Over the past couple of weeks we've debated on this site the direction Danny Ainge was going to take this team in the future. As I've been thinking about it recently, I've come to some conclusions on the direction of the team in general, and where Ainge is taking us.
To me all of the moves Ainge has made lead me to one conclusion: Rajon Rondo is indeed the future of the franchise. Ainge has forgone dipping into the Free Agent market, exploring S&T's (Brooklyn aside), etc. Instead Danny has stood pat and watched from a distance. Ainge hasn't gone out and found a Franchise-player, because in his mind he's got one. Rajon Rondo will be the franchise player of the Boston Celtics for years to come. Allow me to elaborate below.
Before I begin let me just say, I don't agree with this train of thought. I think it's unproven, there's too many “moving parts” on this team, and the track record of injuries on our “core” players is staggering. As I write this, I can't think of one franchise that has won a Championship, where their main guy was a facilitator and not the main scoring option. Danny seems to think he can do this around Rondo, even if there's no blueprint for how to do it. With this outburst out of the way, let's take a look at the recent moves Ainge has made that make me think he's building around Rondo.
Trading KG, PP, and JET.
This was perhaps the hardest move for Ainge to make. We saw this year, that no matter what coaching and management said, the Celtics were still Paul and Kevin's team. By removing them, Danny has fully given Rondo the reigns to run the team. JET had to be moved as well, as his presence would infringe on Rondos leadership. In return, Ainge netted a bunch of picks in order to surround Rondo with talent in coming years, as well as some soft spoken vets, also some youth in Brooks. Ainge has now given Rondo full control of the franchise for years to come. At only 27, Rondo could lead the team for the majority of the next decade.
Drafting KO, and not another option.
I don't know about the rest of you, but when Olynyk's name was announced by “Smug Stern” on Draft night, a resounding “WHAT?!?!?!” could be heard within a 5 mile radius of my home. Now after two summer league games, Olynyk looks like he could develop into a decent stretch four in this league. It was an odd pick for the Celtics who are already loaded at the PF position with Brandon Bass, former rookie Jared Sullinger, and the soon to be Celtic Kris Humphries. This could just be a case of Ainge taking the best player available, but I think his trading up shows more than that. Danny really wanted Olynyk. Why? He wasn't even the best player available at the time, with names like Larkin, Dieng, and Shabazz still on the board. Ainge wanted Olynyk because of the role he'll play with Rondo in the future.
With the exception of Humphries, all of the PF's on the Celtics roster have the ability to play 14”-16” from the basket. This becomes increasingly important, when your main player is Rondo. Rondo's two greatest offensive abilities are driving to the basket and setting up his teammates. By drafting a stretch four like Olynyk, Ainge is accentuating both of Rondo's strengths. Olynyk not only gives Rondo the ability to set him up from range, but by sitting on the three point line (or thereabouts) Olynyk pulls a the opposing teams Power Forward out of the paint; thereby giving Rondo more room to work on the drive. If Olynyk can hit the three point shot consistently at the next level, or at least be a threat to, he and Rondo could be a match made in heaven.
Hiring Brad Stevens as Head Coach, to a six-year deal.
Talk about coming out of left field! Ainge pulled a true rabbit out of a hat when he signed the former Butler head coach. Known for his ability to develop unconventional talent, play the analytics game like a pro, and win with average, but developed players. I don't know much about Stevens, but he seems like the perfect match for a Rondo led team.
As I said before, there's no blueprint for how to win a Championship without your main guy being a supreme scorer. Analytics may be able to answer this. By equating everything that happens on the court into pure statistics, this allows the coach to see where players are most effective. It also allows them to put players in the right position to succeed. With Rondo, the Celtics have an elite passer, who can set guys up in their correct positions, as well as get them open looks. This plays perfectly into the analytics aspect of things, and allows Stevens & Co. to run their offense through and around Rondo.
I think the six years on Steven's contract is also noteworthy. It pairs Rondo and him up for the majority of Rondo's career to come.
Ainge neglecting Free Agency as a whole.
Now I know Free Agency isn't over yet, hell, it hasn't even really begun, but Ainge has yet to make a splash. The Celtics have two gaping holes (backup PG, anything resembling a Center) in their roster and haven't addressed either one. There aren't a whole lot of options at the Center position, but there are plenty of backup PG's out there, why doesn't Danny get one? For instance, Jarret Jack (a personal favorite of mine) just signed a very, very reasonable contract with Cleveland. Why wouldn't Ainge make the same offer? He could offer about the same with the mini-MLE. It looks like Ainge is content to attempt to develop a backup PG over time. Possibly Phil Pressey? It remains to be seen, but so far Ainge has been underwhelming in Free Agency.
I think if Ainge had dipped in, and grabbed a PG like Jack, perhaps it would have been easier for him to then move Rondo; but because we're developing a backup, Rondo's not very expendable.
Other than Brooklyn, no other trades.
The jury's still out on this one, but I thought for sure we'd see some players moving by now. Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee's mid-level contracts are both long and in a rebuild, probably not needed. Even though it may be a couple months before it's possible, both Wallaces' and Humphries' contracts could potentially be moved. Players like Jordan Crawford and Shavlik Randolph may add something over the season, but to the right team could potentially return the Center we need if bundled together with other parts. It remains to be seen what Ainge does, but it almost seems like he's content. Perhaps he'll make one minor move, but I think right now he's comfortable with the roster, and best of all I think Rondo is too. No ones going to attempt to steal leadership from Rondo on this roster, and these guys are set up to play some killer small ball.
The Mess-Up that is our Roster.
The Celtics roster as it stand right now makes nooooo sense. 1 PG, 5 SG's, 2 SF's, 5PF's, and ½ a C. But when I stop and look at all these guys, they make sense in the context of a Rondo-run offense. With Rondo setting them up, maybe Brooks and Crawford could average 9-12ppg. Green might be able to take the next step in his progression. Gerald Wallace could have a rebound year. Bass, Olynyk, and Sullinger could all be set up to have solid years. Rondo is the centerpiece, and Ainge has surrounded him with players who he can set up and cause to excel.
Rajon is still a member of the Boston Celtics, and until he's not I think Danny will continue to build around him. If an offer comes for a young prospect that fills a hole in the roster, then I could see Danny taking a shot (Drummond), but short of that I think Rondo stays. So sit back, because I think we'll be seeing Rondo in green for a while..... for better or for worse.
It's for all these reasons that I think Ainge is building around Rondo for the future. Their just my assumptions, but I'm curious of what you all think. I look forward to your comments, and as always if you liked the post be sure to rec ; )