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The Lo Down: So What Now, Celtics?

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You’ve had over two weeks to digest the NBA draft results and Celtics fans are probably asking themselves “where’s the Love?” “did we make a Smart decision” …or maybe the Celtics just wanted a “Young roster” … okay enough puns and more Celtics speculation. We were promised “fireworks” by co-owner Wyc Grousbeck and there hasn’t been much to celebrate if you’re a fan of the Boston NBA franchise; instead Celtics fans are most likely asking “So what now?”

Take a deep breath fellow Celtics’ fans I’m going to alleviate your anxiety with some bits of information that should distract our New England sensibilities and get us back on track of daydreaming days of future championships.

This Saturday the $10.3 million trade exception the Celtics acquired last summer during the trade with the Brooklyn Nets will expire. The trade exception allows for the Celtics to take up to $10.3 million dollars more in salaries in a trade than salaries being sent to another team. These exceptions are valuable tools when combined with draft picks or can create the ability to take on “tradeable” salaries and assets. The possibilities are endless, you just need to be shrewd and creative. So turns out we do know a little bit of what the trade exception will bring, and it is in the form of more assets, draft picks and prospects.

Also, we didn’t land Kevin Love on Draft night, that’s not surprising. But it still doesn’t mean all is lost. Don’t forget the “KG Trade” didn’t happen until July 31st of that year. So there’s plenty of time for a deal to be executed.

But Tim what about Flip Saunders?”

Yes his insistence that Love isn’t available is a problem; but upon further consideration I almost wonder if he once again has managed to fumble the situation.

Those of you that listen to the on-air excerpts (Tuesdays @ 730 AM) should know of my on-going personal rivalry with Flip Saunders, “destroyer of talent” is what I’ve anointed him.

This Kevin Love situation just adds to his resume. By not trading Love now, and thinking he stands a chance at improving the Timberwolves season outcome; that logic is flawed. At best, I think we can all agree a playoff berth in the Western Conference is a best case scenario – and if you’re thinking big picture that does not do anything to quell Kevin Love’s determination to exit Minnesota next season.

So the way I see it, Flip Saunders has cornered himself and only stands to diminish Love’s trade value by waiting; right now suitors are lining up to negotiate a deal, but when (and if) Saunders starts shopping Kevin Love mid-season next year; the price will plummet on two merits:

1. Teams will have lost time to change their season record outcome, and with that, their chance to make the playoffs.

2. Its common practice, you’re in a weaker negotiation position when you are looking for a trade partner and a stronger position when trade partners are looking for  you.

So add this to the list of crazy, and file it under “Flip Saunders”.

To continue to feed into the speculation, Kevin Love recently withdrew from a celebrity softball game in Minnesota scheduled on July 13th citing a conflict (or could it be Love not wanting to be awkwardly playing a pro-am event right after an announced trade to a championship winning city? I’ll let your imagination run with it).

Continuing on, there’s also the possibility of what I like to call the “Wait-and-see” approach to this season. While everyone is running around trying to load up before the start of the season, Ainge and his chest of assets continue to grow and maximize value by being the last shopping team in the league; that plays in a very “winnable” Eastern Conference. Compare it to free-agency, athletes over-reach, they fail, and then sign a bargain contract with some unforeseen suitor. Here are a few things that make sense about this strategy.

  • The “Rajon is going nowhere” discussion; makes a ton more sense now because you can add a big piece mid-season, then you’ve got two major pieces (Rajon Rondo plus new acquisition) capable of completely correcting a poor-record and still making it into the playoffs because #TheEastAintTheWestBro.
  • Prospects are going to develop more and look more attractive. Young and Smart should get plenty of playing time allowing us to showcase our new young pieces; as well as continued development of Olynek, Sullinger and Bradley should only convince critics that their performance in the NBA is sustainable.
  • Expiring contracts are only going to have more “expiring-ness”; the attractiveness of expiring contracts are great, it basically allows for teams to dream about what they can buy next season. But to ask a fan-base to start that dream a whole season before free-agency comes in July of 2015 is difficult. It’s like Christmas shopping; you don’t start thinking about it until it gets cold and decorations start to appear. So in this case the proposition of “hey this player’s salary disappears” looks way more attractive the closer Free-Agency approaches. Expiring contracts for the Celtics: Keith Bogans ($5 million) and newly acquired Marcus Thronton ($8.6 million)
  • Your draft picks are more “real”. Consider last season, no one even knew who Joel Embiid or Aaron Gordon was on the prospects list. One NCAA season later, and they rocketed their draft stock beyond more accomplished and notable names “paging Julius Randle”. All of a sudden those draft picks look much more attractive when you see who might be available next draft … or even better if those Nets picks magically become lottery picks.

So fret not Celtics fans, there is still hope, even if we don’t make a move this off-season (at which point take a deep breath and pray Marcus Smart is the second coming, and Kevin Love still hasn’t moved)…given Fip Saunders track record I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Love is still in Minnesota.

The only real derivation from my dream off-season is Carmelo Anthony (and I won’t neglect the fact that many Celtics fans were skeptical of Anthony being a good acquisition.

I was of course on the YES GET HIM side of the debate). But maybe waiting is for the better….if Marcus Smart and Young develop close to their ceilings…a core of Rondo, Smart, Love, Young cumulatively will have an average age of 23 making for a nice core of four players … that’s a potential long-term solution to the relief of many Boston fans concerned minds (cause no one wants to go through what just happened last season).

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