Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider) took a stab at what Ainge could do if the Celtics went into next summer with the intent of moving on from the Big 3 era. The first step, as we all have heard Ainge stress, is to maintain cap flexibility. So keeping Jeff Green and Glen Davis on one year qualifying offers would be key. The next step is an interesting one (and will be popular with many here).
Step 2: Deal for Al Jefferson What more fitting replacement for Garnett could there be than the centerpiece of the package Boston sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves to get KG? In the Summer of 2012, Jefferson will enter the final year of a contract that pays him $15 million. With the Utah Jazz adding young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Jefferson's salary could make him expendable. The Celtics could take Jefferson into their cap space while offering the Jazz some trinkets in return. Jefferson would give Boston a post scorer capable of drawing double-teams, and the Celtics would be able to give him more help defensively than he got in Utah.
The ideas have some merit and I have to give him credit for coming up with a plan and naming names. He even goes so far as to name theoretical contract amounts. With that said, I'm skeptical of a few things. For one thing, Al Jefferson's ability to play defense. And for another thing, the C's ability to count on restricted free agents. Traditionally, the ones that are worth getting stay with their home team (after making the other teams bidding sweat it out for a week with money tied up in an offer sheet). That leaves teams still overpaying for the guys whose teams feel they aren't worth matching an offer on.
Still, the Celtcs are going to have money to spend next summer. If they miss out on Howard, they'll either have to run it back with the guys another year older or start looking for the future.