The Celtics have been on fire since the All-Star break, running roughshod over fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders like Miami and Philadelphia. While it appears an 18th championship is at least an outside possibility in Boston, the fans are already looking forward to the future.
Many of you are wondering how Avery Bradley's starting role affects Ray Allen's likelihood to return next season, or whether the Celtics could kick Allen and Kevin Garnett to the curb to acquire Dwight Howard.
We take a stab at some of the most pertinent question in this week's mailbag.
With Avery Bradley evolving so well this season, do you think the Celtics might let Ray Allen go in free agency, as well as Kevin Garnett, in a large effort to begin building the roster around Rondo?
– Bill, Oneonta, N.Y.
I see no reason why those two possibilities have to be mutually exclusive. The Celtics are already largely built around Rajon Rondo, whether or not Garnett and Allen are back. Both players have remade their games in the last couple of years, with Garnett focusing even more energy on the defensive end and Allen accepting his highly publicized role off the bench. No matter what happens with Garnett and Allen this offseason, this will continue to be Rondo's team.
With KG and Allen possibly not coming home next year, would we be able to land Dwight Howard?
– Kyle Porch, Danbury, N.H.
As we have talked about before, it is premature to assume Garnett and Allen will not be back. That said, even if they do not return, it is difficult to see all the dominoes falling just right to bring Howard to Boston.
The biggest obstacle to that occurred at the trade deadline, when Howard announced he would opt in for the 2012-13 season, taking him out of this offseason's free-agent market. The Celtics could have loads of salary cap space, but Howard will not be available. That would necessitate a trade as the only means of bringing Howard to Boston next season, and any trade discussions would have to begin with Rajon Rondo heading to Orlando. That is not a deal the Celtics would likely make, and it probably would not create an environment in which Howard would want to sign long-term.
Another option would be to let Garnett and Allen go, limp through 2012-13 and go all-in on the free-agent market again in the summer 2013. Howard could be available, as could players like Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Josh Smith, Monta Ellis and Chris Paul, although it is highly unlikely the Clippers would let Griffin and Paul go. But put yourself in the player's position. Would you want to sign with a team that went in the tank for a whole season, with Rondo as the only big-name piece at your side? (Paul Pierce's contract is unguaranteed beyond 2013.)
Also, I respect everyone's intelligence enough to assume that I do not have to spell out why a sign-and-trade of Garnett and Allen for Howard would never happen.
That's a long-winded way to say, "I doubt it," but I wanted to give you as full an explanation as possible.
Whose play do you think takes more of a fall when not playing with the first team, Ray Allen of Avery Bradley? – Arman Mirza, via Facebook
Finally, a question about this season! Without question, it's Bradley, in my opinion. His cutting only generates points if he operates with a player of Rondo's passing abilities. Bradley is also a more effective defender when paired with Rondo, as Bradley can pressure the ball and allow Rondo to roam as a "free safety" in the passing lanes.
This is not a knock on Bradley. Rather, it's a recognition of the fact that even coming off the bench, Allen is one of the all-time great shooters. As Allen showed in Tuesday's victory in Miami, he will always find a way to get his offense no matter who he shares the court with.