When looking at the Celtics’ offseason, there is a clear trend–the “big three” era is completely over and there is no going back. When the team traded cornerstone Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, along with Kevin Garnett, they signaled an obvious move in another direction. Pierce played for the Celtics since his entry into the NBA in 1998, bringing back the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the people of Boston after a 22-year drought. In other words, Danny Ainge traded away the living, breathing hero of the city.
Nonetheless it generated a lot of thought, especially the idea that the team would be built around point guard Rajon Rondo. However, that is not much fun to think about right now. The more important and interesting strategy is the “throw it all out the window” technique–a.k.a. “the tank season”. Such is possible because of the talent of the 2014 NBA Draft. Yet, how does a team go about this process? How does a team fail systematically in order to secure a strong draft position? Allow this writer to introduce to you the fives steps necessary for a successful tank season.
Trade away most of the stars, but keep a single player to build around so that he might guide the younger picks. This is single handily the easiest step to enact. The Celtics basically did just that by getting rid of the organization’s #2 all-time scorer–if not one of the greatest players from the prep-to-pro era. Pierce long served as a pillar around which the team was built, and Garnett was a major component to this structure. (The Boston Globe publicly expressed how much both will be missed.) However, the organization is currently rebuilding the team around the currently injured Rajon Rondo, a point guard, good defender, and top-tiered passer with solid shooting skills. Rondo leads the NBA in assists during the past two seasons, and bringing in more shooters and strong low-post players to flesh out the team would provide strong compliments to his position. Perhaps the Celtics ought to have angled their way into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes? Or maybe they could have sought OJ Mayo or Josh Smith? Even so, they didn’t, and instead they went on to…
Bring in young players and players with average abilities. Basically, this should also be called the “build the ship with broken or cheaply-made parts” step. This was done when the Celtics traded in Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries from the Nets. Wallace aged like Garnett and Pierce, but the difference was that he no longer made a discernible difference on the team. He wasn’t contributing. Humphries, on the other hand, was in some ways more a vacuum than a player who could occasionally rebound but was quickly benched when Reggie Evans surpassed him. Boston ventured back into the lottery for the first time since 2007 and drafted Kelly Olynyk. The Gonzaga center and power forward was one of the top college basketball players and proved that he could keep pace with the pros in summer league–averaging 19.8 and 7.8 rebounds per hame, leading the Celtics’ summer team. That being said, he might spend time on the bench–depending on what new coach Brad Stevens decides to do. Which reminds me…
Bring in a new coach. Stevens is a solid coach who took a mid-major team in Butler to the NCAA tournament final two years in a row. He improved the talent that he’d scouted. With the Celtics he intends to use Rondo more efficiently. However, college ball is quite different from the pro ball, and history is not on Stevens’ side in this manner. Only two coaches were recently brought up from the NCAA to the NBA–Mike Dunlap of the Charlotte Bobcats, and Paul Westphal of the Sacramento Kings. Both led their teams back into the draft lottery the next season. This could have been due to injuries, a lack of depth, or these teams’ sordid records. Stevens just might become a great NBA coach, but we won’t know until the next season.
Play for eighth place, but lose it anyway. There actually is a better way to put this, but “drop every game” just sounds wrong. It’s difficult to lose on purpose. (There’s an entire episode of South Park dedicated to this.) And the Celtics won’t lose every game since they will still outperform the Bobcats, the Suns, and the Magic. Just as well, we must consider that sub .500 teams in the east have consistently made the Eastern Conference playoffs five of the last six seasons. In turn, they must get beneath the .450 win percentage in order to obtain a lottery spot. How is this possible? Some internal fighting, Rondo’s injury and bench time, and running everyone else into the ground should do the trick. Consider the Lakers’ previous season. They scored two out of three and barely made the playoffs. If they tried a little harder, they might have earned their first lottery pick since Andrew Bynum in 2005.
A losing team is a fiscally good team for fans because, as history demonstrates again and again, teams that lose have poor fan attendance. This means pricing deals on tickets, concessions and merchandising. The Red Sox are a prime example as they lowered concessions prices at Fenway.
Get a draft spot within the top five. The lottery is guaranteed if the Celtics can stick to the previous steps. The talent promised by the 2014 NBA Draft looks amazing. From Duke’s Freshman small forward Jabari Parker and Kansas’ small forward Andrew Wiggins, to Kentucky’s starting five and a sixth man, the likely class of 2014 just might have what the Celtics need. The best move would be to take a small forward like Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III or, if in a high enough position, take a player to trade like back in 2007.
The Celtics are rebuilding themselves and looking at the bigger picture. The statement “it’s a rebuilding year” might be the team’s new slogan. Then again, I could be wrong. They could take over this upcoming season and impress eve… I’m sorry I couldn’t genuinely finish that sentence. The Celtics have Humphries now. If there’s anyone even remotely associated with the Kardashians that I thought the Celtics would pick, it would have been the free agent Lamar Odom. Either way, watching the Celtics this coming season should prove interesting–even from up in the nosebleeds.