Friday, June 22, 2007

A brief (or not so brief) Celtics interlude

So Kevin Garnett has put the word out, through his agent, that he doesn't want to play in Boston. The conventional wisdom seems to be that this kills a trade to Boston because KG can opt out of his contract after next season.

Quite frankly, if I'm the Celtics, I try and make the trade anyway. KG doesn't strike me as the sort of player who will refuse to report just because he was traded to a team that wasn't on his wish list. And he certainly doesn't strike me as the type of player who isn't going to play his hardest every minute he's on the floor. I think the operating assumption needs to be that making a deep play-off run (getting KG out of the first round for only the second time in his career) will convince KG to stick around. A Pierce/KG combo (plus whatever other parts the Celtics put around them--most likely Perkins, Allen, and West/Rondo next year) can compete for the Eastern Conference crown for at least the next three years, and once you get to the finals you never know what can happen.

If the Celtics really are scared away from going after KG because of his agent's statements, then I think they have two options:
  1. Stay put: I'm more optimistic about the Celtics than most people. I think with a healthy Pierce, the current roster, and whoever they pick up in the draft they'll be competing for a playoff spot this year. They were 24-58 last season, but once you account for the 2 of 24 record when Pierce was out with his foot injury, they were 22-34. Still not great, but a more realistic view of where they currently stand. Add in a year of growth for their young players, particularly Jefferson, and the 5th pick, and a run at .500 and the playoffs should be expected.
  2. Trade Pierce: In many ways, the Celtics are dealing with a version of what the Lakers are going through with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. The question is whether Pierce will still be playing a high level when (if) the Celtics young players come into their own. Going after KG is the win now option, trading Pierce is the win later option (and staying put is the "we have no better option" option). If they can trade Pierce for a high draft pick (plus extras), then it might be time to go full-fledged to the youth movement and the fast-paced style of play Danny Ainge has been pushing for.
Of these options, I'm a bigger fan of trading Pierce, even though he's a great player and it will undoubtedly mean another year or two out of the playoffs for the Celtics. If the Celtics traded Pierce to a team like the Bucks (for this year's first round pick plus extras), then they could pick Corey Brewer with one of their draft picks (theoretically replacing Pierce) and still use the other pick to on either a big with potential (Yi?) or a point guard (Conley?), depending on whether they feel more confident in the development of Perkins or their point guards (Rondo/West/Telfair). Assuming they went big, then the Celtics could run out an athletic starting line-up of Jefferson, Yi, Brewer, Green, and Rondo. If they went small, they could put out a starting line-up of Perkins, Jefferson, Brewer, Green, and Conley.

Would they be good with either of these line-ups? I have no idea, but it would sure be fun to find out!

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