I am one of the few guys on this blog who is fully not on board with the Kevin Love trade. The number of assets we would have to give up to give him (4 first rounders, Sullinger, expiring/nongauranteed contracts) just blow me away. Then when I consider that our cap situation would make it difficult to build a true contender around him and Rondo before their free agency in 2015, I think bringing him in could cripple the franchise for the next half decade when him and Rondo walk. While I am not a fan of watching the Celtics lose game after game, I am also not a fan of mortgaging our future for a guy that can walk in a year. I also don't think Rondo and Love make this team a top 6 team in the league. For that matter, it makes no sense to put an offer on the table for Love unless it is far lower than what is being talked about. I realize he is a top 10 player, but a top 10 player that only plays for the franchise for a year and ravages our team of almost all of the assets we've acquired just doesn't make sense when I see a far more desirable route on the opposite side of the coin. The following are some deals that make sense if we decide to build a team around young talent and assets rather than Rondo and Kevin Love.
This is where I make a statement I thought I would never make as an ENORMOUS Rajon Rondo fan. Rajon Rondo is the reason I am a Celtics fan, and I will support him for the rest of his career no matter where he goes. That being said, I think that our options for the future start to look pretty bright when you start mentioning him in trade conversations. The one trade I keep coming back to is the Sacramento Kings trade. This involved Rajon Rondo for their lottery pick (now number 8), Mclemore, and I believe Terry and Outlaw as a cap filler works. While we all heard that this trade was shut down at the deadline because Rondo would not promise to extend with them, things have changed. The word on the streets is that the Kings are willing to trade for Kevin Love even without the hope of an extension. While I do not see that deal going through (since it would take a lot more assets as well as him basically being guaranteed to leave), I think that they could apply that method to Rondo if they desire him bad enough. Rondo and Rudy Gay are supposedly great friends, and maybe the Kings think that a year playing with his best bud and Demarcus Cousins who is truly one of the best young players in the league, that they will be able to convince Rondo that Sacramento is the place for him. Whether he stays or not is not important to me (actually I would prefer him to leave so I could see him play on a contender in 2015), however the trade package being offered is. While Mclemore certainly didn't light the word on fire in his first season, I watched him play on a regular basis, and I don't think he is too far off from truly figuring it out. Also, the number 8 pick in this draft is looking to be one of Smart, Vonleh, or Gordon unless you reach for someone projected to go later. So now we have the 8th pick, Mclemore, and expiring contracts worth $8.5 million.
Now that we are trading Rondo, we are removing ourselves from any shot of contending. Since that is the case, why not help a team in the west build their own dream team in order to acquire some assets? I've heard the Rockets are willing to throw in their 25th pick in order to rid themselves of Lin and Asik's contracts in order to make a push for Carmelo Anthony or another desirable FA. We could be the team that helps them do this and acquire both Asik and a first rounder in a deep draft for helping them do it. The deal comes out to Bogans, Pressey, and Chris Babb for Lin and the 25th pick in the 2014 draft and then our TPE straight up for Asik. Now we acquire both another first round asset and 2 expiring contracts worth about $16 million as well as Asik who we may opt to keep on long term.
Now that we have those 2 deals out of the way, we come away with the 6th,8th,17th, and 25th picks in the 2014 draft as well as expiring contracts, McLemore, Asik, and Lin. Now looking at some mock drafts, I think we could pick the following players at the following picks:
6th: Marcus Smart - With Rondo gone, it is important to draft our point guard of the future. I am one of the few people who is higher on Smart than I am on Exum. Most people don't realize that they played each other in the U19 tournament, and Smart made Exum a non factor and caused him to turn the ball over 4 times in 11 minutes. Smart had better agility times than CP3, Wall, and other super quick PGs. He was also one of the strongest guards to ever work out in the history of the combine. He's not the best passer, but he did happen to average more assists against stiffer competition than Exum did. Him and Exum share the fact that their jump shots aren't up to par, but Smart's defense is already outstanding due to his agility and strength where Exum just isn't at his level. While Exum does have 2 inches on Smart, their wingspans are basically the exact same and Smart has a 1.5" higher max vertical. From my perspective, I would rather have Smart's overwhelming strength and his impressive (and better than Exum's) athleticism over the 2 inches you get by drafting Exum. I also think the Lakers select Smart at 7th if he is available, so I draft Smart at the 6th pick without hesitation.
8th pick: Aaron Gordon - From what I have researched, the Utah Jazz plan on taking Vonleh or Randle with the 5th pick to add to their already talented young front line. Also, I have read that the Lakers intend on taking Vonleh due to his upside or Randle due to his NBA ready game depending on who is available if Smart isn't. Therefore, I think Aaron Gordon is the most likely to still be available with the 8th pick. While I may prefer Vonleh due to his freakish measurements, I have no qualms with selecting Aaron Gordon with the 8th pick. He is already a great ball handler with exceptional athleticism, and pairing him with Smart makes for some outstanding defense out on the perimeter. Also, as many of you probably saw on Celticsblog today, Gordon is working like a mad man to improve his shot. If he is able to improve his range and FT shooting ability, he could become a 2 way nightmare for years to come.
17th pick: This is where it gets tricky and depends on who is available and who isn't. I have seen several mocks where we take Zach Lavine with the 17th pick. While I am on board with this pick, it depends on what ends up happening with Dario Saric. He is projected to be a top 10 pick, but it is rumored that he will only come over to the NBA next year if selected by the Celtics or Lakers. If this somehow leads to him dropping to 17, it would be a mistake not to grab him. He would be the most talented player available, and he would provide top 10 value in the latter half of the first round. On the other hand, if someone takes him regardless, Lavine is the ultimate consolation prize. His combination of ball handling, shooting, and sheer athleticism could make him a true boom or bust prospect. He is one of the best athletes in the draft, but he can also shoot and dribble the ball. He probably needs a year or 2 to truly figure it out, but if/when he does, he could end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2014 draft.
25th pick: Glen Robinson III - GR3 is predicted to be available at the 25th pick, and I really don't know why. He has a picturesque shooting stroke with elite level athleticism. While he's admittedly raw in other areas, I just think he brings way too much upside at the 25th pick for the Celtics to pass on.
In free agency, I don't do much other than possibly take on expiring contracts and 2nd rounders for guys like Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass. With Mclemore and Lavine on the roster, I either let Avery Bradley walk our try to get some 2014 2nd rounders (which look like last years mid/late first rounders) in a S&T.
The conclusion of the draft and FA gives the Celtics the following roster:
Mclemore/Lavine/Chris Johnson (depending on what position Lavine turns out to play)
Aaron Gordon/ Glenn Robinson III/Wallace (assuming we can trade Green for expiring contracts)
Sullinger/Olynyk/Gordon (assuming we can trade Bass for expiring contracts)
I know this team would be really bad during the 2014-2015 season, but all is not lost. The 2015 draft is absolutely LOADED with talented young centers. I know building a team around this many young players isn't desirable, but when you have a good young developmental coach, this is the kind of team that could grow quickly and could attain sustainable success. You add a top tier young center like Okafor/Towns/Lee to this group, and you have a starting 5 of young,cheap, and talented players with All-star upside as well as an insanely deep bench with similarly young,cheap, and talented players. Which team in the NBA has their own big 5? I know it isn't likely that all of these guys pan out, but were 2 deep at the SG, SF, and PF with insanely talented young guys, and then with Smart at the PG, I don't think depth would be a primary concern. Also, if Danny Ainge decides he wants to contend sooner rather than later, he could attach Gerald Wallace to one or 2 of the 7 future first rounders we would still have after this takes place and make "fireworks" happen in 2015 with an already loaded roster of talent. This roster would consist of players on expiring contracts or rookie contracts, and the cap space we would have in 2015 to build around this roster could realistically bring in 2 superstars who would be surrounded with ridiculous talent. Lastly, since we would have drafted all of these guys, we would have their Bird Rights. While it may get expensive to pay these guys after their rookie contracts on top of these 2 superstars, the Celtics have a proven track record of a willingness to pay the luxury tax in order to win championships This sort of formula would not only set us up incredibly well for the future, but it could also help us become contenders in the mean time. I can't imagine Rondo and Love winning the Celtics a championship without mortgaging our future to get a 3rd star in which that lineup may or may not work out. With this formula, we hold on to all of our assets while acquiring several more in the process. We keep all of our future draft picks while clearing the books and developing these young players into even more desirable assets that the draft picks we use to get them. While it will be hard to endure another year of watching the Celtics play losing basketball, I am in this thing for the long haul, and I think I would rather go down the road less traveled.