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Celtics Rebuilding: Early Returns Look Good
It is too early to see how the Celtics rebuilding will work out but Danny Ainge has been through the rebuilding process once already, taking a team from last to first in one year and keeping that team on top for six years. Conventional wisdom for rebuilding an NBA team is to “tank” and goes for a franchise changing player and we are told that 2014 is full of franchise players ready to be drafted. The problem is that this is a risky strategy and can easily fail as succeed; setting back a franchise. Take 2007 as Boston Celtics was on their way to playing one of their worse seasons. Paul Pierce injured his knee halfway through the year and the Celtics told Pierce take the rest of the year. Ainge told Rivers play the youngster and let see what we got. That was the year that Kevin Durant and Greg Odom were preparing to come out in the draft and Conventional wisdom was that both players were once in generation talent. Conventional Wisdom was half right as Durant proved to be a franchise changer for the Oklahoma City Thunders but Odom suffered multiple injuries and never fulfilled his potential. As for the Celtics, they racked up a bunch of lottery ping pongs but guess what, they ended up picking fifth. Ainge effort to get either Odom or Durant failed but Ainge had a plan B as he hit up his good buddy Kevin McHale into giving up Kevin Garnett and got Ray Allen from Seattle. The rest is history.
Ainge found that tanking will not pay into getting that franchise player but he also found getting the right free agents can build the team quickly. Miami rise to the top was attracting Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwayne Wade in Miami to go from a team finishing in the middle of the pack to World Champions. Thunders build a championship contending team by drafting Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant but the Celtics and Heat got their titles by free agency and great trades. Ainge gave up a lot of players to get Allen and Garnett but only Al Jefferson career has match Garnett or Allen statistic wise. So Ainge gave up very little to get his championship.
As for the Celtics, they have good young players as Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green who is coming into his own as a player. Rookie Kelly Olynyk has potential to be a solid NBA player and maybe a future All-Star and Rajon Rondo has yet to make his appearance. Ainge has stockpiled draft picks but a weak Eastern conference may allow the Celtics to get into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed, and who knows, they might even win their division. This hardly the end of the world since there are plenty of players to draft in the middle of the round that can help the team but just as important, Ainge will be shed some dollars off salary cap as some of his recent acquisition like Kris Humphries, contracts expires at the end of the year. The only negative is that Celtics are stuck with Gerald Wallace for the next three years but who knows; maybe Ainge will find a team wanting Wallace.
The key is that Boston Celtics have one of the best point guards in Rondo, an up and coming coach in Brad Stevens and a winning organization; items that are important in recruiting super stars. Brad Stevens may be the most important element in the rebuilding process as he has shown maturity beyond his age and a former college coach who seems to get the pro game. Just look how he has managed to transform Jordan Crawford from a player with a selfish reputation who was sent packing for an injured guard and Jason Collins, a big man who plays like a statue and is more known for his sexual orientation that what he has accomplished on the court. Crawford has done an admirable job as a point guard, not just scoring but dishing out assists. In the NBA, you have two superstars surrounded by good role players; you can compete for a title. Celtics have solid role players and they have one superstar in Rondo who has yet to play due to his knee injury. It could be said that the Celtics are just one super star from being a championship team. In the NBA, tanking doesn’t always work and there are many way to build a championship title. Franchise players in the draft are a rarity and Miami has shown that one can build championship team in one year by simply getting the right Superstar or Superstars. Ainge showed in 2007, he could come up with a plan B if Plan A failed. In 2014, Celtics will need a plan B since it becoming apparent that Plan A, drafting the next superstar may not be in the offering.