The offseason retooling process is the most intriguing time of the year. The draft is right around the corner, the trade market is always open for business, and at some point in the future, this lockout thing will blow over and we'll have free agency upon us.
For the Celtics, it's a pivotal offseason, as Danny Ainge weighs his options and looks for a way to keep the C's competitive for a championship one more time in 2012. You guys are armed with plenty of questions on how to make that happen.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions to the mailbag this week. Keep firing away.
1. Sorry, but Dirk Nowitzki needs far more consistency to be in Larry Bird's league. Bird didn't score as much as Dirk because Bird had Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and other scorers around him.
Hard to argue with that, Kevin. Think you've got me there.
I wrote a column last week saying that Dirk Nowitzki's performance in the Mavericks' miracle Game 2 comeback against the Heat validated all the Larry Bird comparisons we've been hearing lately. I admit that I may have jumped the gun a little bit. Dirk's game was amazing, especially in terms of his clutch shooting, but Bird is still the better all-around player. Dirk's not even in the same arena in terms of defense, rebounding and passing.
That said — what Dirk lacks in all-around skill, doesn't he make it up in longevity? Bird was one of the all-time greats, but he was injury-prone and done after 13 years. Dirk is in year 13 already. For the sake of argument, let's say he's got four solid seasons left. Which would you rather have — 13 seasons of one of the best players ever, or 17 from someone merely extremely good? I'd say it's a close call.
2. I was wondering if the Celtics might buy a first-round pick in the draft this year. The extra pick this year and next year (with the Clippers' pick) and cap space next year might allow them to reload very quickly.
I have my doubts. This is a weak draft, and there's no way the Celtics are finding an immediate impact player unless they rob the Cavaliers at gunpoint and take their No. 1 pick.
There are very few guys in this class capable of contributing to a title contender right away. The Celtics are in the market for players like that — 2012 is going to be their last hurrah to win a championship. Now's not the time to devote their resources to a long-term project. Save that for 2012 and beyond.
The C's will have trouble throwing money around due to salary-cap restrictions, but they do have a few options. They can re-sign the solid veterans they already have around, like Delonte West and Nenad Krstic; they have Glen Davis, who they can either keep or flip for another valuable player in a sign-and-trade; and depending on the resolution of the lockout, they may have a mid-level exception to go out and get a $6 free agent (in past years that spot's been filled by James Posey, Rasheed Wallace and Jermaine O'Neal).
3. As I look at the players that should be available for the Celtics at No. 25, one is really intriguing: Jeremy Tyler. I saw a clip of him and he reminds me a little of Dwight Howard as a rookie. Your thoughts?
Agreed. Jeremy Tyler looks great. He's big, he's long, he's athletic. He can do it all, on both ends of the floor. In some ways, he looks even better than Dwight Howard — I can't imagine seeing a rookie Howard finish around the basket the way Tyler does.
Tyler was considered one of the best prospects in his class back when he was a high-schooler in San Diego. His stock has since dropped a little bit. He tried the Brandon Jennings method of leaving the country and playing pro ball abroad rather than enroll at an American college, and he bounced around a little bit. He got a job in Israel, quit and went to Japan. A lot of people were wondering what was wrong with him, bouncing around to three teams in three countries over three years.
But now as the draft's gotten closer, Tyler has impressed a lot of teams in interviews, and his stock is on the rise again. At one point he was a mid-second rounder; I think he'll go way higher now. If not in the lottery, then at least close. He'd be a great fit in Boston, but I'm starting to worry he may not fall all the way to No. 25. We shall see.
4. Do you think the Celtics should draft a shooting guard instead of a power forward or center? Someone like Marshon Brooks from Providence could be a great pick. His ability to spread the floor and attack the basket resembles a young Ray Allen.
Maybe, Kevin. It all depends. With a late-first round pick in a weak draft, you just have to take whatever you can get. There may not be a ton of promising guys left at No. 25, and Danny Ainge may just take whatever he can get.
I'm not sure if Ainge is currently in a position to draft a player based on positional need. No matter who he takes, he's not getting an impact player for this championship run, so why not just take the guy with the most upside available, regardless of position? Down the road, their needs could be totally different, so there's no reason to pigeonhole this year's pick.
Marshon Brooks does look like a solid player, though. He's a high-volume scorer, unafraid to take any shot from anywhere on the floor. He set a Big East record this year with 52 points in a game against Notre Dame — not too shabby.
5. Did Danny Ainge make a mistake in trading Semih Erden and Luke Harangody, two young players with promise who could have both provided some depth and toughness in the playoffs?
I don't think so, Gerry. Both Semih Erden and Luke Harangody were late-second-round draft picks. There wasn't much upside there, so Ainge unloaded them in February to load up on playoff-ready veterans. Troy Murphy, Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo were a pretty nice haul. When you're trying to win a championship right away, who would you rather have, the seasoned vets or the rooks?
Both guys had a decent run in Boston, but neither was by any means irreplaceable. I think of the two, Harangody has more staying power in this league — on a per-36 minute basis, he had averages of 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds during his two months in Cleveland. He's a hard-working, energetic player with some decent shooting range. But the Celtics are a big-market club, and they can find guys like that on the open market.
6. If Glen Davis does end up leaving the Celtics, who are some of the teams that might have interest in him?
It's hard to say, because Baby's such a versatile player that he can pretty much fit into any roster. He can either be a traditional post presence, protecting the rim and scoring inside, or more of a forward, knocking down mid-range jumpers and guarding smaller guys. Who wouldn't want either of those?
Three teams that expressed interest in Glen Davis last time, in 2009, were San Antonio, Detroit and New Orleans. I think all three will likely be suitors again this summer, especially the Spurs, who desperately need to get younger if they want to stay relevant.
Another darkhorse team you might want to watch out for — how about the Heat? They need a guy who can score in the low post. Chris Bosh doesn't really want to be that guy, and every other candidate is too old or too unskilled to get the job done. Baby might be a good fit if he takes his talents to South Beach.
7. Do you think it's in the Celtics' best interest to trade a member of their big four?
8. Is there a chance that Orlando will learn from Cleveland's mistake and try to actually get something for Dwight Howard before he leaves them in the dust with nothing? If so, what would the Celtics have to offer? Players? Draft picks?
To answer your first question: Yes, there's definitely a chance. Dwight Howard said recently that he intends to stay in Orlando, but there's no telling when he might change his mind, so the Magic will have to read and reread the situation over the course of next season. If they sense around February that he wants out, they'll definitely look to deal with him. They don't want another Clevelandesque ghost-town situation on their hands.
As for your second question, I don't think the Celtics have even the slightest chance of trading for Howard next season. The Magic are going to want multiple promising young players they can rebuild their team around. The Celtics don't really have much to offer beyond expiring contracts like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Over the summer in free agency, though, their chances will look quite a bit better. With KG, Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal coming off the books, the C's will have plenty of space under the cap to maneuver, and they might be able to make Dwight an offer he can't refuse.
9. Do you think Kevin Garnett is still better than Chris Bosh? Amare Stoudemire? Carlos Boozer?
Tough ones, Cesare. I'll go with no, no, and probably.
Chris Bosh may have depleted numbers after moving from Toronto to Miami and he may be an easy target for criticism as the third wheel, but he's still a very good player. Underratedly so. He can score (especially in pick-and-roll situations), he can rebound and he's a better defender than people give him credit for (although still not great). Bosh is in his prime at 27; KG is 35. No shame in losing that fight.
Stoudemire is the best scoring power forward in the league today, and probably the second-best athlete (after Blake Griffin). KG can't compete with that, either.
Carlos Boozer? Close call. He's a different player now in Chicago, still struggling to find himself offensively. The Bulls are Derrick Rose's team, and their offense often consists of little more than standing around watching the short guy do his thing. Boozer doesn't have the same role he used to, and he's still struggling to adapt. For the moment, KG may be the more productive player.
There's one advantage that KG has over all three of those guys, and that's continuity. All three of them changed hands in massive free-agent deals last summer, and they're still adjusting to a new life on a new ballclub. KG's had the same environment and the same core group of teammates for the last four years. It's served him well.