With only four teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs, it means a few “contenders” have already been eliminated from title contention. The offseason is the time for these teams to retool to prepare for deeper runs next season. The Boston Celtics are one of the most storied and celebrated franchises in NBA history. The Celtics have won a NBA record 17 championships and have had such stars as Red Auerbach, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy and more be a part of the green and white during their careers. This season however, was not banner worthy by any stretch of the imagination.
The Celtics lost star point guard Rajon Rondo after starting the season just 20-23, which left them on the cusp of not even making the playoffs. With Rondo out, people immediately wrote off Boston and rightfully so — the Celtics looked disheveled all year long. Yet thanks to an increase in production from role players Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, the Celtics were able to stay on track long enough to secure the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
After losing the first three games in their opening round matchup with the New York Knicks it looked like Boston would be exiting the playoffs without making any noise at all. But, as always, the Celtics showed pride is valuable, stringing the Knicks along until the Celtics were finally eliminated in Game 6.
With the end of this season also comes the possible end of an era. Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce face uncertain futures. Pierce could hit free agency and Garnett is contemplating retirement. KG and “The Truth,” along with former Celtic Ray Allen, formed the first Big Three of the modern NBA age and they not only brought relevance back to Boston, but an NBA title as well.
For the remainder of the post, I will assume the role of Celtics GM Danny Ainge. I will give my suggestions and analysis on who the Celtics should keep, who they should lose, and players to target in free agency and the draft.
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This doesn’t mean the Celtics should not keep anyone who is on their current roster; instead it means that they have no impending free agents that I think they need to re-sign. Boston has one lone free agent this season: Chris Wilcox. Every other rotational player (unless you’re counting Terrence Williams — who was recently arrested — and his partially guaranteed deal) is at least signed through the end of next year. It would be great for Boston if Wilcox’s contract opened up salary cap space, however, since Wilcox hasn’t been an impact player in the NBA for years that isn’t the case in Beantown.
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LOSE: Paul Pierce and Chris Wilcox
As I stated above, Wilcox is not the same player he was when he first came into the league. Wilcox’s best days are definitely behind him and the Celtics need to add an influx of youthful talent to go along with Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green.
Paul Pierce has firmly established himself as one of the all-time Celtic greats after his 14 seasons in the league. Pierce has played every season with the Celtics and instilled himself in the hearts of Celtics fans everywhere with some memorable performances. However, his career is starting to come to its end and Boston needs to start focusing more on the franchise’s future. Pierce may have a few productive seasons remaining (he had solid averages of 18.6 points and 6.3 rebounds this year), but I don’t think he’s the same player that used to carry Boston deep into the playoffs. If I were heading up the front office, I would look to trade Pierce for young assets. The Celtics are now Rondo’s team and Boston needs to find pieces to put around him in order to be successful.
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FREE AGENT TARGETS: Josh Smith and D.J. Augustin
Getting rid of Paul Pierce leaves a hole at the forward position. The best free agent forward in the 2013 class is Josh Smith. J-Smoove’s time in Atlanta has probably reached its end and a change of scenery could be coming. Smith has the ability to play either small forward or power forward in the NBA and that would fit in perfectly with Green, who is also a tweener forward. While Smith’s jump shot isn’t his greatest skill, Green has shown the ability to consistently knock down threes, shooting 38 percent. At only 27 years old, Smith would bring youth and athleticism to Boston’s frontcourt, some things they haven’t seen in years.