Statistically speaking, the Celtics, the top seed in their conference, were the best team in the East this season. Technically speaking, with one win in the third round (the West runner-up Spurs were swept), the C’s finished the year as the third-best team in all of the NBA.
But with all of that said, I think you’d hard-pressed to find a soul that actually believes that the Celtics are either the best team in the East or even the third-best team in the NBA, for that matter.
That’s because the NBA is a superstar league. But clearly, if the third straight NBA Finals meeting between the Cavaliers and Warriors tells us anything, it’s that one isn’t enough. You need multiple superstars.
Something that’s hit Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge following the club’s five-game whooping from the Cavaliers.
“I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great,” Ainge, whose Celtics squad made a five-win improvement, from 48 wins in 2016 to 53 wins this year, told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”
To most, the Celtics — with a strong core, headlined by Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, in place — are just one piece away from potentially dethroning LeBron James and the Cavs as the East’s biggest threat. To others, they’re two pieces away. Be it one or two, though, those pieces are going to be difficult for Ainge to make happen in what’s expected to be one frantic summer push.
“We have a lot of good players,” Ainge noted, “but we need some great ones.”
By now, the names are well known. There’s pending unrestricted free agent Gordon Hayward. There’s some noteworthy trade targets, as unlikely as they may seem, in Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Pacers star Paul George. Some pipedreamers have even pitched a player such as the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis as a potential fit in Boston. All would cost more than a pretty penny, be it in pennies alone or with some combination of trade chips, including the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s upcoming draft (the Celtics also have Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018) from Ainge’s ridiculous arsenal built up throughout this rapid rebuilding effort.
The C’s already have nine players under contract for next season (10 if they exercise a team option on Jordan Mickey), and there’s simply not enough room for the Celtics to make an impactful addition without freeing up some of the minutes logged by those nine players. The Celtics also have just one more year before guys like Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart get significant raises, be it in Boston or elsewhere. That’s something Ainge knows can make mapping out his club’s future a little difficult.
“We have a lot of players. We have a lot of depth, and we have guys that want to play, that deserve to play. And I don’t think our roster is as balanced as it needs to be,” said Ainge. “So, yes, we have a lot of very difficult decisions. And there will be difficult decisions in free agency and who to allocate the money to, difficult decisions in the draft, difficult decisions with opportunities to make trades — no different than trade deadline times.”
Still, and again, it’s far easier said than done.
“Just because you’re one piece away doesn’t mean you can get it,” Ainge admitted. “And if you force yourself to get it, and if you force a deal or force yourself to get the second-best available or the third- or fourth-best available player at that position that you need, then it might not make you that much better or make you still not good enough, and you’re stuck.
“We still know we need to get better. Everybody in our organization knows we need to get better. We need to add.”
Full article @ Danny Ainge addresses reality facing Celtics: ‘We have a lot of good players, but we need some great ones’
Source: GreenStreet Blog