In 12 months, the Celtics will have played a full season, a trading deadline will come and go, the playoffs will come and go (with or more likely without us), there will be another NBA draft, and there will be another free agency period. That's a lot to predict, but I thought it would be a fun exercise to ask our staff of writers what they thought the team would look like on August 1st of 2015.
wjsy: Everybody was hoping for fireworks, but it's been a summer of sparklers. Ainge added rookies Marcus Smart and James Young, reclamation projects Tyler Zeller and Evan Turner, and a potentially handy expiring contract in Marcus Thornton. Like last year, it's going to be another season of asset management, but 2014-2015 could be very different with Danny armed with much more ammo. First of all, let's give him some credit for the last twelve months: he flipped Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks--guys who didn't exactly have the best reputations around the league and have yet to find homes in this off season-- for draft picks, trimmed salary by trading Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless, and even created a trade exception for Kris Humphries.
The next twelve months could be even busier. Consider what Danny now has at his fingertips. There are the three very valuable expiring contracts of Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony, and Thornton. All three could be trade bait at the deadline for contenders looking to shore up their benches. After many GM's overpaid for wing players this summer, there's the now seemingly attractive and affordable Jeff Green. There's still all the draft picks and all the young talent and of course, there's Rajon Rondo who will be a free agent after the season.
Because so much of the team is young and under cost-controlled contracts for multiple years, Danny Ainge's goal over the next few months will be cosmetic. Remember when Kevin Love visited Boston a few weeks ago and Celtics fans were buzzing that he was actually considering the city as his new home? We looked like frontrunners for his services. And then LeBron happened and Chicago and Golden State backed away and now it looks like Love is heading to Cleveland, but the fact of the matter is, if Love really wanted to be in green, he could have forced his way here. Yes, the Cavs have the best offer now that they're willing to include Wiggins, but this trade doesn't happen unless Love gives David Griffin some assurances that he'll re-sign.
It never got to that level with Love and Boston. Sure, he was romanced at Fenway and spotted shaking hands with Rondo in that kind of fake impromptu meeting that only happens in romcoms, but it never got to that place where he committed to the move. In a month when Wiggins is eligible to be traded, we'll get that closure because the hard truth is that the Celtics were never good enough for Love. That's where we're at in The Rebuild: Year 2, courting the one or two franchise free agents that seasonally come available in July, but inevitably falling just short. I'm sorry, but people who were hoping for a similar worst-to-first transformation that hung Banner 17 in the rafters are the same people that expect The Notebook on a first date. This is going to be long and this is going to be hard.
The fact of the matter is, Ainge is too good a GM and Stevens too good a coach for this team to be bad enough to land a talent/trade chip like Andrew Wiggins. And even with the new proposed lottery rules, does any Celtics fan really believe we stand a chance with Lady Luck? Doubtful. For the foreseeable future, expect more trades where Ainge turns nothing into something and more draft picks where he and Stevens place more emphasis on attitude and character over talent, upside, and position.
What will the team look like going into 2015-2016? Let's start with the biggest of dominoes. Some have suggested that Rondo will bounce if he's not happy with the direction of the team. I don't get that sense at all. Outside of his rookie year and the last two seasons that were affected by his ACL tear, Rondo has been part of winning teams in Boston, but he doesn't strike me as a guy that would chase down another chance at a title somewhere else. He seems like a creature of habit who will consistency and steadiness ahead of a bigger paycheck, too. My best guess is that The Captain signs for less-than-the-max and picks up a player option at the end of a multi-year deal.
Sounds funny to say, but I think Jeff Green has a breakout season in the 7th year of his career. With the addition of another ball handler in Marcus Smart, the development of bigs Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, and more motion in the motion offense, Green will play primarily off the ball where he's most comfortable (there were too many times last season where he tried to fill the role as a go-to playmaker). I think he doesn't pick up his player option and opts for a cap friendly three-year deal.
My bold prediction for this season is that Olynyk leapfrogs Sullinger. More will be expected of him and he'll deliver. I'm not sure that makes him our starting center alongside Sully (that scares me) or thrusts him into the starting lineup with Sullinger as the first big off the bench, but at some point in 2014-2015, KO becomes a focal point. That could make Sullinger expendable by next July and I wouldn't be surprised if he's packaged for a vet or used to move up in the draft.
Speaking of next year's draft (and I'm sure Kevin O'Connor has a better grasp on this than I do), it looks like a lot of the premier talent is at center. Faverani and Zeller both have team options for next next season and I doubt that neither will stand out as the future 5 for the Celtics. Ainge will probably retain one and grab one of the kids out of Kentucky or Jahlil Okafor.
James Young should be able to contribute after a year spent busing between the Garden and the Red Claws. Smart will be coming off the bench, playing starter minutes, and finishing a lot of games. Evan Turner will be playing well enough for Ainge to consider stretching Gerald Wallace. And the Celtics will flirt with another free agent or two and maybe even convince one of them to move in, but the bottom line is Ainge and Stevens will have to rebuild the franchise from the inside out.
Kiorrik: I'd love to submit two answers:
My hope is the Celtics will have added two or three young prospects, and swapped out a couple of assets for assets of higher value. Regardless, the future would be bright, young, and though we might not contend straight away, we'll have a group of hungry budding stars. I recognize that this is a stars-will-align scenario.
My fear is the Celtics will have acquired a super-star in exchange for most of our assets and flexibility, and put us in a spot where Wyc & co will have to dig deep to get us to be contenders. The fear part lies in being "competitive" instead of being "contenders", getting knocked out like we did in the twilight big-three years. Losing the finals hurts me personally more than missing the playoffs.
Candidly, Rondo's whereabouts are up for grabs in both scenarios. He would fit in scenario 1, running with the youngsters, but he could also be traded for a substantial amount of assets. In the second scenario, he could easily run next to a bunch of great players, or be traded for a slew of roleplayers.
Regardless: change is the word.
Kevin O'Connor: Your guess is as good as mine. In the organization's ideal world, they'd like to acquire another star player to put alongside Rajon Rondo, but there are no guarantees that happens. At the least, the roster will look drastically different, just like it does now compared to last year. It's actually rather amazing considering we're so used to a mostly constant roster during the Big 3 era. Now, we might be in store for big changes again next summer.
FLCeltsFan: I think they will look very different. 12 months from now will be after Danny makes some kind of trade before the season. It will also be after this year's trade deadline when I think he will make yet another trade. So, while I'm not sure which players will still be here and which ones will be gone, I do believe that they will look very different from what they look like today.
Jack Jemsek: I'm in the build around Rondo camp, but Rondo must show his old form this season to give him the max contract he wants next year. Next summer will undoubtedly be the fireworks that was mentioned happening this year, and the plethora of draft picks, rookie contracts and expiring contracts (Wallace) on hand will used to grab an all-star or two from a willing partner, aka the summer of Garnett and Allen. Another frustrating season is upon us as Brad Stevens main charge will be to develop and showcase the trade chips on hand.
Jay Asser: The team will be in a much better spot to be competitive next summer and this season will be mostly taking the next step to get there. That means the rookies and young guys keep developing while Rondo gets back to the top of his game. Rondo should have a monster season and even though Ainge will dangle him before the trade deadline like he always does, he's not going to take anything less than close to full value. So Rondo will be re-signed next summer for close to the max and some free quality free agent is going to join him. It probably won't be two stars coming to Boston to complete the "Big 3" formula, but it won't be necessary as long as the young guys keep improving. A lot of the progress they make back to being competitive will be from in-house.
Tim MacLean: By the time the summer of 2015 rolls around the Celtics roster will more than likely look much different than it does today. But rather than making major splashes during free agency, it seems like Danny Ainge and Co. could be in a good position to make significant moves prior to the February trade deadline. Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green (player option), and Brandon Bass can all become unrestricted free agents at season's end, which means playoff hopefuls with some extra assets laying around could be in the market for a veteran rental as they make their final push down the stretch. Of course, the decision to move any of these guys will be largely effected by the progress made by rookies Marcus Smart and James Young who both have experienced building blocks entrenched ahead of them on the depth chart in Rondo and Green, respectively. If Ainge truly wants to start from scratch then I could absolutely see him consummating a deal(s) that would open up major minutes for them. If not, though, Boston could have a decent amount of money to play with during the summer even after they (possibly) extended Rondo to an inevitably large deal. Ultimately, whether or not the Cs decide to completely tear everything down or put superior talent around Rondo via free agency remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, though: it would be wrong to become too attached to any of the players on the current roster because, come next year, they may not be wearing green and white.
Jeff Clark: Let's start with the most basic thought. The team will look waaaaaaay different.
I tried to put real names into the trade checker and imagine moves that could take place at the deadline and beyond, but I think I broke my brain in the process. So I'll go for the more general vague predictions.
First of all, some NBA team's season is not going to go as well as they planned. Every year there's a team or two that was supposed to be great, and somehow fizzles. Last year it was the Nets and Knicks. Both were kind of stuck with their rosters but in some years teams like that decide to punt on the year and ditch their veteran stars (kinda like the Red Sox did over in that other sport). I'd love to get someone like Horford or Marc Gasol. Dare I dream for a Paul George? Probably not, but I'd happily settle for the next tier down from those guys as well. The point is every year someone becomes available that nobody thought would be on opening night.
I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Rajon Rondo will not be traded and will in fact sign a long term contract to stay in Boston. We'll either trade for a bigtime baller to run with him, or we'll find someone in free agency that's more than willing to play in Boston. Call me a dreamer, but I see it happening finally.
I think Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk will all be noticeably improved, regardless of what team they'll be playing on. I see Marcus Thronton, Brandon Bass, and Jeff Green all on different teams, but oddly enough I see Evan Turner and Gerald Wallace still in Boston.
Bottom line: I expect to see a lot of roster turnover and a new core built up around Rondo and whatever young players aren't traded away.
Ok, your turn. How do YOU see the Celtics looking in 12 months?