The Boston Celtics hope to take a major step forward in their rebuild this offseason by using their pool of assets to acquire some big-time talent. Kevin Love has been the top target to achieve that goal during the past month, but the Celtics have faced some heavy competition for his services from other suitors such as Golden State and Denver.
Now, as the distinct possibility arises that Boston may come up empty in the Love sweepstakes, the team’s contingency plans are beginning to surface.
According to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, if Love is traded elsewhere, the Celtics would look to deal Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green for assets and build from within for another season.
If the Celtics cannot get Love, they are planning to continue with the longer and more methodical rebuilding process, a process that would likely see Rajon Rondo traded. (An NBA source said they would also have a taker for Jeff Green if they chose to move him.)
Analysis: Before Love became available this offseason, the younger rebuilding route appeared to be the most likely path for the Celtics to take this summer. Boston’s front office would undoubtedly prefer to become competitive again right away, but without another star to put alongside to Rondo, that’s not a realistic goal for the short-term.
If the Celtics are unable to take a major step forward with their roster next season, the Rondo trade option has to be explored and that should come as no surprise to Celtics fans. Multiple league sources have confirmed that the team discussed possible trades for the star point guard at the trade deadline but the suitors were not willing to meet Ainge’s high asking price at the time.
With free agency looming for Rondo next summer, Boston’s current captain will be looking for a significant raise in his next contract. If the Celtics can’t field a competitive team to put around him for next season, they risk testing Rondo’s patience.
Danny Ainge also may not be enthusiastic about handing Rondo a max contract, a deal the point guard will surely be shooting for in free agency. Without the allure of playing for a winning team, Rondo may be unwilling to accept less than the max to remain in Boston for the long-term, especially if he can find a similar deal on the open market.
Instead of taking the risk that Rondo walks next summer, the Celtics may want to cash in on him and other high-priced veterans on the roster (including Green) this offseason to guarantee a return and accumulate more young assets now.
It’s not the ideal option for Boston by any means and there’s still no guarantee that Rondo would be moved in a scenario like this. Ainge will have a high asking price for his star guard, just as the Wolves are asking for now with Love. Make no mistake though, moving Rondo is an option the team has explored in the past and will explore again if they can’t put the proper pieces around him.
In the interim, the Celtics will continue to strongly pursue Love as Ainge attempts to find a deal, potentially involving a third team, to appease the Wolves' demand of a return that helps them stay competitive now.