Well, at least we finally know the intentions of the Boston Celtics‘ front office regarding the team’s rebuild. During one of his weekly appearances on a Boston radio show, GM Danny Ainge offered some clarification on the subject of the countless draft picks he has amassed over the past six months:
“I’ve always believed that you build through the draft,” he said. “And whether those drafted players are Al Jefferson, who you love, and Delonte West, who we developed and loved, and then move them for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen– or whether those draft picks turn into Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce and they’re with you forever.”
At first glimpse, that sounds like a pretty solid plan. Roster-renovation through the NBA draft has been a viable option for multiple teams around the league, and while it may be a more sluggish approach to a rebuild than signing marquee free agents, it certainly has its benefits — a longer championship window and an increased likelihood of retaining homegrown players in free agency among them.
The problem is, the C’s just don’t have the time to use the draft for their rebuild, especially if they plan on locking up Rajon Rondo as their cornerstone. The Celtics offered Rondo a contract extension last week, one that would pay him “star money”, but the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement. Rondo will hit the market at the end of next season, and while he claims he “wouldn’t mind spending the rest of [his] career here (in Boston)”, that should be taken with a grain of salt. Players — especially star players — will often mask their intentions regarding free agency when discussing with the media in order to avoid upsetting their fan base.
Let’s make something clear: no matter what Rondo says now, if the Celtics haven’t made significant strides towards re-establishing themselves as contenders by the summer of 2015, he very well may bolt for another club. He is sure to have plenty of suitors, and some of them will likely be a piece or two away from a championship.
Even if Rondo chooses to extend or re-sign with Boston, his age poses as a problem for the C’s as well. He is going to be 28 in February, and is coming off a major knee surgery. While there are plenty of team’s whose respective centerpiece is in his late 20’s, Rondo’s age is a problem for Boston because currently there aren’t any other championship-caliber pieces on the roster. If Ainge sticks to his plan and attempts to draft and groom players to team with Rondo, the point guard could be well into his 30’s by the time he has the necessary help around him.
This will especially hold true if the C’s picks remain at the end — or completely out of — the lottery, which is their current projection. It’s not easy to find NBA-ready players in the mid-first round, and even guys drafted by Ainge out of the lottery like Avery Bradley and Al Jefferson have taken a few seasons to develop into quality role players, never mind first or second scoring options.
Boston has 16 draft picks over the next six years. Alas, the C’s won’t have the opportunity to use them for their intended purpose if they plan on sticking with Rondo. It’s a tough call, especially because Rondo has yet to prove he can be the Celtics’ kingpin.
The picks are certainly valuable as trade assets. If the C’s plan on bringing other stars to Boston to pair with Rondo, the draft selections will likely be the first thing Ainge looks to trade. One thing is certain, if the Celtics stick to their current plan of rebuilding through the draft while holding onto Rajon Rondo, No. 9 isn’t going to be winning a second ring, at least not in a green and white jersey.