We all know the Celtics won't be competing for an NBA championship the next couple years. If Ainge breaks up the team in order to free up a little bit of cap space to pursue younger second-tier free agents, that will merely prolong the rebuilding process.
To build a championship team you need high draft picks and cap space. Buying Pierce out in order to maybe sign an Al Jefferson makes the team worse both in the present and in the future because it delays the necessary bottoming out. There's no point in signing a second-tier free agent to long-term money if he's not going to make you a legitimate championship contender. It's counter-productive to the bigger picture.
Garnett is signed for two more years. I expect he'll play out the rest of his contract and then retire. He loves playing for Doc Rivers, he seems to like Boston, he's a prideful guy, he's still very talented, and there were reports that he intends to have both of his ankles surgically repaired this off-season. That's not something you generally do if you plan to retire.
If I'm Danny Ainge, I would arrange all the contracts in such a way as to expire at around the same time. That way the Celtics can truly make a major free agent splash, hopefully aided by some good draft picks in the interim.
Step 1: Exercise the $15.3m option on Pierce for next year, and extend him one season beyond that for $10 million.
This would set things up so that the Celtics only have Courtney Lee on a guaranteed contract beyond the 2014-2015 season (for one year). Jeff Green has a player's option. That would be the off-season to do some major wheeling and dealing. The entire roster could be re-done.
Available free agents in the 2014-15 off-season include:
PG - Rajon Rondo, Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Jose Juan Barea, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Goran Dragic.
SG - Lou Williams, Jason Terry, Doron Lamb, Alexy Shved, Eric Gordon, Danny Green, Marcus Thornton, Wesley Mathews.
SF - Wilson Chandler, Tayshaun Prince, Kyle Singler, Gerald Green, Luc Mbah a Moute, Landry Fields, Travis Outlaw, Jared Dudley, Victor Claver, Thaddeus Young.
PF - Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans, Brandon Bass, Tyrus Thomas, Carlos Boozer, Anthony Randolph, Drew Gooden, Kevin Love, Nick Collison, Glen Davis, Charles Hayes, Luis Scola, Jeremy Evans, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland.
C - Brook Lopez, Brendan Haywood, Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, Kendrick Perkins, Tyson Chandler.
If the Celtics only have Courtney Lee under contract, they could sign two max guys plus extend one or more of their own free agents. I'd sign Marc Gasol and Kevin Love to max deals, re-sign Rondo and Green, and see if maybe Garnett and Pierce would want to come back for short money on one-year deals if such a super team came to pass. Now that would be a team that could win a championship and it would only be the year after next.
So which is better? Assembling a super team in two years (re-check some of those names at C/PF, there'd be solid options if the top targets sign elsewhere), or treading proverbial water by making marginal upgrades this off-season? I say wait it out. Be patient. Rebuild when rebuilding will make a difference.