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More Thoughts On Rebuilding & The Frontline

“Clearly, we have to be more athletic next year.” — Doc Rivers

Not true, Doc. You have to be more athletic the year after next.

A Fine Example Of "Not The Future"

Over the next 18 months, by the start of the 2012-13 season, Danny Ainge has to put together a frontline that fits the modern NBA. That means he has to completely recast his 2010-11 group, which was heavy on the aged and the tweener.

In their place, Ainge has to find youth, height, length and athleticism, along with some measure of toughness, and construct the kind of group that can compete with Chicago’s Joakim NoahTaj GibsonCarlos BoozerOmer Asik quartet (not to mention Luol Deng).

Looking west, Ainge must also know that the road to the title will soon run through Oklahoma City, and a frontline manned by Kevin DurantKendrick PerkinsSerge Ibaka and Nick Collison.

It’s no small task to put together a frontline that can compete with those groups. More than a little fortune will be required.

Not only that, next year feels like a distraction from this process.

Ainge is serving two masters here. On one hand, the big three will surely attack 2012 like it’s their final shot at a title, even if many think the window is already closed. But Ainge has to honor them — and Doc Rivers — with a supporting cast that gives the C’s a fighting shot against Chicago and Miami. On the other hand, I’d argue it’s far more important for Boston to preserve 2012 cap room and a run at an elite player (which includes not just Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, but any other stars available in trade before or after next summer) than it is to outbid some team for, say, Thaddeus Young.

This is where it may actually be useful that Boston is capped out for one more year and can’t afford Young. It gives Ainge plausible deniability if he’s already looking past next year’s final hurrah and to the core of the next Celtics’ era.

This summer, Ainge can load up on rotation players with one-year deals, maybe pick an energy big or two off the scrap heap, and failing some sort of 2012 trade deadline miracle where he snags a star, Ainge can sit back and watch as Boston whimpers its way out of the 2012 playoffs.

That may not be the most satisfying move, but it could be the right one.

One of Ainge’s greatest strengths as a GM is his focus on the long term. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he was more unconcerned about next year than he’d ever let on in public. After all, Ainge was complicit in (or leading) the Celtics’ efforts to tank their way into Durant or Greg Oden back in 2007. He headed the braintrust that targeted Kevin Garnett as early as 2003. He was the one who saw Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, etc. as assets as much as players to build around.

There is a huge opportunity with this frontline. Save for Paul Pierce at the SF, it could be all new a year from now. In a good way. But if Ainge weighs a final run by the big three too heavily and, for example, decides he needs Nenad Krstic for another four years, he could sabotage the Celtics’ pursuit of a new franchise player.

So, because I know there’s a defensible counterargument to my take, consider that your morning question. How do you weigh the need to compete next year with the desire to position the C’s for a star acquisition in the years to come?

  • James Patrick

    I love ya man, but I think you need a vacation. Most of us are still broken hearted over this season. Any time I think about next season i realize we're still in the playoffs for this season! lol

    It'll be 4 years since we won this time next year! AUGHHHHHHH!!!!!

    • Ryan DeGama

      What is this "vacation" thing you speak of?

      • Batman

        DeGama does work son

  • Jeremy

    If only KG would take a smaller deal, he is still as valuable a player as any in reduced minutes.

    • Chris O

      He probably will when his contract is up but he can't mid-stream, not even if he wanted to, not in the NBA

  • Renato Afonso


    Almost totally on spot except for Krstic. I don't think any team would mind having Krstic on their roster as he is, at least, a good bench player who can create his own shot down low. That is a valuable asset to have and I think the Celtics should try to retain him. What they shouldn't do is overpay him… Offer him what he is really worth and if someone else overpays him, so be it!

  • AussieCeltics

    Good post. Thanks. I do not have the patience to wait another 12 months to BEGIN to retool so I just hope Danny does because that is exactly where his focus should be.

  • Chris O

    I think he works his magic and does the Rondo and Jeff Green for Chris Paul trade I heard. Then he gets a few more pieces as fill ins for next year (he could re get Delonte and Von Wafer on the cheap). Then 2012 he gets Dwight, Then resigns KG and Ray to real small deals and has a disgusting team in 2012….that's the dream anyway

    • CsFanInArkansas

      If we trade Rondo and Green for CP3, which is pretty close to an even salary switch, we lose our two most athletic youngsters and our key backup to the Truth.
      I love Paul's game – I think he's the best PG in the NBA – but I don't see how we could make that work on the whole.
      You still have to find a (good) backup for PP – who do you get?
      Delonte is going to cost $$ to re-sign.
      Baby wants $$ and we need a PF that can play Celtics basketball…not Baby ball.
      The O'Neals aren't dependable, so you've got to get an athletic, rebounding, defensive Center (J Williams – Maryland?) and still probably re-sign Nenad.
      Von can probably be kept for cheap.
      We're hanging on to Avery.
      Troy may be back to give us something off the bench…but he seemed like a waste of space.

      I just don't see how we get Paul AND a backup for PP AND a decent Center.

      • Mike

        If the Celtics could trade Rondo and Green for CP3, they could also look at the possibility of also including Ariza in the mix. He would be a great backup for Pierce and he's a pretty good defender.

        • CsFanInArkansas

          CP3 and Ariza make over $21mil/yr combined…Rondo and JGreen make about $13.5mil/yr combined. I don't think that is an even deal. Most people would consider Ariza and Green to be on the same level (young, athletic, supporting cast type of players) – so you're basically trading Rondo for CP3…which is definitely not a fair trade.
          It just doesn't work.

          • Hank Single

            Except that Ariza is good and useful, whereas my friends and I regularly refer to Jeff Green as 'Poison' when comes on the court. They are not equal at all – Ariza has proven how valuable he can be at the things he excels at, so he's constantly devalued by arm-chair GMs, and Jeff Green loafs around the court looking like he's on Morphine, so of course he's got great 'potential'. Very, very different players.

            Never underestimate how crazy Boston fans go for anyone who can dunk. It distorts our value of the player in question more severely than any other market because, historically, this has been one of the least dunky teams in the league. Jeff Green can casually rock the rim, so we assume he can do all kinds of other things – like pick up stupid fouls, refuse to shoot, turn the ball over constantly in tight spots and never be accused of hustling.

            I think we really want him to be special because it eases the sting of Perk being gone – but I think this is more about Ainge retrieving his binky than about a player whose shown he's ready to step up as a starter.

          • CsFanInArkansas

            I wasn't saying that Green is as good as Ariza – Ariza makes about $2mil/yr more than Green.

            I was saying that they're both young, they're both very athletic and neither of them are going to be #1 or #2 scoring options on a championship team.
            Ariza's PER (a stat that I don't really care much about) is actually lower than Green's this year, but most people would consider Ariza as a "know-what-you're-getting" night in and night out type of player…while Green is beyond frustrating.

            The point I was making was, you can't go from a Rondo+Green for CP3 trade (which seems close to legit on paper) to a Rondo+Green for CP3+Ariza trade that "Mike" brought up (when Ariza is a more proven/dependable player than Green).

  • Hank Single

    I think you casually toss out the idea of the 'energy big' as though it weren't a precious commodity in the modern NBA – guys with length who can AND will hustle are like unicorns and they get paid accordingly.

    You know, whatever the market is for unicorns at the 4 or 5….I think a lot.

    We have one of the widest bodied, energy guys in the league in uniform – and he's likely going to get paid a lot of cash, despite flaming out in the play-offs; Baby has always had a disquieting way of buying into his own press and then getting lazy off it. He can convince you to despise him, but when he's really for it, like the beginning of this season? Woof. The Celtics would have had a considerably better chance if good Baby had shown up. Are there a lot of players like him out there? I don't feel that way.

    I think drafting a big ( or somehow stealing Semih back) is ultimately going to be how they address the problem of youth and length – possibly, if we were super lucky, a project wing…I think, in general, people say things like 'replace Paul Pierce' far, far too easily because he's been here so long we've stopped appreciating just how fantastic a game he's got and we've grown sort of numb to the idea that he's going into the hall of fame. Danny has three Hall of Famers on the squad and cannot sacrifice the last year of them being together planning for the future – he sacrificed the second to last year for just that purpose by trading Perk away and it cost the team dearly. Do right by your superstars and they will carry the day.

  • janos

    Hi Ryan, is Janos. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is gift, that's why we call it present.

  • Jason

    I just want good rebounders in the frontcourt. I'm sick of the Celtics getting pounded on the boards the last two years. Really, except for the first two years of the new Big 3 era, the Celtics have been a terrible rebounding team going back to the days of Blount and McCarthy. Comparing the Celtics' frontcourt to the Bulls', the Bulls have four above average to excellent rebounders in the frontcourt. The Celtics have one in Garnett. The rest were below-average to embarrassing. Shaq was a shell of his rebounding shelf after the first of his various injuries. Jermaine couldn't rebound without multiple days of rest and even then, he wasn't that good. Glen is one of the worst rebounding bigs in history and Green is an overmatched PF in every sense of the word.

    Would love someone like Faried in the draft but he's probably not going to drop to 25. Reggie Evans and Dalembert are two attractive free agent options.

  • Morpheus

    Danny is definitely facing a double edged sword here.

    Honour the Big 3 by adding better talent around them for one final run at 18.

    Go scrap heap shopping by signing vets who are reduced to role players, see what happens thus, basically, knowing our window is closed and look forward to the next era – post Big 3.

    Krstic should be a keeper,but not to the extent that Danny overpays him. Green should be offered the QO, nothing more. If he proves his worth, Danny can re sign him then.

    Personally, i think the focus should be on 2012 where we'll be well under the cap and Danny can go shopping for an elite talent like Dwight, CP3. Danny just has to find the balance between honouring the Big 3s last hurrah and preserving the future of the Celtics franchise.

  • dtla la

    If he were smart, he's blow this thing up. Get value for Ray and/or Kevin. Resign Jeff Green. And start planning for 2012-13.

    It hurts me dreadfully to say it, but I think it's true.

    • Hank Single

      What did Jeff Green show you that makes you think he's worth resigning as a cornerstone to a team? Was it him being traded twice already? His terrible defense? Were you wowed by his incredibly inconsistent scoring – or was it his inconsistent effort?

      What sort of value do you think you could get for Ray and KG?

  • dal

    We first have to weigh-in the reality of winning a title next year. Doc, Danny and the gang have to make a personnel decision. Doc has seen the whole thing unravel this year. Too many injuries to the role players and too much toll on the Big Three. Rondo got hurt as well. Now, if they think they can win it all next year with the Big Four and others while at the same time give them a chance to make a move in the future then I say go for Banner 18 but not at the expense of another decade or so of irrelevance.

  • bengalwill

    sign and trade Jeff green and big baby for Josh smith make a good run this year the get Dwight 2012 , rondo, smith,and Dwight long term