Summer Quandaries #48
September 18--9 days to camp
Plans A, B, and C
Rather obviously Plan A is to compete for the Championship (and win) this season and next with major changes (rebuilding, reloading, or revamping) following the 2011-2012 campaign. But Danny is never limited to one plan. Whether or not Ainge is still at the helm, there are alternate timings for the shakeup to begin.
If this group fails to come together and play deep into the post season, next summer Ainge will have a sizeable segment of the roster whose 1-year contracts will have expired, several more whose two-year deals will then be expiring contracts. Perhaps the reorganization will begin then, Plan B? If things go well, or at least pretty well, the (likely) shortened season will favor the long-in-the-tooth lineup Danny has put together and the New Big Three era will trot out all that experience for one last run. If things look/are unfavorable or the wheels come off in the first three months, then the midseason offers another opportunity (Plan C) to cash in the expiring contracts and the “last missing pieces” to teams throwing in the chips, or going all in.
If this devolves into Plan B or C, then Danny isn’t just offering up chicken fodder. He will have expiring contracts both big and small. He will have relatively cheap role players that might be quite attractive to teams close but not over the hump. It is not inconceivable that Danny might emerge from that “meltdown” with the addition of several promising youths (not stars certainly but potential starters or future stars) and several draft picks over the next couple of years. That would definitely be a cut above the state of the team Ainge inherited five years ago.
I hesitate to offer this last paragraph but any rational thinker has to contemplate the circumstances that would accelerate the break up into the trade deadline this season. This team is both the deepest and the most fragile of the squads of the Pierce, Garnett, and Allen epoch. You could make a case that the second team could finish in the middle of the pack of the NBA. You could also present a viable argument that the third team could be pressed into starting action by January due to attrition. Most of the aging stars are entering that time of their careers that almost overnight they could go from All-Star to the-player-formerly-known-as. Much of the strong second team consists of players who, in recent history, have so irritated their coaches that they have been sent to the bench, or locker room, or home, or out of the country. If we want to dream along with the potential upside of all the cases going smoothly, then it only makes sense to consider the reverse scenario. If we steel ourselves to stare into the dark side, perhaps it is only reasonable that Danny is still shaking the bushes to search out every option that might mitigate the loss(es) if these long-shot risks don’t pan out. No team in recent memory has looked so capable of finishing the season with a long playoff run, or in the lottery. You can bet that Danny is hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst—so should we.