FanPost

The Real Question

There is really no question in regard to tanking. The discussion as to whether the Celtics should or should not tank is futile. Mostly due to the fact that each individual on the Celtics will, in their own way, attempt to make themselves and the team better this season. That is, obviously, the goal. The word tanking can really only enter the discussion when talking about one particular individual: Danny Ainge. That is why, at this point, there is no discussion to be had. Danny has traded present talent for future assets and potential. Danny Ainge is not constructing this team to be competitive this season. That is one undeniable thing that we know right now.

The real question that runs simultaneously together and apart from the concept of tanking is what will be this team’s highest collective potential. We won’t have a truly clear picture of that until at least the start of the season and honestly, it may not be for a couple of months after that. This is why the Celtics, though not tanking, will not be able to escape the outside world thinking that they are. Danny will construct a team, which at its height, is not very good. With that in mind, we can take a look at this team and the other teams around the league and formulate some sort of opinion as to what we can expect to see this year.

(The following are my opinions. Feel free to pack them with sticks of dynamite and light the fuse should you choose to do so. Also, I am well aware that Danny Ainge is not done making moves and what I am about to write could be rendered obsolete as soon as it’s published. This article has been written for the purpose of sparking thought and/or conversation.)

I would first look at the players on the Celtics who have the ability to make a team good to great. I’m focusing on potential and the likely level of that potential each player will see this year, in my opinion.

As Celtics fans, we would all like to think that Rajon Rondo has the potential to be somewhere between the best and second best player on a championship team. Not a player that can carry a team every single night in the mold of a LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but a player that, any given night, can be the best on the floor for that game. In my opinion, Rajon Rondo will not reach that potential this year. Danny Ainge has said that he expects the all-star back on the floor for opening night, but to what extent? Can we really expect anyone coming off of knee surgery to be at full speed for forty minutes a game, as we have seen from Rondo in the past? I think the first half of the season will be a lighter work load for Rondo and that will not equate in more wins for the Celtics overall. In fact, it is completely possible that Rajon Rondo is a shell of what he once was for a t least half of a season.

As Celtics fans, we would all like to think that Rajon Rondo has the potential to be somewhere between the best and second best player on a championship team. Not a player that can carry a team every single night in the mold of a LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but a player that, any given night, can be the best on the floor for that game. In my opinion, Rajon Rondo will not reach that potential this year. Danny Ainge has said that he expects the all-star back on the floor for opening night, but to what extent? Can we really expect anyone coming off of knee surgery to be at full speed for forty minutes a game, as we have seen from Rondo in the past? I think the first half of the season will be a lighter work load for Rondo and that will not equate in more wins for the Celtics overall. In fact, it is completely possible that Rajon Rondo is a shell of what he once was for a t least half of a season.

Jared Sullinger’s expectations can be tempered in the very same way as Rajon Rondo’s. How many minutes a night can we expect him to play over the first half of the season? Have we even been given a target date for his return? The hope for a great Celtics future rests, in part, on the back of Sullinger and I don’t expect anyone to tax that back anytime soon. In a strange way, both Sullinger and Rondo can be viewed as future assets for this year.

Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace should be addressed as a package, and that package should be named trade bait. I think Danny Ainge will have a very difficult time flipping Wallace for anything this summer, however that difficulty may be reduced as we get closer to the trade deadline mid season. There should be a couple teams on the verge of championship contention that are looking to swap some of their future potential for an athletic wing man. In Wallace’s case, Ainge would accept anything to have his contract off payroll, so the contending team would only have to be willing to take the salary. What they offered the Celtics would be of little consequence. Not convinced that a contending team would take a chance on Wallace? Believe me, people do stupid things when they think they may have a shot at a championship, just ask Brooklyn Nets fans how they feel about their future five years from today. Wallace plays the same position as Green and I find it unlikely that Wallace will start over Green. This should frustrate Wallace and have his agent begging other teams to trade for him all year long. The Celtics need to play Green for the very reason that I’ve lumped him together with Wallace. He is trade bait and he needs to be showcased more than Wallace does. Green’s potential is higher and the Celtics will benefit as it reaches new heights. I believe Jeff Green has the potential to be an all-star caliber player this year. I’m not predicting that he makes the team, but if he averages 22 points per game and tosses in a pupu platter of rebounds and assists, he will all of a sudden be worth his contract and very attractive to other teams. Why would the Celtics not want to keep Green should his potential reach these heights? Why would they not see him as an integral part of the rebuild? It’s all about position, and there are a couple of guys at the top of next year’s draft that I hear play that position quite well. If the Celtics have a dismal first half, mucking through with a rehabbing Rondo and Sullinger and the rest of the team underperforming, we could very well be in line for a high lottery pick that plays Green’s position. Trading Green might solidify that very high lottery pick while at the same time selling an asset, or stock, at its highest value.

I don’t feel the need to write about the rest of the roster individually. In my opinion, they all fall into one of two categories. Either they are a very young player who may create an impact for the Celtics down the line, but not this year, or a player who has the potential for value on a good team, but not on a poor team. An example of the latter group would be a player like Shane Battier. Let’s say Battier played for the Phoenix Suns. His streaky three-point shooting and above average leadership skills would be practically useless and of little value. However, playing for a champion (as he is) all of a sudden those skills become an integral part of winning. I feel many players on our team, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, Kris Humphries, fit that mold. What good is Avery Bradley’s defense without the foundation of Kevin Garnett behind it? What good is Brandon Bass’ jump shot without good offensive players to create space for it?

So where does this put us? A couple of rehabbing players with great potential, a lot of young undeveloped talent, some frustrated vets, some good-not-great role players and one Jeff Green. It may be tough to come to terms with, but I can’t see this team winning more than 30 games. Not unless Rondo’s rehab and Sullinger’s rehab and development fall under best-case-scenario. And this is all assuming Jeff Green can play consistently at an all star level. Not to mention, the league is getting better.

Not many teams will suffer a steep fall from grace this year and many of the perennial cellar dwellers are making a real push to get better. No longer can we depend on easy wins from the likes of Cleveland, Washington and Detroit. It may now be the Celtics who are the easy target.

Let’s start with the teams we know are at least playoff contenders. Miami, OKC, San Antonio, LA Clippers, Indiana, Brooklyn, Golden State, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Memphis, New York and Atlanta. Given the current rosters of these teams, it seems obvious to me that they will have better records than the Celtics. Now I’ll add teams that I think will be better than the Celtics even though it may not be so easy of a decision to make.

Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard bolted and their roster is old and not very deep. I understand why people may believe that the Lakers could have a worse year than the Celtics. It is certainly possible for Kobe’s injury to take more time than expected and for Gasol and Nash to continue last year’s physical breakdown. However, with that said, I believe the Lakers will be a better team mostly due to direction for improvement. The Celtics have chosen to rebuild through the draft. Recent decisions Danny Ainge has made lend authority to this. The Lakers, however, are just waiting for their gigantic contracts to expire so that they can be a major player in free agency. This means that they do not need to get bad to get better. They won’t be using the draft to revamp the team when Kobe and Pau are long gone. In fact, the theory has already been put out there by many talking heads that Howard leaving will motivate Bryant more than him staying could have. Also, keep in mind that Pau Gasol is only one year removed from an Olympics that saw him as a fairly dominant player for Spain. If he can get over his injuries, the Lakers will be battling for a playoff spot. They may not be assured of the playoffs, but they should get much closer than the Celtics.

Minnesota Timberwolves: With the free agent signings of Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger, the probable return of Nicola Pekovic, and the definite return of Kevin Love. The Timberwolves should be in the midst of a playoff hunt. I don’t want to sound redundant, but if your team is sniffing the playoffs next year, I expect their record to be better than the Celtics’ record.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitski was injured for a portion of last year. If he had been healthy all year, it is likely that the Mavericks would have made the playoffs. They missed out on the big name free agents, but Cuban will still be trying to put a competitive team around Dirk. They might miss the playoffs again in the coming season, but they should still be a more competitive team than the Celtics next year. Dirk and Cuban want to win now, not rebuild. (This is probably a good time to put this opinion out there. I really think Danny Ainge will put a team on the court that he doesn’t see as being a competitive team this year. When management isn’t trying to win now, that usually filters down to the team’s morale. As much as they might fight it, it’s a long season and it will have its effect. I guess what I’m getting at in regard to the Mavericks is, if you expect to be better than a rebuilding team, nine times out of ten, you probably will be. Attitude and drive go a long way.)

Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans: I’ve grouped these teams together because they fit the same mold. A team who is tired of losing, who really believes that this is the year they jump out of the lottery and into the playoff picture. They have been aggressive through trading and free agency and have stud draft picks ready to take the next step. These teams all want to be this year’s Golden State Warriors and I wouldn’t bet against any of them to be in the playoffs. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, I’m just saying I wouldn’t bet against it. I would bet that these four teams have better records than the Celtics next year.

Milwaukee Bucks: I don’t think Milwaukee will make the playoffs next year, but that’s because of other teams getting better. The Bucks won’t look the same but the pieces are effectively interchangeable. Reddick for Mayo, and possibly Teague for Jennings. I really don’t see a great difference. But Larry Drew should be a better coach than they have had in the past. They will try to compete, fail, and end up with a draft pick that is not as good as the Celtics’ draft pick. (Poor Milwaukee)

The Teams I Think Will End Up With Better Records Than The Celtics But I Am Not At All Confident In That Prediction Group. Portland: Their lineup is good enough to keep them out of the bottom five teams in the league. My only hesitation is the thought that the trade deadline may send LaMarcus Aldridge to another team. Sacramento Kings: Boogie Cousins, Greivis Vazquez, Carl Landry and maybe, just maybe, Monta Ellis, oh yeah and Ben McLemore fell to them in the draft. It’s not great, but it’s not a bottom five team. Toronto Raptors: I don’t know why but there is something inside me that thinks Jonas Valaciunas is going to be a good player, at least a good enough player to keep the Raptors out of the bottom five. (I have no good reason for this thought) Charlotte Bobcats: One of these days a Bobcats draft pick and free agent signing have to work out for them, they just have to, this is getting ridiculous. If they can’t win 40 games this year the team should be disbanded. And that brings us to:

The Bottom Five, or the more optimistically dubbed, Wiggins Watchers. Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic. The rosters are incredibly young and, for the most part, devoid of all star talent. If I really believed that Rondo was going to be back to normal from the word go, I wouldn’t have the Celtics this far down, but I just don’t see the Adrian Petersen miracle two years in a row.

It’s going to be a tough year, but if it plays out the way I think it will, we may be lucky enough that it’s only one year. I’m going to spend this year routing for our young guys, watching how Brad Stevens works and pulling for him to buck the trend of failed college coaches coming to the NBA, and keeping a closer eye on college ball than I usually do. I knew Paul Pierce would leave the Celtics one day and I’m not happy about how it went down, but I’ve come out of the mourning process with the belief that Danny Ainge knows what he is doing and a firm optimism for the Celtics’ future. Now it’s all about wondering what names the future will hold. That’s the real question.

Be respectful and keep it clean. Thanks.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join CelticsBlog

You must be a member of CelticsBlog to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at CelticsBlog. You should read them.

Join CelticsBlog

You must be a member of CelticsBlog to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at CelticsBlog. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker