Banners are the goal. This much is clear. Danny Ainge is in charge of putting this team in position to challenge for more banners in the rafters. How do we get there? Well, we have to get great players. Not just good ones. Not nice finds that turn into solid role players. We need greatness.
"First of all we need great players," Ainge said. "Either our young players develop into great players or we have to acquire them. We've seen flashes from our young players. We need them to do that more consistently. We need to go out and draft those players or find those players."
Ainge obviously wasn't able to get a player like that at the trade deadline but few expected him to. The thinking was that he would try to clear some cap room to make getting a great player down the line a little easier. That didn't happen either.
"It just wasn’t the right time. We wanted a little more certainty with deals that we’re doing, and today wasn’t the day. Knowing what our draft position’s going to be and the other team’s draft position’s going to be and knowing how much money the players being talked about are going to make going forward . . . I mean, there was all sorts of uncertainty that we couldn’t get around." "We’re in the process of developing guys and trying to figure out who we like on our team going forward," Ainge said. "We have a lot of decisions to make next summer."
Which brings us to next summer. Our own wjsy took us through all of the key dates and painted a very reasonable, conservative approach to continuing the rebuild process one step at a time. I appreciate that level headed analysis because it provides a counterbalance for what I'm about to do. I'd like to THINK BIG!!!
What's Love got to do with it?
Sure, we could wait till 2015 and try to throw free agent money around, but that's also the plan of several other teams. Let's beat the rush and go after Kevin Love this summer!
Bill Simmons tossed out some ideas and named the Celtics as one of the teams with the best shot at Love.
Let’s say the Celtics lose the 2014 lottery and end up with a pick between no. 3 and no. 5. They could send that pick to Minny along with Atlanta’s first-rounder (probably ending up in the 13-to-18 range) and their 2015 Clippers pick for Love. And they could throw in Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans’s immediately waivable deal to make the contracts work. Oh, and if Minnesota were more interested in one or more of those future Brooklyn picks that Boston owns (unprotected in 2016 and 2018, pick swap in 2017), the Celts could discuss that, too. Remember, they have a WAR CHEST of picks: 10 in five years
I don't know how many picks it would take to pry Love free and I'm not even sure how many I'd consider to be too much. I just know that I'd give up a lot of them for him. It is the same logic behind not wanting to give up Rondo for picks. A proven star is worth more than picks that might, maybe, possibly become stars someday. I tend to think that the Wolves would want Jared Sullinger (who would be somewhat repetitive with Love around anyway), so that factors into the negotiations as well.
All of this assumes that Love would be itching to get out of Minnesota and made those feelings known to the management group there. I don't think that's too far fetched really.
Love and Flip Saunders can whisper sweet nothings to each other in magazine articles, but Love’s dissatisfaction with the Wolves’ trajectory is an open secret around the league. They are going to miss the playoffs again this season, and if they show no real progress next season, Love will be out the door.
Is it likely that he'll force his way out of Minnesota and over to Boston? Not really. But if it is even a remote possibility, you have to at least explore it.
I know that I'm probably the last person you'd think to hear this option from, but I'm trying to be open minded. We have to keep all our options open and as much as I wouldn't like it, we have to consider this as an option.
Think of it this way. This feels a lot like it did in 2007 when we had Paul Pierce, a bunch of young guys, and not much else. Losing the lottery ended up being the best thing because it led to trading for Garnett and Ray Allen. If Ainge had won that lottery, there's no way we would have given up that pick. More likely it would have been Paul Pierce being traded and the team would have been built around the pick. Now you can see the inherent risk with that strategy since it could have been Durant or Oden as a Celtic.
Still, if we win the lottery, I have to wonder if Rondo is going to be content rebuilding over the long haul with a bunch of kids. In particular, he's going to have to wait for an anointed savior to get his feet wet and get up to speed. It took Durant years to get great. Same with Derrick Rose and LeBron and countless other stars. Some can make an impact in their first year, but it is rare.
Maybe, just maybe, the best thing would be to deal Rondo for more draft picks and young players and build this sucker up from the ground in a Presti model strategy. You could bring in a few vets just to help the kids learn how to play the right way, but for the most part you'd be adding potentially-elite level talent on rookie level contracts for the next few years. We'd likely be in the lottery again next year, but that might be the case even with Rondo.
Let the Sixers have all the 2nd rounders they want. We'd be swimming in 1st rounders to build with.
Best of Both Worlds
Ok, I can't end on that note, so I'm going to be a little more greedy. There's really no shortage of options in front of Ainge regardless of what happens in the draft. If we get in the top 3 and grab a guy like Jabari Parker, who seems pretty NBA ready at least on the offensive end, I could see him contributing right away. Then you could use some future picks to land another all star player to pair with Parker and Rondo (even if it isn't Kevin Love, there are star level guys that become available every year, sometimes unexpectedly).
Or maybe we could make a move or two to free up a little more cap space and grab someone like Carmelo Anthony in free agency? Would a lineup of Rondo, Melo, Sullinger, and Embiid be interesting?
Putting aside specifics (because I know people will jump all over the Melo idea in the comments) there's simply a lot of directions that Ainge could go this summer. He could play it safe and kick the can down the road another year. That might even be the best decision. But you can be he's also going to at least kick the tires and take a few bigtime ideas out for a test drive.
Because the end goal is, and has always been banners. To get those banners, you need great players. How you get those great players is the key and that's what I'll be tuning in for this summer.