All good things come to an end, and that is certainly true for the Boston Celtics.
An agreement to trade superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the New Jersey Nets at the end of last month brought an end a wonderful 6-year relationship between these two superstars and the Boston Celtics. Without Pierce, Garnett, Allen and of course head coach Doc Rivers –who is now head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers– the Celtics would not have won the 2008 NBA championship. Thus, it looks like the time has finally come. This era for the Celtics appears to have come to a close, and it is now time to usher in a new brand of basketball.
So, how will the Celtics do this?
Drafting Kelly Olynyk is a good start. Olynyk, easily the most offensively skilled centre on the draft board, shows an ability to see the floor, unlike other big men drafted before him. Nonetheless, Olynyk still has a lot to learn in the NBA. Unlike his fellow summer league compatriots however, he appears to be the most NBA-ready out of many players in the Orlando summer league. Along with Celtics new head coach Brad Stevens, the future looks bright.
In the NBA however, it is clear that one player alone –especially a young rookie, or a new head coach with no prior NBA coaching experience– cannot possibly lift a team to raise that banner. It takes a lot more than that, especially after the team has traded two franchise players.
Doing it like the Thunder
One approach the Celtics can take in their rebuilding phase, is what the Oklahoma City Thunder did. Before the Thunder became a perennial title contender, they had to start from scratch. Like the Celtics now, the Thunder had lost two franchise players in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis back in 2007. From there, the young Thunder team endured a dreadful three-year stretch where they went 74-172, struggling to compete on a nightly basis against the NBA’s elite. However, there is one benefit to having a losing season – high lottery picks.
Over the next couple of years, the Thunder received three top 5 picks, which were used to select the next cornerstones of their franchise: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. From day one, these three men were given minutes that allowed them to develop together and subsequently, experience success ahead of schedule, reaching the NBA Finals in 2012.
What is the Thunder model? More importantly, will it work for the Boston Celtics?
The Thunder model is simple. It is all about drafting promising, high-character players, and allowing them to develop, grow and reach their full potential in a supportive and structured environment. Hiring a young head coach who can relate to his players is a good start. Stevens will have the opportunity to grow alongside the players and fashion a harmonious working relationship together.
There are three crucial things the Celtics need to do in order to succeed.
- Dump bad contracts and spend wisely going forward: Unloading KG, PP and most importantly JET’s ugly contract has freed up much needed cap space for the Celtics. Players they are likely to receive in the trade with the Nets can then be offloaded elsewhere for future draft picks to clear cap space in order to sign bigger role players.
(Ed: not forgetting Gerald Wallace’s ugly deal here.)
- Accumulate as many draft picks as possible: The Celtics have already started this phase, receiving three first-round draft picks for KG, PP and JET. The picks might not necessarily end up as lottery picks, but the key is to improve the assets available and either work through the draft for promising rookies, or possibly trade the picks upwards for players who fit the mould.
- Select players who fit the unselfish, team-first culture: The Celtics do not need a player who cares about their stat line (by this I mean the Celtics don’t need a player like Monta Ellis).
One thing is for certain, the Boston Celtics will not be tanking this season. Tanking is out of the question, with second year man Jared Sullinger making sure the media understood this:
“Everyone’s talking about how we’re going to tank and how we’re going to do this, we just want to play and shut everybody up.”
For now, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the show. How do you think the new season will turn out? Share a comment and let us know what you think!