In a recent fanpost here on Celticsblog a poster made a case for not tanking in this upcoming season. I thoroughly enjoyed mmmmm's article, and was almost convinced that he was dead right. Several times I almost commented throughout the discussion that ensued, but my comments were quite lengthy and it didn't seem like the right venue to discuss all of my thoughts. So here I'd like to make the case FOR the Celtic's tanking in the upcoming season.
Firstly, I'd like to address what exactly tanking is. No team goes into a season planning on losing as many games as possible, and it would be foolish of us to think the Celtic's would do this. That's not how it works. Even this past season Orlando was one of the worst teams in the league, and many thought they were "tanking" in order to get into a good draft position. I'd argue that was not the case. Orlando fielded a lot of youth in their lineups this past season and attempted to develop that youth by giving them a lot of minutes throughout the season. They didn't tell those kids to go out and lose as much as possible, no, they told them to give their all and show the coaches, GM, fans, etc. what they could do. In so doing Orlando discovered they have some decent young talent to build around including their young center, Nikola Vucevic. They also managed to snag the second overall pick in this year's draft, and picked up a fringe-franchise player to continue to help their rebuild. This season (barring any big moves) looks to be another average season for Orlando. Will they tank? Most likely, but their not going to encourage their young players to do so, the reality is their team is just not there yet, but the can be developing talent in the meanwhile. This is largely what I see the Celtic's doing in a "tanking" year, developing talent.
I saw in the comments of mmmmm's post where a poster mentioned a "Player Development Year." This is exactly what I envision the Celtic's "tanking" season would look like. To me the fact that it happens right before the most stacked draft since 2003 is just a bonus. The reality is the Celtic's depth chart right now has more holes in it than a golf course: no backup PG, no Center's... period (not sold on Shavlik,) too many SG's and PF's, ohh, and we have no coach as of yet. We have no set timetable for when Rondo or Sullinger might be back to 100% from injury, and no one to play for Rondo while he's recovering. This roster is made for a "Development Year."
Give guys a chance to prove their worth and increase their stock value around the league. Can Bradley ever run the point effectively? Can Green develop into a 20 points per game player and increase his rebounding? Can Courtney Lee be a top sixth man, or is he only a role player? Jordan Crawford... what's that all about? Is Sullinger capable of playing long minutes at Center and can he rebound from injury? Can Rondo take over leadership of the team, or does he have to have a stronger personality on the team? Is Olynyk capable of scoring at a high clip in this league and be effective as a swing four in this league? Can Marshon Brooks play defense? Will Fab Melo EVER develop? Can a coach not named Doc work with Rondo?
Those are just some of the questions the Celtic's have going into this season, and that's not including how the new additions from Brooklyn are going to fit in. Don't get me wrong, some of those guys are going to rise to the challenge and show they can really ball, but some are going to come up short (I'm looking at you Fab.) Why not take this season to get those answers so you know what you have going forward. I have yet to see anyone come up with a foolproof way for us to become an instant contender, so why not take a season to take stock of what we have. Our players are still going to be playing their hearts out, and trying to claw out W's, but the honest truth is this roster has to many questions to answer to contend this season.
And then there are all the decisions that upper management could make in order to aid our "tanking" this season. The most obvious to me would be to sit Rondo and Sullinger out until they are absolutely 110% healthy, perhaps begin working them back into the rotation sometime around December. Other management decisions could be to just stop making moves now, pick someone up on a MLE, and let the team ride. Danny could also go out on a limb and bring in an inexperienced coach to try out for a "trial phase" to try and find a diamond in the rough. Even with all of this happening, management would still expect the guys on the court to give their all; it wouldn't be giving up, it would be evaluating.
Doing all of this allows our own players stock to rise around the league. If guy's like Courtney Lee, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries show they can still contribute they become easier to offload going forward. If a guy like Jeff Green can put up 20 points a night, now you're looking at a budding potential all-star, and the best part of all of this is we're getting all of this while still getting a great draft pick.
Now let's imagine the Celtic's do everything I've outlined, and go on to win 30 games this coming season, is the season a loss? I'd say absolutely not. We'd know exactly what we have going forward with our young guys, know weather or not it's even possible to build around Green and Rondo, and what we're missing going forward. We'd also be looking at a top 10 pick most likely in the stacked 2014 draft. Now a lot of people would argue that we could get a possible top 5 pick, and maybe through trades we could, but I don't think it'd be necessary (just trying to be realistic here people). Whatever the pick, Ainge is going to take the guy he wants (we all know he's not shy about that, see Olynyk,) and chances are we'd have a quality player, maybe even a franchise guy. But because we'd taken a year to evaluate our roster, we'd have a lot more than that. We could surround our draft pick with Rondo, Green, Sullinger, and whoever else showed promise throughout the year, OR we could move Rondo and Green, and look to build around the new guy. Either way we don't lose.
And more than not losing, we'd have 2 first round draft picks in three of the next four draft picks. We surround our new core of players with even more youthful potential as we gear up for a dynasty. All of this while guys like Wallace, Humphries, Lee, and Bass come off the books freeing up cap space for future signings. You look at trading guys like Rondo, Green, and Bradley if they don't play into your long term plans, all the while getting better and building around our new, young franchise players.
To me it makes a lot of sense to "tank" this season. Develop and Evaluate our young talent, answer some of the questions we have going into the season, and attempt to add a franchise talent through the draft.
I know the draft is not an exact science, but if you look at most title teams most of them have drafted key players on their team: Miami: Wade, Chalmers (technically traded). Dallas: Dirk (technically traded). Boston: Pierce, Bird, McHale, Rondo (technically traded). Lakers: Bynum, Magic, Kobe (technically traded). San Antonio: Duncan, Ginobili Parker. Detroit: Prince. Bulls: Jordan. Houston: Hakeem. The "technically traded" guys were draft day deals, so imo they were essentially drafted by that team.
Building through the draft has been historically the way to build a winning team, dynasties even, and with all their draft picks the Celtics are set up for success for years to come.
Post Script: Told you all my replies were lengthy ; )
As for the idea of moving picks and players for a talent like Aldridge, Smith, Love, DMC, etc. It's an intriguing idea but I don't know that it's realistic. I think for any of those guys you're going to have to give up Rondo or Green, and then what's the point? You're still not challenging for a championship, and you've just given up picks to be right where you left off. If we could get one of those guys without giving Rondo or Green I'd be interested, but I think the price would be too high. As for Josh Smith, I'm not interested at all..... but that's for another day : ) If anyone can show me a trade that one of those teams would take for those guys without Rondo or Green included, then I may change my mind. One important note here as well, for every 2008 Celtic's team who makes out like a bandit for getting KG; there is a 2008 Timberwolves team who thought they were getting the next KG. Trades aren't a sure thing either.
As for the argument that teams who pick top 3 prospects don't win with them. Duncan was one who did, why? Because the team had a strong group of players already around him. That's exactly the situation Boston would have in my scenario. One all-star, one wannabe all-star, a core of nice young players who's strengths and weaknesses we know, all to surround a new franchise guy. It may not bring us a championship, but I think it's a viable and time-tested strategy, see: Bird, Jordan, Magic, Duncan, etc.
As for a supposed losing culture developing in Boston. Puhleeeeease. You really think Tommy's going to allow that? Or Ainge for that matter? Let's get real. Also, Rondo and Perk were on the AWFUL 2007 Celtics. Both of them seemed to be able to win in 2008 though. I think we as fans seriously overplay the idea of a losing culture. Let's look at Sacramento, a team who hasn't made the playoffs sense 2006. Is that the players fault? In part, but most of it lies at the feet of the management due to poor decisions, drafting, and long-term vision.
Ummmmm, yeah.... that's about it. I look forward to your comments, and as always if you found this post interesting be sure to rec ; )