NBA

Where Do the Boston Celtics Go From Here?

Five years ago this month, the Celtics traded Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the No. 5 pick (Georgetown’s Jeff Green) for Seattle’s Ray Allen. Four weeks later, the Celtics made another blockbuster deal: They traded Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two draft picks to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. Boston’s Big 3 was born.

Allen and Garnett joined Paul Pierce to form the league’s best trio. The result was the best 5-year stretch for the franchise since Larry Bird’s run in the 80′s:

2008: Won NBA Finals (4-3)
2009: Lost Eastern Conference Semfinals (4-3) *
2010: Lost in NBA Finals (4-3)
2011: Lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1)
2012: Lost in Eastern Conference Finals (4-3)

* Garnett was hurt and missed the postseason.

What now? Danny Ainge’s dismantling – would you prefer rebuilding? – of the Celtics figures to be one of the NBA’s biggest offseason stories (along with the ongoing Dwight Howard saga and perhaps the nuking of the Heat, if they lose to the Thunder).

Ray Allen’s contract is up. So is Kevin Garnett’s. Ditto for reserves Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus and Marquis Daniels.

So do they build around one of the league’s best point guards, Rajon Rondo, and aging Paul Pierce (he’s coming off a postseason in which he struggled mightily from the field), plus emerging Avery Bradley and two 1st round picks, or do they attempt something more dramatic?

If you look back to the summer of 2007 trades, Boston had to give up a big piece (Jefferson, who is a pretty good power forward in Utah) to land KG, and a Top 5 draft pick for Ray Allen. The Celtics do not have a Top 5 pick this year (21st and 22nd), and only two “big” tradable pieces – Pierce and Rondo. Pierce seems unlikely to fetch much on the open market (he turns 35 in October and will be paid $16 and $15 million the next two years).

So does that mean giving up on Rondo, a player who Ainge has feuded with in the past? The problem is that at $36 million over the next three years, Rondo might have the best big contract in the league (Deron Williams and Chris Paul will sign significantly more lucrative contracts this summer and next, respectively.)

Just-tossing-them-out jumping off points:

* Paul Pierce for Rudy Gay? Why would Memphis trade a young athletic wing for a 35-year-old? Some Memphis fans think the franchise took a step back this year because Gay was healthy in the playoffs. Gay also has one more year on his contract than Pierce (at $19 million). Could a young team with potential use Pierce’s experience?

* Would the Magic bite on Pierce and two draft picks for Dwight Howard? (The Magic probably wouldn’t.)

* Rajon Rondo for LaMarcus Aldridge? This is not to say Aldridge is the next Garnett. But Aldridge is definitely a Top 5 power forward (other than Kevin Love, who is better? Blake Griffin? Gasol? Bosh?) in the NBA. He toils in the Northwest and the Blazers were terrible this season. If you subscribe to the theory Rondo was “made” by Pierce/KG/Allen (I don’t), then you’d be selling Rondo at his highest point.

For kicks, what the Celtics could look like if they traded Pierce and Rondo, but kept the draft picks:

PG – Kendall Marshall (21st)
SG – Avery Bradley
SF – Rudy Gay
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
C – Spencer Hawes (FA?)

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