If it seems like I'm easing into this offseason like a toddler testing the still-too-cold water at the beach on Memorial Day, its because I'm not sure exactly what to make of it.
There's a sense of urgency and uncertainty that is palpable to everyone involved. That ever closing window looms like the sword of Damocles over Danny's head. Granted, even if the Big 3 fades off into the sunset I will still consider Banner 17 well worth it. Still, there's a real opportunity here to win multiple titles and failing to do so would be a disappointment.
So with that as the backdrop, I felt like providing some parameters on my expectations for the offseason. Just to provide some general direction without being too specific.
First of all, we have to take injuries out of the equation. Unless there's some new developments, we have to assume that everyone will return next year healthy (albeit a year older).
Next we have to throw out the outliers. In other words, when I say "best case" I don't mean a situation where Stern forces Cleveland to trade us LeBron and Kobe retires to pursue a baseball career (so he can at least be better than MJ at one thing). When I say "worst case" I don't mean a nightmare where Donald Sterling buys the team from Wyc and company and creates a Clippers East. I'm hoping to be somewhat reasonable (understanding of course that I'm a bleeding heart Kool Aid drinker of course). So lets get to it.
I like to hear the bad news first and I want to set a baseline. We have to understand that even though this team lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs, they played very well at times without their best all-around player. One has to believe that if everyone is healthy, we have the main pieces already in place to compete for a championship.
There's always a fear that the owners will say that they can't continue paying luxury tax at this rate. They might veto the use of the MLE and take a pass on re-signing Big Baby. We'd see another offseason much like last summer where we would lose our top free agent and fill in the roster spots with veteran minimum guys and draft picks.
We'd be counting on guys like Bill Walker and JR Giddens and/or Gabe Pruitt to step up into bigger roles. We might even re-sign Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury to provide some consistency and veteran help.
Sounds like a pretty bad plan all around, but consider this: We'd still have arguably the best starting lineup anywhere and of course the annual option of picking up mid season guys that are tossed aside by clubs looking to save cash. Which might just get us 55 to 60 wins and a 2nd round exit again (because the big 3 would be worn down, if not hurt by the end).
Now for the good news.
On the other end of the spectrum, I get to dream a little and play a game of "what if?"
What if the majority of teams this offseason are scared by the economy and refuse to pay all but the top free agents on the market (like Carlos Boozer) anything near what they'd get on the open market in most offseasons? That would level the playing field and give anyone with a Mid Level Exception (which is everyone) the chance to pick up a high level free agent.
Note: At this point I'm going to refrain from naming names because it will distract from the point, but you are welcome to debate in the comments.
So, with the lure of a potential ring, the Celtics could snag a bargain and upgrade the roster in a big way.
Then we could package Scalabrine, Tony Allen, and JR Giddens (expiring salaries totaling nearly $7M) for another upgrade (perhaps for a player that got the MLE in the past few years but the team can't afford anymore).
So that's two veteran upgrades that in theory would fill two of Doc's prescribed needs (lets just say a big man and a small forward). In theory, you could find a backup point guard either through the draft or via a veterans minimum contract.
And while we're at it, lets go ahead and re-sign Big Baby and Leon Powe too. All together that gives us a very deep bench and a great shot at Banner 18. Is this reasonable? No, probably not, but I can dream can't I?
As usual the end result will likely fall somewhere in between. Interestingly enough, neither scenario involves anything as drastic as trading Ray Allen - but that's a topic I'm saving for another day.
So what do you think? Is my worst case too dire or all too realistic? Is my best case too rediculous? What's your best guess at what will actually take place?