Team Name: Boston Celtics
Last Year's Record: 56-26
Key Free Agents: Jeff Green, Big Baby, Delonte West
Team Needs: Centers, depth everywhere
1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?
Let's start with the Center position. I've actually been quite pleased with Jermaine O'Neal when he's been on the floor. But counting on him for 82 games (or 70 or 50 or whatever) is like counting on the players and owners to think of the fans first. Shaq retired to pursue Shaq things and Nenad Krstic has moved on to Dancing With the Russian All Stars. I don't consider us to be players in the big name free agent sweepstakes because that would financially eliminate us from the Dwight sweepstakes of next year. So we'll probably be shopping in the bargain bin but if Danny can pull a seven foot rabbit out of a hat via trade, more power to him.
Beyond that, we need depth everywhere and perhaps a few young, developing players that might actually stick around after the Big 3 shuffle off. But first things first. The team needs to once again build around the core group for one more run at the title. So it would be nice if Delonte West, Jeff Green, and Big Baby would all agree to one year deals (perhaps with team options for a 2nd year for some of them)
2. What are the team's biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)
Strengths: You may have heard of guys named Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rondo. They have continuity with the core group and one of the best defenses (when properly motivated) anywhere.
Weaknesses: Age, injury, and inability to handle back-to-backs come to mind. Lack of continuity with the reserves also seems to be a recurring issue.
Opportunities: Just get this team to the playoffs in one piece and let the chips fall where they may.
Threats: The Heat and Bulls are good and young and getting better. The Magic are looking to give Dwight reasons to stay. The East is as tough as ever. Oh yeah, and there's that whole possibility that the season might be cancelled. That might put a damper on the team's chances for a banner.
3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?
Danny has lined things up to maximize his cap flexibility for 2012. He'll have Rondo, Pierce, the rookies, and a lot of cap room to play with (assuming he sticks to script and doesn't sign anyone to a large, long term deal this offseason).
They'll obviously be aggressive for Dwight Howard but even if they come up short, cap flexibility puts you in a good position to make moves to set you up for the future. As long as they don't waste it like the Pistons did a few years back on Gordon and Charlie V. An added bonus is being able to take back more salary in trades. Amnesty or no amnesty, there will be owners of other teams that won't want to pay the new super tax (if it is included in the new CBA) that will be happy to dump salary in a bad way.
And if all else fails, just bring KG and Allen back for another year and try again in 2013.
4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be?
Eliminate the need to match salaries in trades. I hate this rule because it is so inherently unintuitive. I don't see why you can't just let a team manage their own payroll. If they make a trade to put themselves over the cap or tax threshold, they pay the price in penalties. There shouldn't be a need to toss in random players to "make the dollars work." Keith Van Horn shouldn't be pulled off his Lay-Z Boy, inked to a multi-million dollar contract, traded, and then thanked for his time and sent home (although I'm available if anyone wants to do that with me). Enough already. Death to the Trade Machine!
5. Do the Celtics have a legit chance to win a title this year?
I believe so, yes. It is probably the smallest chance they've had since the Big 3 were brought together, but I'll never count this team out in the playoffs. They need a lot of help to get them to the playoffs and it isn't clear where that help will come from, but if things fall right and we can stay relatively healthy, I'll take my chances against anyone.