I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head and sometimes it helps me to sit down and just write. So I have to apologize in advance if this seems jumbled or random.
I have no idea what's going to happen. I mean, SWAGs are all well and good, but sometimes life really is stranger than the oddest fiction you can conjure up. Experts will try to sell you on their inside information and educated guesses and more power to them. I have a ton of respect for most of the people in the media that report on such things. But I honestly don't think that Danny Ainge has a clear picture of what he's going to do right now, mostly because so much of what he's going to do depends on what other people want to do.
Think of all the things that are going to happen just between now and NBA Draft. There's the rest of the playoffs, where injuries are quickly altering matchups and dashing dreams of title hopefuls. There's the draft lottery, which the Celtics will not take part in, but they'll be watching carefully nonetheless. Teams out of the playoffs are already trying to figure out their strategies for re-loading or rebuilding and may start to make moves to clear cap space before we even get to draft night. Star players are already pondering their future and talking with their agents about their options (that goes for free agents and players under contract).
All of these variables can and will have big impacts on the Boston Celtics, we just don't know exactly how yet.
Sure, we can all assume that Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Draymond Green will all re-sign with their current teams. In each case, the better bet is on them staying. But just based on the law of averages, I can almost assure you that one or more of them will change teams. Maybe Jimmy Butler decides to walk if Thibs is canned by Chicago. Maybe Aldridge will decide that he wants to be the heir apparent to Duncan in San Antonio. Maybe a few of them quietly conspire to team up on a team with cap space.
Maybe that team is the Celtics, but maybe it isn't. Soon every team will have cap space and maybe all this hard earned hoarded cap flexibility won't be worth near as much as it would have even 2 years ago. The rising cap is a game changer but so is fact that contracts are simply shorter in this CBA. We are seeing that teams are no longer stuck with albatross contract that they can't get rid of. Even big mistakes can be erased if a team is willing to swallow hard (see Smith, Josh).
With all of that said, Danny Ainge is nothing if not creative. He's far from mistake free, but he is not afraid to make those mistakes and move on from them when they don't work out. He's always looking for ways to improve his position and work the system. He took a trade exception and turned it into Tyler Zeller and Isaiah Thomas. And he has more trade exceptions that he can use this offseason as well.
Then again, maybe he won't. If he does decide to clear cap space for free agents, those exceptions go away. The much ballyhoo'd hoard of draft picks might not be worth as much as we hoped if they mostly fall in the late teens and 20's. We've kind of been waiting for fireworks for a few years now. Or to mix sports metaphors, we've been waiting for home runs. Ainge has been working the count, making the pitcher work, and getting solid hits here and there, but nothing with runners in scoring position. We kind of need a big inning from him soon or this rebuild could stagnate or start to slip.
I understand the price we paid in draft slots to make the playoffs, but I still don't mind getting there because of all of the reasons discussed here in the past (experience, exposure, spotlight, etc.). Could we get stuck in a rut of being too good to miss the playoffs and not good enough to seriously contend? Maybe, but I'd rather do that with a young squad than a veteran team. Because at least there's hope for the future and someone could take an unexpected leap in ability (see Jimmy Butler or Draymond Green).
Which brings us back to unforseen variables. You don't even have to look any further than our own roster. What's Marcus Smart's ceiling? Can Sullinger get in shape and stay that way? Will Kelly Olynyk develop a shooter's mentality? Will Isaiah Thomas embrace a 6th man role (and should he)? And we haven't even talked about our own free agents yet.
I wish I could tell you what the Celtics will likely do this summer, ...actually scratch that. No I don't. That wouldn't be any fun. I mean, I'm eager to find out with the rest of you, but I'm also going to enjoy the process of watching this play out. I get to write about it and debate every rumor and transaction with you fine folks. The regular season is great because we get to watch our favorite team play basketball. But I also enjoy the drama of the offseason as well. I have more time to get creative and ramble on about nothing in particular.
Hey look at that, I made it through this whole article without mentioning Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins, or Kevin Love. Oops, never mind. I guess I'll try again tomorrow.
In the immortal words of Pinky and the Brain:
Pinky: "What are we going to do tonight Brain?"
Brain: "The same thing we do every night. Try to take over the world."
(Bonus points to anyone that includes an "are you pondering what I'm pondering" quote in the comments below.)