Picking up on the 5-on-5 NBA roundtables that have been running over at the ESPN mother ship, we’re pleased to introduce 3-on-3, which will be appearing regularly across TrueHoop Network sites from now on.
For our first installment, Brian, Brendan and Hayes take a look at some of the pressing questions surrounding the Celtics.
1. When the lockout ends, what should be Danny Ainge’s first order of business?
Hayes Davenport: Honestly, it might be to sit on his hands. There are going to be swarms of middling free-agent targets available as soon as the lockout lifts, and I can totally see Danny talking himself into the value of a grizzled vet like Grant Hill or Tayshaun Prince for one last title run. If he can grab any of these guys with a one-year deal, I’m not against it. But if it means giving up increasingly tight roster space in the long term, then I’m not not against it.
Brian Robb: Bringing in rotation bodies Doc Rivers can trust. Health and minutes have and will continue to be the biggest issues surrounding this team’s core. Ainge has come up short the past couple years in addressing both of these departments, so it’s more crucial than ever for Boston to bring in high-upside veterans (a la 2008 with James Posey and Eddie House) with their limited resources.
Brendan Jackson: Assess the market. It sounds pretty obvious, but this is going to the most trying “offseason” in the big-3 era. For the past three years it’s been business as usual: reload the roster with complimentary players. This year, Ainge has got to figure out what his current roster is capable of and make some tough decisions.
2. What’s more important: a dark horse shot at a title or transitioning to the post big-3 era?
Hayes: Transitioning to the post big-3 era, a process that has already begun. Like it or not, most of the moves Danny has made in the past two years have been with the future in mind: he’s traded away mid-level players that would have filled out the roster for years to come, and most of the help he provided for his stars came in the form of super-old veterans with exactly one year left in the tank. The future has always been the first priority for Danny, but what he does with that future remains to be seen.
Brian: A dark horse shot at a title. Ask any Celtics fan who grew up in the 1990s whether it’s worth sacrificing a title shot for a smoother transition. After a two decade drought from the NBA Finals (1987-2008), it would be foolish to throw away a final shot with the veteran talent this team has, just to better position itself for a future run that may never come. More than ever, the time is now for the 2011-12 Boston Celtics and Ainge needs to plan his offseason with that in mind.
Brendan: Can’t it be both? Unless Ainge can secure a top ten player is there really any point to trading anyone away? Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are both in the last years of their deals and and Rajon Rondo is making $11 million next season. The Celtics will be way under the cap if they don’t do anything drastic and are likely not to get equal value if they do.
3. Who is the most important Boston Celtics player in 2011-12?
Hayes: Whether as the best player on the team or as its most valuable trade commodity, it’s Rajon Rondo. Either way, he’s the future. After Rondo, it’s Jeff Green, also as either the fifth-best player on the team or as its second-most valuable trade commodity. Here’s the point: the most important storyline of the Celtics season is not how much they can get out of their veterans, but how much more they can get out of their young talent.
Brian: Rajon Rondo. He’s got the young legs but he was one of the biggest reasons why the wheels came off the wagon in the regular season last year. Consistency has always been his lingering issue and coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons, it’s time for him to start playing like one for a full season. A bad game here or there is fine, but disappearing on offense for a month can no longer be an option if this team wants to succeed.
Brendan: Free Agent X. Which is, admittedly, a terrible prospect. It’s pretty obvious that the Celtics completely undervalued Tony Allen. When he left, an injured Marquis Daniels and a hapless Jeff Green couldn’t do anything to replace him. Both players’ futures are up-in-the-air right now and the Celtics are painfully thin on the wing. Oh, and does anyone know who is playing center besides (maybe) Jermaine O’Neal?