I've always kind of taken it as a given that there will be fireworks this summer. Danny Ainge has draft picks, trade assets, and 20 or so GMs lined up to call him about Rajon Rondo. There are trade exceptions and stretch provisions and restricted free agents that all could complicate things further and Ainge is anything if not ...creative.
Still, there's always a chance that I'm hyping this up way too much. (I mean, I am blogger) After all, there are very few rebuilding plans that last a single year. Historically it has taken at least a couple of years and usually more. Besides, you can't hit a home run with a trade if the other team isn't willing to throw you a pitch to hit.
So what happens if we quietly make our picks on draft night, match a reasonable market offer to Avery Bradley and call it a summer?
Here's my take at what that would look like both financially and on the court. First the finances (with some assumptions on my part).
|Avery Bradley *||7,000,000|
|* Projected salary|
A few minor notes here:
The salary cap is going to be around $62M but we can re-sign Bradley and add guys on rookie deals and veteran minimum deals to go over the cap (but under the tax). I made a swag guess at Bradley's salary but I think it could range anywhere from $6M to $8M depending on what kind of interest he gets elsewhere.
I'm guessing Iverson comes over from Turkey. Not sure exactly how much he'd get, but I used Pressey's deal as filler. I think we could fill that 15th spot with Chris Babb if he keeps playing the way he has lately as well.
There's also chance that the Celtics could re-sign Kris Humphries (who's been solid) and Jerryd Bayless (has his moments). But in the above scenario, I'm not sure if the team would want to commit more long term money on guys that aren't game changers.
On the court:
Here's the key. Is this team any good? Or are we looking at another trip to the lottery? And is that an inherently bad thing?
Here's what the lineup looks like (without adding in the draft picks)
- PG: Rondo, Pressey
- SG: Bradley, Johnson
- SF: Green, Wallace, Babb?
- PF: Sullinger, Bass
- C: Olynyk, Faverani, Anthony, Iverson
A lot depends on who the Celtics draft with their first pick, obviously. Embiid, Parker, or Wiggins would likely force their way into the rotation, if not the starting lineup, before too long. Randle or Exum might as well. Whomever we get with the Nets/Hawks pick will likely be a reserve for the time being.
I'd say that the best case scenario (again, assuming no trades) would be getting Embiid and seeing how everyone develops. A fully healthy Rondo and Bradley backcourt would be solid to say the least. Sullinger would be a year older and would compliment Embiid on the block. Jeff Green would still shoulder a big portion of the scoring load, but when he's off Rondo could step up (or find someone else to fill in). Bass, Olynyk, Crash, Pressey, and the 2nd draft pick coming off the bench. I could talk myself into that group being a fringe playoff team in the East.
Our own wjsy is optimistic as well.
If he sticks with this youth movement and stands pat with the roster, he'll hand Stevens a roster made up of three rookies, four sophomores, a healthy Rondo, and a handful of vets that he's leaned on this year. There could be some moves around the margins, but there's enough guys here to start busting out the hard hats and really making progress on the rebuild.
I have some guarded optimism with what a summer of weight training could do for Sullinger and Olynyk. The spotlight will shift over to the two prized rookies from this year's class and they'll be given more leeway in what we expect from them. And as these younger players start to cement their roles in the lineup, their improvement and consistency will lessen the burden on Green to be a go-to guy every night. Brad Stevens will have a year under his belt as an NBA head coach and Rondo will reap the benefits of a full training camp rather than swimming upstream in his mid-season return.
Of course this assumes that Rajon Rondo is on board with the long haul building plan. He'll be a free agent at the end of next season so if he's patient enough, he can watch these kids grow up around him. In the summer of 2015 the deals for Bass and Anthony expire and the team could have enough cap space to bring him back and add another bigtime free agent next to him. And of course we'll have another 2 draft picks to use that year as well.
I can't picture Danny Ainge sitting on his hands and not trying to make some moves along the way, but if he can't find anything better, he at least has the option of playing it safe. If anything, knowing that he has this fallback option gives him more leverage in trade negotiations.
So what do you think? How good could this team be just running it back and adding the rookies?