Paul Pierce has been the face of the Celtics since most of the people reading this post can remember. The winning tradition was restored when Kevin Garnett came into town. If those two are gone this summer (and barring other large trades), the future is in the hands of Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger.
We know, for the most part, what we have in Rondo. He's a star and he's someone that you can build around. Ainge may chose not to, but that's a whole other article. To build around a star, you need building blocks. Sure, it helps to have other stars and sometimes building blocks can grow into stars, but first they need to be part of the foundation.
Jeff Green was a revelation in the last couple of months of the season, averaging 17 points per game and looking a lot like the player many of us wished and hoped he would become. He managed to step up his game further in the playoff. He led the team, averaging 20.3 per game and showing no fear in key late-game situations. The Celtics offense needed every point it could get and at times Green barreling into the lane was the best offensive set they had. Put Green in an up tempo style offense with Rondo and watch out. I could see him averaging 20 per game next year as he grows more comfortable and develops a little more consistency and rhythm.
Avery Bradley struggled a lot on offense in the playoffs. A big part of that was the fact that he was playing out of position. The Knicks 3 point guard lineup flipped the script on him. Usually it is him pressuring the ball handler, getting them into sets late, and forcing turnovers. This time he was the one out of sorts and losing the ball. That is until the end of game 6 where he was the key catalyst to the frantic 20-0 run that got the Celtics within sniffing distance of extending the series yet again. Put this guy back at his normal shooting guard position, get him cutting to the basket with other shooters on the floor to space the offense and he could be an average offensive player. Which is all he'll need to be with his defensive A+ skill set.
Jared Sullinger's rookie year showed a lot of promise before he was lost for the year with back surgery. It sounds like they finally cleared up what was bothering him for years and it shouldn't be a problem again for a long time (no, I'm not a doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.... no, no I didn't do that either). A healthy Sully would do wonders for our rebounding and if he can score some buckets, even better. He's got the brains and the backside to do a lot of damage in this league and it will be fun watching him develop in Celtic green.
I'm purposely leaving Courtney Lee off this list for the time being just because of how poorly his season ended. But I am still holding out hope that he'll be able to brush this off and get back into Doc's good graces. I'll also give a quick head nod to Fab Melo, who's got a lot of learning left to do, but has what they call "tremendous upside potential." Also, don't forget that Terrence Williams, Shavlik Randolph, and DJ White are all under contract for another year and will certainly have a shot on the roster next year. Williams in particular stepped up in the postseason while Shavlik showed great flashes during the year.
As I've said before, these guys aren't enough to compete in this league - even with a healthy Rondo and whomever this year's first round draft pick turns out to be. But they are good building blocks for the future.