I was listening to sports radio here in Boston, and most of the guys were talking about how tanking is the only real option for the Celtics. On Twitter, I've seen a more even split in those who think we should tank and those who dont, and today I saw Bill Simmons suggest sitting Rondo for as long as possible. Danny Ainge has publicly shot down the theory, as did Jared Sullinger in a summer league interview. Others call for a Rondo trade in an effort to pursue the top pick. I think it's near crazy for someone to want to trade our underpaid, top-tier point guard for a draft pick. So, for those who think the team can tank low enough to get the top pick, let alone a top five, how do you think it can be done?
Look at the East. With the top five or so teams set in stone (Heat, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Bulls), that leaves a lot of room for a lot of mediocre squads. The Hawks lost Josh Smith and picked up Paul Millsap. The 76ers traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel in an attempt to tank for next year. The Bucks are losing Monta Ellis, and the Bobcats signed Al Jeffereson. Besides that, unproven draft picks in a week draft are the only new assets these bottom-feeder teams have. The Wizards, Cavaliers, Raptors, Pistons, and Magic have all avoided signing proven free agents, with maybe only one or two left on the market (Monta and Bynum).
Enter the Celtics. A new coach and a completely new look, but the C's still appear quasi-dangerous in my eyes. I'd like to quickly mention Doc Rivers here. As an NBA coach, I view doc to be as good as his team lets him be. The year before winning the title, he led us to the worst record in Celtics history. If he's truly so great at managing personalities, I don't get how he couldn't motivate Paul Pierce, while in the prime of his career or how he couldn't motivate the team to care during regular season games. Yes, he won us an NBA championship in '08, but to some extent, we expected it out of him. He's undoubtedly a good coach, and has the potential to attract free agents, but the signing of Brad Stevens has allowed for a quick berevement. Stevens brings a healthy balance of analytics and traditional film watching. He has the power to bring darkhorse teams to championship games, and at 36, has the potential to carve out a name for himself both in Boston and the NBA altogether.
As for the roster, we still have an All Star point guard, a guy who has provided monster performances in the playoffs with more consistency than any other point guard I can think of in recent years. We have a tenacious defender in Bradley and a new scoring guard to complement him, in Marshon Brooks. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger bring a soft touch, and valuable experience, respectively -- while providing the team with an unfamiliar sense of youth. Add Jeff Green into the mix, and hope the absence of Pierce and Garnett truly allow him to be the player we saw flashes of last year. Gerald Wallace may be in the midst of one of the bigger slumps in the league, but the guy was an All Star two years ago. If there's anyone who can at least bring him back half way, I bet it's Rondo.
The roster isn't filled yet, and we certainly won't be the team contending for a title, but I still don't see how we slip out of the playoffs. I'd feel confident saying we'll be the seventh or sixth seed next year. I'd even say we could have a better record that we did last year. Partly because we don't have the mentaility of coasting through the regular season, and partly because the bottom half of the East really is god awful. Maybe this is unwanted news for some, and I'm sure many won't agree. Prayers for the Celtics drafting Wiggins next year are both common and unrealistic. Next year's draft is packed with more talent than usual, and I'm sure the Celtics will find a way to pry someone handy out of it. But tanking for the top five, is not gonna happen. The team we have now is incomplete and unproven, but far too good to fall that far.