There is a difference between a rebuilding year and a rebuilding chapter. Following a 25-win season, the Boston Celtics are not intending on making this the new norm.
The team experienced a six-year playoff run and they’re looking to get back to that point quickly. Returning to championship contention won’t be done solely in the draft, at least not next season with the sixth pick, so other avenues have to be explored.
This offseason, their sights are set on free agency. Back in 2007, the Celtics put together the foundation of a title team in less than two months with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. With an arsenal of draft picks this summer and years to come, the Celtics are in a position to offer enticing packages for significant deals.
The question is, what can the Celtics get in return for these assets? Picks are coveted, as are expiring contracts, and these aren’t pieces to give up without careful consideration. So who should the Celtics target? There are big names buzzing around as potential matches.
Kevin Love: It is nearly impossible to talk Celtics without hearing mention of Kevin Love, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent following next season. At this point, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ centerpiece is the most discussed target for the Celtics after a highly-publicized trip to Boston. At 25 years old, Love already has achieved personal accolades. He is a three-time All-Star who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds in his sixth season. His ability to spread the floor (he shot 37.6 percent from three-point range last season) instantly changes the look of a team and would complement the craftiness of Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics want to win, and so does Love. He has never experienced the playoffs. In fact, he has never won more than 40 games in a season.
“No matter what the outcome is, I just want to end up in a great place where I can win,” Love recently told ESPN’s SportsNation. “At the end of the day, I’ve played six years, haven’t made the playoffs yet. That burns me and hurts my heart, so I really want to be playing.”
There are many suitors for Love, including the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls. The Celtics, though, have plenty of draft picks, contracts and young players to offer. If both parties are interested, it could come down to what the Celtics are willing to part with in exchange for Love and if they think Love will stay in Boston following this current deal. Given his age, talent, hunger to win and immediate impact, Love should be a top target for the Celtics.
Carmelo Anthony: ‘Melo is no stranger to Boston. Usually it is on the receiving end of boos as an opposing foe at TD Garden.
Anthony is undoubtedly one of the best scorers in the league. Last season, he averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, including a 62-point performance. But just because a player can shoot lights out, it doesn’t mean he is the best fit for a team.
Like Love, Anthony wants to win … now. He is 30 years old and entering his 12th NBA season, having only made it as far as the conference finals (once). There is a difference, though, between someone who has never been to the playoffs and someone who has been disappointed in the postseason year after year. Don’t expect Anthony to be content with a middle-of-the-pack team that is not in the running to be a contender. The Celtics are building for the future with a new coach and fairly young roster. Patience, not the opposite, is important to progress.
At this point in his career, now is the time for Anthony to make a move to win. A team like the Chicago Bulls with a solid (when healthy) foundation and experienced head coach would be a better fit. It would keep him in the lesser-competitive Eastern Conference and set the Bulls up to rival the Miami HEAT.
Of course, none of this Anthony debate will be an issue if he decides to stay with the New York Knicks this summer. He has a $23.3 million option on the table. Combine that with the New York City lifestyle, and the recent hire of Phil Jackson, and it is very possible he stays put.
Hang on a Minute: Before the Celtics decide who to bring in, they will also have to get a better sense of who is staying. Rajon Rondo will be playing in the final year of his contract next season. If he is not interested in re-signing in Boston, that changes the face of the team moving forward. The team would look a lot different with, say, Love and Rondo versus Love and Rondo’s replacement. Should Rondo desire to play elsewhere in 2015-16, don’t expect the Celtics to stand put on his expiring contract. Instead, they will have to explore what they can get in return rather than watching the face of their franchise walk. It’s a risk bringing in a player with an expiring contract to play with another expiring contract if there are no guarantees from either.