As we've established on this blog in excruciating detail, the Celtics offseason could go in any number of ways. That said, there's one option that seems to be the most popular among fans and also happens to be the path of least resistance. Running it back, in essence, would require very little work.
In fact, if he wanted to, Ainge could change his phone settings to "straight to voicemail," make a pick in the draft, and be done for the summer. He's got 14 players under contract for next year and the draft pick makes 15. Easy right?
Of course it would never be that easy. Ainge will of course look for any and all trade scenarios. Still, if he doesn't find anything that makes sense, it is a clear and easy path to just say "let's run it back." (Note: this was mostly written before he made his "we're more than one player away" comments which indicate that he wants a few trades to happen. But again, he might not get what he wants because someone has to be willing to give what you want in return.)
The position we are in is thanks to last summer's similar "run it back" plan that started with cap space and ended with re-signing many of our own free agents and adding Courtney Lee and Jason Terry in what amounts to 2 MLE contracts. Personally I liked the moves at the time and still don't have any problem with them because I'm becoming increasingly convinced that cap room is overrated - at least in terms of making a run at free agents. Basically I think it is easier to trade for guys that you want than to woo them in free agency - but that's another discussion for another day.
Let us take a step back and evaluate what our roster would look like in a run-it-back scenario. First, the old guys.
By now we know what we're getting - we just don't know when we'll get it. Or put another way, these guys can look a lot like the younger versions of themselves at times, but you can no longer count on that game-in, game-out anymore. Be it injuries, age, or just inconsistency, they aren't always the All-World stars that we know and love. You'd like to think that they'll be "fine" when the playoffs roll around, but I don't think that was the case this year for Pierce and the odds start stacking up against all three as they continue to age. At the very least, they are going to need a lot of help doing the heavy lifting next year. Which brings us to...
Younger rotation players:
Rondo is the presumptive leader of the team for the foreseeable future. He and Jared Sullinger are returning from season ending injuries and Jeff Green finished the season and playoffs on a very high note. If you are looking for something to pin you hopes on, this is the place to start. Can a fully healthy top of the rotation consisting of Rondo, Bradley, Green/Pierce, Sullnger/Bass, and Garnett be "enough?" Well, it depends on what "enough" you are talking about and I'll just leave it at that.
By the way, as an aside from the run-it-back discussion, if you are looking for pieces to move to re-master the lineup without breaking up too much of the band, here's where you take a long look. Lee ended his season badly and could be the odd man out after Rondo returns and Bradley returns to SG full time. Crawford could be moved or brought back as a cheaper option than Lee. If the team is comfortable with Sullinger starting, they could move Bass and backfill the backup PF position - maybe even with Shav.
The end of the bench is like a box of chocolates. Can Fab play rotation mintues next year? I dunno. Can Terrence Williams be our backup PG? Maybe. Is Shavlik Randolph capable of doing more than hauling down rebounds? That would be nice. Is DJ White renting instead of buying a home in the Boston area? Hope so, but maybe he'll surprise us in summer league and camp.
Wilcox bounced in and out of Doc's doghouse all year. He's still a talented big man who can catch on fire at times. You have to assume he's a better option than D.J. White at least. So it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him back in Boston.
It also wouldn't be too surprising to see Jason Colllins get another vet min contract from the Celtics - especially since it was Wilcox not Collins that the Celtics were trying to trade away in the first place. Or maybe we could see a return of Leandro Barbosa depending on what position is more in need of depth. (Apparently he still rehabs with the team)
Or the team could look outside the Celtic fraternity and bring in a player or two for added depth. Would it kill Danny to actually get a real life backup point guard?
I'm trying to keep my expectations low on the draft since it is supposed to be a weak crop. Then again, the Celtics have the highest pick of the KG era (assuming it still is the KG era by that time) so you never know.
Touching back on Danny's comments of not being in position to contend - is there any value to running it back regardless? Perhaps. For one thing, you never know what the team could do at next years trade deadline. For another thing, the 2014 summer could provide more flexibility and better draft options (cue the dreaded "bridge year" talk).
Still, it would be a bit foolish and insulting to ask Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to come back for what would amount to a victory lap of sorts. So chances are a true "run it back" team isn't what Danny has in mind. I'm just not sure if he'll find a lot of better options.