I've been focusing mostly on the need to offload salaries in order to get under the repeater tax, but there's a side effect of doing that. At least in theory, dumping a veteran player or two for "future considerations" or simply cap space could drop the Celtics further in the standings earning them more lottery balls.
According to some, the Celtics are in "danger" of making the playoffs based on Rondo's talent and some of the younger pieces around him. While Stevens will be tasked with getting the most out of his players and those players will be asked to do what they can to win, the front office might have alternative motives.
NBA offseason moves - assessing the winners, tankers, and everything in between - Grantland
But [the 7th or 8th seed] is not the outcome Boston really wants, and if the Celtics find themselves on pace for it midseason, look for them to trade a productive veteran or two. This was a miserable offensive team when Rondo had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen around him, and it's going to be downright unwatchable on that end for large chunks of this season.
That would be an interesting development. It reminds me of the movie Major League where the rich owner woman kept taking things away from the Indians players so they would be less motivated to win.
On a similar vein, I wanted to see someone break down a "power rankings" based on where we are in the summer so far, and I've finally got one to link to. They actually have the Celtics all the way down to number 28. Apparently they don't put a lot of hope in Rondo getting along with Stevens.
NBA post-free-agency Power Poll, Part I: From 30 to 14 - Pounding The Rock
To me, Rondo, like Holiday, is a guy that it doesn't make much sense to trade if he wants to be there. He's already proven to be a championship-level point, so it's not like you can upgrade from him much down the road, if ever. So step one is to find out if he's on board with new coach Brad Stevens, if they have compatible personalities (my guess is no) and if they can work together going forward. If they can, then step two is to convince Rondo to shut it down for most if not all of 2013-2014 for the good of acquiring the most ping-pong balls and drafting a fellow superduperstar in the next lottery. Rondo's a smart dude, he'll probably understand that's necessary to contend, but at the same time he's stubborn and has pride and why would he want to give up a year of his prime? The smart money, then, is for an amicable divorce in the form of a mid-season trade, which will only facilitate the tanking.
I get where that narrative is coming from, but I guess I just don't buy it. Call me naive if you like, but I'm going into this assuming that Rondo and Stevens will find a very comfortable working relationship. Both parties are highly motivated to get it to work. I will concede that it Rondo forced his way out, we'd have to do the best we could to get value for him and pray for the lottery. I just really, really hope that doesn't happen.
So we have some that say that we'll compete for the 7th or 8th spot while others have us potentially dropping down to the 3rd worst record in the league. I guess that's why they play the games, right?
Going back to the Grantland quote, it is very true that this team was bad on offense last year and could very well be worse this year. Or maybe they won't be. The Celtcs can't hope to replace Kevin Garnett's defensive skill and leadership. But can they maintain a high level of effectiveness on defense with some talented guys and a very good coaching staff? Maybe.
I really can't decide where I fall on this. There's a fun narrative where we can picture all these young guys gellin' like Magellen and rattling off a surprising run to the playoffs. Then there's the very real possibility that Ainge has set up this team for failure (Undrafted FA rookie the only backup to Rondo? No first string center? Overloaded SG and PF spots? What could go wrong?)
I guess we'll just have to see. If they are worse than expected, we'll have lottery balls to look forward to. If they are better than expected, well... we can either enjoy that or Ainge can trade away a couple of veterans and make the team play in flip flops or something.