Not that it wasn’t blatantly obvious that he was going to end up a member of the Cavaliers the moment LeBron James signed, but still, we must face the facts. So with Love being a Cav, what should the Celtics’ plan be?
Step 1 – Trade Rondo
As much as I stand behind what I wrote about Rondo being the X-factor for this season, odds are, he gets traded by the end of the year. He is going to be a free agent at the end of the year and I’m not sure the Celtics want to sign him to a max contract, considering his injury history. I think he is one of the league’s best point guards, and if healthy, is a triple-double waiting to happen. There are teams out there who will be willing to give him the max, but I don’t think it’s the Celtics.
If the Celtics can get some young talent, expiring contracts, and some draft picks for Rondo, I think Danny Ainge makes the deal. For instance, a trade like Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and Nik Stauskas for Rondo could work, and Sacramento is in need of a franchise player. I think the Celtics make that trade and gamble on the upside of those three players. The Kings have been interested in Rondo for awhile, I think they make the deal too.
Step 2 – Lose. Lose a lot.
There are reports that the NBA is looking into changes for the lottery system that would give teams less incentive to tank. It sounds like those changes could go into place as early as the next lottery, but teams like the 76ers are fighting it. This might be the last year that tanking can guarantee a team a top three pick.
Last season, the Celtics were just a little too good, and didn’t lose enough. Having Rondo on the team for a full season is only going to make them better, which is even more of a reason to trade him. This upcoming rookie class isn’t as highly touted as last year’s, but there are always players like Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon who jump into the conversation somewhat unexpectedly. There will be some good players in this draft, and it might be the last year a team can control its own destiny.
Step 3 – Hit a home run in next year’s free agency.
Next summer, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Roy Hibbert, and Luol Deng (player option) will all be free agents. The Celtics will have a lot of cap room to work with next summer, and they need to be prepared and to lure at least one of the top players to Boston. If they work the system well enough this season, and if they can trade Rondo for assets like the ones I described, Boston will be a team full of young talent and money to spend. Boston will be an ideal location for a free agent to consider, with the winning tradition, smart front office, young players, and playing in the weak Eastern Conference.
With Love becoming a Cavalier, and it looking more and more like Rondo will be traded, the Celtics are heading toward another lottery season. However, they have the pieces and structure for a short and successful rebuild. If they can manage to stay the course, we could be looking at the Celtics in the playoffs as early as the 2015-2016 season.