2012 Free Agents: Greg Stiemsma (R), Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus
2013 Free Agents: E’Twaun Moore (R), Sean Williams
2011-12 Record: 39-27 (Atlantic Division Champions)
Positional Needs: starting shooting guard (if Allen is traded), “true” starting center
Potential Draft Picks: Fab Melo (Syracuse), Meyers Leonard (Illinois)
3 BIG QUESTIONS
1) Should the Celtics look to keep Ray Allen around for another year or two?
Ray Allen is a first-ballot hall of famer and arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history, but he isn’t the same player that he was 5-6 years ago.
Allen is 36 years old and is playing his 17th season in the league. He’s averaging his lowest scoring numbers (14.2) since his 1996 rookie year with the Milwaukee Bucks. With Allen’s age and the fact that shooting guards around the NBA have become more athletic, faster, quicker and more agile, it may mean that Ray’s time in Boston could be running out.
The Celtics have already shown that they can be just as effective with young guard Avery Bradley in the starting line-up. Allen has also expressed interest in leaving Boston as a free-agent this offseason and signing on with another contender like the Heat or Lakers. Add to that a possible ankle surgery this summer for Allen and you have the makings of at least 1/3 of the “Big Three” being let go after these playoffs.
2) How about Kevin Garnett?
Garnett has established himself as the heart and soul of this franchise. He’s indispensable. The Celtics must look to keep K.G.
He’s 36 years old and entering the twilight of his career, but Kevin has shown this season that he still has some fuel left in the tank to play at an above-average level. He averaged nearly 16 points and 8 rebounds a game during the regular season and was a dominant defensive presence in the paint for Boston even with his age and the mileage on his body. His averages have actually risen to 20 points and 10.5 rebounds a game during these playoffs.
Garnett will be an unrestricted free-agent this summer and will have the freedom to sign with whichever team he chooses. I truly believe though that he wants to end his career as a Celtic and that’s even with the possible departure of his “Big Three” cohort Ray Allen. Boston could sign Kevin on the cheap and get him to stay for far less than the $20 million he’s currently getting paid.
You can’t replace the leadership, passion and basketball intangibles that Kevin Garnett gives your team. Bring Garnett back, surround him with young pieces and see if you can make one last run at a title.
3) Can a core of Allen/Garnett/Pierce still contend for an NBA championship if kept together?
As of this writing, the Boston Celtics are headed into a winner-take-all game 7 with the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. They have shown signs of age and fatigue during this postseason, but they have also shown that they can keep up with some of the younger fresher teams (i.e Atlanta and Philadelphia) on the court in important situations.
With that being said, changes would definitely have to be made if the franchise decides they want to have a few more cracks at a title with those 3 guys. The lack of depth on this team is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed. Coach Rivers had to ride his 3 future hall of famers for a majority of the season in order to leap up the standings, secure a high enough seed and clinch the Atlantic Division crown.
Rajon Rondo has emerged as the best player on this team, but the Celtics still run on the energy, scoring and passion of their “Big Three”. Avery Bradley has been a pleasant surprise this year for Boston and Brandon Bass has shown signs of dominance during the postseason, but that isn’t enough for this franchise to stay afloat.
The Celtics should follow the model of the San Antonio Spurs and look to sign younger players to fill out the roster that can complement guys like Garnett and Pierce. If little to no drastic moves are made over the offseason and this team looks near identical in 2012-13, then the results will more than likely be the same. They will be good enough to compete, but not good enough to contend (or be a legitimate threat at the very least).
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports