For those old enough to remember the old syndicated TV show HeeHaw, there was a recurring segment of the "old boys" sitting around commiserating about the latest setbacks in their lives. The accompanying song featured a refrain of "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all, gloom, despair, and agony over me." In many ways, it sums up the season and the current mood of the fan base. With the seemingly never ending injuries to key players, we sure had our share of bad luck. The early playoff exit has certainly caused a great deal of gloom and despair. The agony comes in the form of what will be the future for Pierce, Garnett, and Doc in particular, and the team in general.
With this in mind, it is a good time to take a deep breath, step back from the heightened emotions, and make some calculated assessments about the team.
First, what happened? The year before, we were one game away from clinching a Finals berth.. The downfall wasn't defense. Rather it was a lack of scoring, especially from the bench. Part of the plan to solve thatwas Ray Allen would come off the bench and Jason Terry would be added to be a dual three point threat (an essential element of small ball). Problem is, it got bungled. Allen was assumed to be back instead of anyone actually laying the proper groundwork to ensure he would be back. In turn, this made signing Courtney Lee so important, to be the other three point threat. Except he struggled. Milicic, who had been brought in to be a rim protector and low post passer (another key to small ball) left before there was any chance to make the plan work. So with eight new faces expected to fill certain roles, the plan was forced to be in flux and the early result was chaos.
As we know, Bradley returned after the first of the year and it appeared things would finally start to gel. The defense was no longer struggling and the concentration could be shifted to getting the offense in line. Then the injuries started and everything was in flux once again. To cut to the chase, we ended the season pretty much as we had the season before - a very good defensive team that could not score enough points.
Where are we now? Basically the same as before with an additional problem - little maneuvering room. Whether the goal is to transition to small ball or revert to a traditional style of play, we still need a legitimate Center. The only difference would be in who would fit the bill for the style. Unless Terrence Williams shows beyond doubt that he can adequately fill the role, we still need a back-up Point Guard.
How do we get there? Since, as things stand now, the Celtics will be right at the expected luxury tax threshold, solving either of these will most likely have to come by way of trades or a veteran minimum contract. Either further limits the choices of available players, not to mention these are the two positions that all the other teams are always also looking to fill or upgrade.
One solution being popularized right now is to buyout the contract of Pierce. While it is possible, it is largely a Catch-22. If he is forced to leave, then you immediately need another Small Forward. Even with Jeff Green as the heir apparent, he would still need a back-up. Then, as many have mentioned and believe, if Pierce goes, KG will also. Should that happen, then you need two Centers instead of one. In essence, the replacement costs escalate faster than the amount of savings which, as others have pointed out, are negligible in the end.
There is of course the upcoming draft, but if experience has taught us anything, it is mostly a crap shoot. Out of the 60 taken in the two rounds, maybe ten work into a starting role right away, maybe three make an actual impact as a rookie.
When all is considered and all is said and done, probably the best solution is to stay the course. Assuming Rondo makes a full and timely return, the core would still be in tact. KG is still the anchor of the defense and even though he did not look as sharp as what we have known in the past, Pierce still scored the 19th most points out of 450 players in the league. Among those listed as a small forward only, he was second, behind Durant, and was sixth among all forwards. In addition, you still have the building blocks of Bradley, Sullinger, and Green. Amid all the turmoil, you still got decent contributions from Bass, Lee, and Terry. Plus they all now have a year of playing together under their belts.
The bottom line is this team looked good and continues to look good on paper. All plans start on paper and the plan is still valid. The downfall, for a variety of reasons, was in the execution. Certainly tweaks are in order, but not necessarily a radical departure. There is no guarantee that that would be any more successful in the short term anyway. When we look at each position individually in follow up posts, I think most will be surprised how well our guys stack up against other options.
The future may not be so bright that we need to wear shades, but it is not so bleak as to throw out all the babies with the bath water either. Even if it were, nothing other than examination and planning really needs to be done before June 30.