Celtics Have Many Questions in Summer

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett (right) may have played their last game in a Celtics uniform.

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett (right) may have played their last game in a Celtics uniform.

 

As the Boston Celtics head into the off-season, they have many questions to answer. The first is whether they should retain captain Paul Pierce?

Pierce could make $15.3 million this season unless the Celtics buy out Pierce for $5 million. If the Celtics choose to buy out Pierce, they will have to do it by June 30th. The issue is that the Celtics are already committed to $76 million for next season. If they buy out Pierce, they still do not have a lot of money to spend since they save just $10 million and they are already over the salary cap (likely to be in the neighborhood of $59 million). If the Celtics do cut ties with their franchise cornerstone, this could lead to Kevin Garnett also leaving the franchise. Garnett said after the Game 6 loss to the New York Knicks that his future is tied with Pierce. Head coach Doc Rivers left the door open  to the possibility of leaving the Celtics in his postgame press conference on Friday.

The free agent and draft class is very weak this summer so it will be tough to rebuild this off-season. This leaves trades as the only potential avenue to upgrade the 2013-’14 roster. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge was unable to ship Pierce or Garnett off at the trade deadline because he was asking for a significant return.

Ainge can retain Pierce and Garnett and the Celtics will remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. It is easy to remember how poorly Pierce played in the postseason, but Pierce was forced into a point forward role due to injuries and lack of a reserve point guard. Pierce had added responsibilities to score and set up his teammates with Rajon Rondo out with a torn ACL. Even with inconsistent role players and the decline of Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics almost took the Knicks to a deciding game in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

The Celtics hope to get Rondo and Jared Sullinger back on the court in training camp. The Celtics will start their preseason nearly nine months after Rondo underwent season-ending surgery. The general timeline for ACL injuries is 6-to-12 months.

The Celtics could take one more shot with their aging stars,  Pierce and Garnett, but they will need to upgrade their bench. The organization already has a solid young core in Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Brandon Bass. This team needs a backup center that can provide solid minutes. Fab Melo might be given this role, but the team may still see him needing development. Melo remains a large project who needs to show he can play the pick-and-roll on both ends of the court. Shavlik Randolph has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. He showed promise as a player who can provide valuable minutes late in the season though Rivers refused to put Randolph on the floor against the Knicks.  Chris Wilcox is unlikely to stay with the Celtics as he is a free agent. Another free agent is Jason Collins. Rivers loved coaching him and his sexual orientation most likely won’t become an issue because his teammates enjoyed playing alongside him last year.

Another need is backup point guard. The Celtics signed Terrence Williams to a non-guaranteed contract next season. Williams had some good moments such as his performance in the fourth quarter in Game 5 of the first round defeat to the Knicks. He had immaturity issues earlier in his career with the then-New Jersey Nets, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings. Williams does have size (6-feet-6-inches), but can he be consistent?

The Celtics could attempt to trade some of their players. Most of them are signed to market value, but not many players have much value beyond that. If the Celtics can unload either Jason Terry or Courtney Lee it would be advantageous because both players are making over $5 million. They did not produce like they were expected to before the season. Terry is the most likely candidate to be moved because there could be a team who is desperate for a scorer off the bench with experience.

Ainge and the front office have many decisions to make this offseason. They should give due diligence to improving the team if they find suitors who are willing to give the Celtics what they want for Pierce and Garnett. As of right now, the Celtics should maintain their roster with some changes to their bench because rebuilding will not be easy this summer. Celtics fans understand how difficult the NBA is to rebuild through the draft because they missed out on franchise-altering players such as Tim Duncan in 1997 and Kevin Durant in 2007 in the Draft Lottery.

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