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Will the Celtics be Mediocre or Tank?

It wouldn’t be fair to argue against Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge trading what was left of his Big Three to the Nets.  After last season, it was clear that ship had sailed and it was time to rebuild, but the Celtics actually don’t look all that bad post trade and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  As constructed, this team is destined for the dreaded 7-11 finish in the Eastern Conference standings next year.  Not good enough to be any kind of threat in the playoffs and probably just missing out.  Not bad enough to land one of the potential franchise players available in next year’s draft.

The Celtics rotation could look a lot like this in preseason.

Point guard: Rajon Rondo (still rehabbing ACL?)

Shooting guard: Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks

Small Forward: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans

Power Forward: Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries

Center: Fab Melo, Kelly Olynyk (rookie)

The Celtics have four players on non-guaranteed deals and a second round draft pick in Colton Iverson, but with over $68 million committed to players’ salaries already, which if any of this group makes the roster is uncertain.  Just like last year, there are too many combo/shooting guards and no true backup point guard, but that is a position that should be easy to fill by trade or free agency without too big a commitment.  The issue of Rondo’s availability to start the season at 100 percent is too early to worry about and depending on what Ainge decides to do, not really a big concern.

Already there have been calls for Ainge to attempt a sign and trade for one or more of the tempting free agents available this summer, but if the plan was to turn a wealth of young assets into a couple of new star players for next season, Doc Rivers would still be the head coach in Boston.  This is a true rebuild situation and the real decisions are about which assets to keep and which should be flipped.

The good news for the Celtics is they have six first round draft picks over the next three years, so reloading with top level young talent is a real option and Ainge is in control of just how good that incoming talent will be.  This team drafts well and if the Celtics have the patience to ride out three years in the lottery, they can recreate a new powerhouse squad from the draft.

To expedite this process, Ainge should look at turning one or more of Bass (28), Rondo (27) and possibly even Green (26) into young assets and/or first round draft picks next year.  To draft franchise players, a team needs to tank and with so many first round draft picks to work with, tanking is a great strategy.  It might be painful initially to part with players of Rondo’s or Green’s talent, but unless Ainge believes they want to be a part of a rather rough three seasons while he reloads, this summer is the time to check out their market value.

Ainge’s plate is full heading into July.  Boston has not been an organization that believes in mediocrity and as of today, the Celtics are destined to play a meaningless season.  It is very hard to believe that will be anyone’s conclusion by the time training camps start.  The odds favor a continued blowing up of what’s left of this once championship roster in order to rebuild a team that can represent Celtics’ pride.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Center since 2009.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

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