Where the Celtics Go From Here

Title: Where the Celtics Go From Here
Date: June 22, 2008
Original Source: Hoops Addict
Synopsis: This Hoops Addict article took a look at what the Boston Celtics would do from here to follow up on their 2008 NBA Championship.

So, it’s over. Championship won. Big Three experiment a success.

And while the players and fans are likely still out celebrating the 17th NBA Champions banner in Boston Celtics history, the business side of the organization is likely (or should be) back to work already. After all, championships don’t grow on trees, and neither do two-huge-trade offseasons.

Yes, with the Finals officially done, the NBA’s offseason is officially underway. So what of the offseason for the Celtics? The general feeling is probably that the team should make only minor tweaks and changes. They are the reigning NBA Champions, right?

So it would seem, yes. But there is also the distinct possibility that the Boston Three Party was an experiment with a one-year life span. At ages 30, 31, and 32, respectively, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen have all finally won that illustrious ring. But look at those ages again. Basketball, they say, is a young people’s game, and a franchise built around three 30-plus players is one that seems a little shaky in theory.

Paul Pierce is fine, though. At age 30, Pierce has at least a few good years left in him. After spending this post-season re-establishing himself as The Truth and the Boston Celtics franchise, there appear to be yet greener pastures for Pierce on the horizon. The team has many options with Pierce, and they include quickly re-building around him or continuing the Big Three with some tweaks to try and milk another championship out of the trio.

Kevin Garnett is likely okay, too. At age 31, Garnett has very few health problems and still owns the intensity and fire that made him synonymous with…intensity. While Garnett yet again shied away from the spotlight in major moments, he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a valuable member of any team. The catch with Garnett, though, is that his trade value has probably never been higher. A plethora of teams could use a scoring big man who also happens to be the best defensive player at his position. Many potential contenders, especially, would likely pay quite the price for the last three years of Garnett’s services, contractually speaking. Chicago and Detroit are probably chief among these teams and hold enough assets to make a trade attractive. Would the Celtics dare move Garnett after he reinvigorated the franchise, especially to a potential contender?

Ray Allen, unlike his counterparts, may not be fine and dandy. While Allen played incredibly well in the Finals (and most of the season, really) his ankle problems are a glaring concern at this point. Allen’s defense has probably been downgraded to average, his ability to run the floor should continually decline, and he may be a season away from becoming exclusively a scoring threat. While that is by no means a description of a bad player, Allen’s contributions are likely replaceable, and the Celtics may consider dealing Allen for an injection of youth and the chance to be good for even longer.

On the other hand, the Celtics could keep the group together and hope for the best. Neither of the three key components are over the hill and all will still contribute at a near-All Star level in 2008-09. The Celtics also wouldn’t have a problem adding to their current core. Recent champions, remember, always have the distinct upper hand when trying to sign free agents, especially veterans looking for a championship toward the end of their run (see: Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown).

So if the Celtics stay the course, what will the 2008-09 incarnation look like? The team has 11 players under contract already for $74.8M, severely limiting what the team can accomplish on the open market. The mid-level exception and the veteran’s minimum exceptions seem like the only tools the Celtics will have, in addition to their 30th overall draft pick.

Sam Cassell, Eddie House, Tony Allen, James Posey, P.J. Brown, and Scot Pollard can all leave. Brown and Cassell seem like likely candidate for retirement, though nothing is certain, while Pollard is probably expendable or will sign for the minimum. That leaves big question marks with House, Allen, and Posey, all of who were major players in the playoff run. Allen is an athletic combo-guard with good size and defense; House is a scoring machine; Posey is a defensive presence the team sorely needed. While Posey certainly out-earned his $3.4M player option for next season, it is tough to envision him walking away from this situation. The decision with free agents, then, appears to break down as a choice between Tony Allen and Eddie House.

With the depth chart holding Rondo at the point, Ray Allen and Tony Allen or House at shooting guard, Pierce and Posey at small forward, Garnett, Powe, and Davis at power forward, and Perkins at center, the team’s only real glaring needs are at center and general depth.

So the Celtics are faced with a very tough choice: Hope for health and continued good fortune while adding additional pieces to the current core, or remove one leg from the Celtic Tripod in order to fully re-build in one single offseason (again)?

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