The problem with tanking? It’s too obvious to ignore, but no team can actually admit that’s the course it is taking next season, in order to get a high draft pick and on the way, getting rid of as much money off the salary cap as possible. While the Boston Celtics might have made moves that in the future will prove very wise financially, keeping their best player, Rajon Rondo, happy, in a terrible season, isn’t going to be easy.
There’s a good chance that the Boston Celtics from the 2006-2007 season, the ones that won only 24 games that year (the 2nd worst record in the league), were a better team than these Celtics. Taking a glance at the current roster, it’s hard to see points coming consistently from anyone. That team had Paul Pierce. This team? Jeff Green (averaging 12.8 points per game last season) will probably end up being the leading scorer. Beyond that?
Maybe it’ll turn out with a happy ending eventually. That probably depends on the draft pick, but that’s a coin toss. The Celtics went after that card in 2007, and finished with the fifth pick. Luckily for them, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett landed on the team in the first big three of this decade, winning the NBA title in 2008 and reaching the final in 2010.
But Rajon Rondo from back then isn’t the same guy he is now. The ego isn’t the same, and his demands from those around him, including the head coach aren’t the same. The Celtics aren’t really going to be in play for one of the top free agents in 2014 unless they manage to move Gerald Wallace and his terrible contract. Yes, in 2015 they’ll be with a clean slate, but are two terrible years really worth it? Only if they land one of the top picks in the 2014 draft, which is predicted to be one of the more loaded in recent history.
Sacrificing a year is something teams do at times. They got stuck with their previous key players a year too long, and had to reshuffle the deck, with Rajon Rondo as the only important constant left. But this Celtics team isn’t the free-agent draw it was when it had Paul Pierce. After the Doc Rivers and Ray Allen stories, it’s not all that certain that top players are going to line up in order to play for the Celtics, even if they do have one of the best point guards in the NBA.
And this season is going to be a test in keeping Rondo happy. If the Celtics are going to be as bad as some predict – without consistency on offense or the defensive presence of Kevin Garnett to keep them among the best in the NBA, things might turn very ugly very fast. When Rondo keeps losing, it’s going to raise two questions regarding his future with the team: Is he actually that good of a point guard without the protective wall of Pierce, Garnett and Allen next to him? And is he going to start pushing for a trade at some point if the Celtics are as bad as they were seven years ago?
There’s nothing the Celtics did this offseason that gives their fans reasons to be optimistic about next season. You don’t call it tanking because no one is going to buy season tickets. The problem is, it seems their thinking is basing too much on sheer luck, and of Rajon Rondo not being the guy he’s actually proven more than once to be.