I asked the question last night "Do you think this team - as it is currently constructed plus an extra free agent or two - can compete for a Championship this year?" The results (as of this morning) were interesting.
Only 23% said "no, they cannot" (Some quibbled with the wording of such a choice, but I contend that this is someone's opinion, not a measure of their soothsaying ability).
37% believe that they can compete for a title while 38% think it is a long shot.
I see this as the starting point of a big decision tree. I don't have a whiteboard, but I'll do my best to map it out here.
If you do believe that the team can contend for a Championship, then the next choice is easy. Keep the team together and work to improve around the edges with free agent pickups and the like.
If you think the team cannot compete for a title then I have to ask another question. How important are Championships (in both the immediate and near future) to you? If you answer that they are the most important thing, then you have to consider trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (if you can get a reasonable return).
In truth, I'd ask the same question to the folks that think that a title is a long shot but the result is different. One option would be to trade either Pierce or Garnett for immediate help that can also be part of the future (opinions vary on Josh Smith but he's a good enough example). Another option would be to use as many other trade pieces that you have as you can to add talent to this current roster (note of caution: this option also might include trading young, promising players like Sullinger or even Bradley).
But if you value loyalty and legacy over pushing for a Championship every year, then of course you'll want to keep the gang together and do the best you can to compete with what we've got - both this year and for the next year or two.
There is, after all, the chance that this team could compete this year and still be in a position to rebuild on the fly this offseason. A lot of that would kind of require one or both of Pierce and Garnett to retire and for Ainge to get crazy creative with the cap. But it is possible.
Putting my personal cards on the table: I'd say I'm in the "long shot" camp. I would never count out this team as long as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are part of it. I also think that Championships are a very, very important goal, but I'm not sold on selling out to get one. Sure, we could trade away the heart of our team for a chance to get better for the future - but that's still just a chance. How do you know that a lineup of Bledsoe, Rondo (or whomever you can trade him for in the future), Josh Smith, and DeAndre Jordan would be able to compete for a title? We don't know how those pieces would fit together or what kind of heart they have.
We do, however, know the souls of the men that currently wear green. We've seen them raise a banner and compete year in, year out - regardless of the chips stacked against them. I think they deserve another shot. I want to see Danny do what he can to build around the edges and maybe make a deal with the support players to get someone in here to help Pierce and KG. But if that doesn't happen, no big deal (pun intended). Just ride it out and if this becomes nothing more than a victory lap for Pierce and KG, so be it.
Of course that's one man's opinion and my own personal decision tree. Many people's opinions differ and the most important people (Danny, Doc, Wyc, etc.) might also have differing opinions. We'll find out a lot in the next few days.