It’s hard not to love this Boston Celtics team. They play with heart and they play together. The Celtics find themselves in the midst of a playoff run in a weak conference. It is easy to root for them and want them to win as many games as possible. It is undoubtedly fun and exciting to watch the young team mesh together, but what is really best for this team going forward?
The direction we don’t want to see the Celtics go in is to be stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Between the 2001-02 season and the 2005-06 season, the Celtics earned the No. 3 seed, the No. 6 seed, the No. 8 seed, the No. 3 seed, and missed the playoffs altogether in 2006. The years in which Boston earned a No. 3 seed were, like this year, due to a weak Eastern Conference. Does anyone remember winning the championship during that span? Does anyone remember the Celtics getting a lottery pick to help move the team forward? No, because they were stuck in the middle. The Celtics would have been stuck in the middle for years to come if it wasn’t for the 2006-07. That season, the Celtics had the second worst record in the league and ended up with the No. 5 pick in the draft. With that No. 5 pick, the Celtics were able to obtain Ray Allen, and then they traded more young assets to acquire Kevin Garnett. Then, guess what, the Celtics won a championship, and a losing year made it possible to take that step forward.
Right now, the Celtics lack the right assets to win a championship. Therefore, entering the lottery is their best chance at obtaining a franchise player or trading for one. No, “tanking” is not an idea I am suggesting. I think it is wrong to purposely lose. I am glad Brad Stevens plans to win, and I’m proud that guys like Jared Sullinger want to win every game. However, Danny Ainge should do what’s best for this team and make sure the Celtics don’t end up in the middle. It is extremely difficult to build a team from the middle.
Trades need to happen. Many fans are upset at the thought of breaking up anyone on this team because of the chemistry. The way a team gels is fun to watch, but where does it actually take them? Yes, Ainge should keep the young core of players like Sullinger and Avery Bradley. But, players like Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, and yes even Rajon Rondo need to be traded for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those players, but Boston needs to look at the bigger picture. Trading Bass and Lee for Omer Asik is a no-brainer. Asik could be a more valuable trading chip in a later deal. Trading Green and Rondo at the right price, younger pieces and draft picks, is also smart.
The Celtics should trade those pieces and possibly end up in the lottery. With that pick, the Celtics can trade for an elite player or draft a potential future star to build around Sullinger and Bradley. Kevin Love is a name that could be moved in next year or two. If the Celtics are stuck in the middle, however, the possibilities are limited.
Celtics should want to acquire the next franchise piece, whether through the draft or a bigger trade. If we learned anything about the last decade it’s that the middle does not move the team forward in any way. All indications show the Celtics are headed in that direction. Danny Ainge is intelligent, and he should be looking to change that.