Garnett, Allen, and Rondo. I'm purposely leaving Paul Pierce out of this discussion for two reasons. First of all, he's now the franchise icon that is virtually untradable because of his stature with the fans. Secondly, he's got a multi-year contract that wouldn't be deemed a good value by any buying teams.
Obviously it matters what he can find in terms of value out in the trade market. If teams don't want expiring contracts, there's not a lot of value in aging veterans - even ones as good as ours. But David Stern has told us time and time again that teams are losing money hand over fist and those teams would love nothing more than to rid themselves of large contracts. They might be willing to offer picks and young players for one of our expiring contracts. The rebuilding project would be fully in gear and the Celtics would likely be building around a core of Rajon Rondo and perhaps Jeff Green.
Retool on the Fly
If you can't stomach that plan (I don't think I can) but can't see running it back, then there's a middle ground solution.
If we trade either Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, perhaps throwing in Jermaine O'Neal's contract, the Clippers pick, and maybe even offering up Jeff Green in a sign-and-trade, there's no telling what we could get in return. I don't think it is enough to get into the bidding war for Dwight Howard but it might be enough to get Igoudala in a salary dump. Would the Hornets bite on a Rondo package for Chris Paul?
How about the buyer's remorse teams? Would Atlanta decide that Joe Johnson isn't worth what they paid for him? Will Memphis decide that they are doing just fine without Rudy Gay? Will Milwaukee panic and deal Andrew Bogut? We just don't know until the market plays out. The key is, Danny has to evaluate what he can get for his trade assets.
The idea here is that if you can get one younger star-type player and plug them in with the remaining members of the current core, that might be enough to push the team over the top one last time.
Run It Back
The safest path and path of least resistance would be to bring the core back and try once again to load up around them. A lot will depend on the new collective bargaining agreement because it doesn't seem like the team has a lot of room to throw money at free agents. But that's not to say there's nothing out there at all. Zach Lowe looks at some potential options.
If the mid-level exists, the Celtics, given their pedigree, might be able to lure someone like Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Crawford or Caron Butler to sign for the full amount even if they could get more on the open market. Or they could split it among a couple of players (Carl Landry? Battier?). But that is all unknown for now. If the biannual exception (worth $2.1 million this season) still exists, Boston will have access to that, plus the veteran’s minimum exception, which will probably carry over to the next CBA.
A lot of those guys would make a lot of sense here if they would accept what we have to offer. But would it be enough to compete for a Championship? Maybe. It would take some luck, good health, and the development of younger players to eat up more minutes to keep the veterans fresh. The problem is, we've seen this movie twice now, and it is starting to become predictable.
I'll let you guys cast your votes and make your own case, but I'm leaning towards the middle option of retooling on the fly. I don't know if we can get our top choices on the market, but I think our expiring contracts can bring back quite a bit and the time is right to make a major deal. However, I will concede that it might be a better idea to run it back, see how things are going in February, and if the market is even better at that point, to make the deal then. Time will tell.