BOSTON – The Decision 2.0 has been made and the landscape of the Eastern Conference has now changed with LeBron James heading back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Boston Celtics were not exactly bystanders in the process. They helped to facilitate LeBron’s signing earlier this week by assisting the Cavs in shedding the necessary cap space to sign James to a max contract via their 3-team trade with Cleveland and Brooklyn.
Boston made out well in that deal, bringing aboard a 2016 first round pick from Cleveland as well as a young center in Tyler Zeller, but that pick looks a lot less valuable now that James is firmly entrenched in Cleveland.
That’s not the only impact the James signing has on Boston’s future though. The shift of power in the Eastern Conference likely has the Celtics re-evaluating their plans for both this offseason and the long term. With that in mind, let’s try to get a better grasp of what’s next for the Celtics this offseason.
KEVIN LOVE WATCH
Boston’s prospect of landing the All-Star power forward wasn’t in great shape to begin with this week and LeBron’s move to Cleveland creates potentially one more serious suitor for the power forward. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Friday that Love was “intrigued” with the idea of teaming up with James in Cleveland.
With that said, it takes two sides to tango in any potential trade and unless the Cavs are willing to include #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, it’s hard to envision the Wolves pulling the trigger on the deal. Multiple reports indicate that the Cavs aren’t willing to include Wiggins in an offer for Love – not yet anyway. That could simply be posturing on Cleveland’s part.
For the time being, Boston’s best hope in staying in the running for the big man is hoping that the Cavs stick to their guns on keeping Wiggins, which could help keep Love in play for the Celtics later this season, if the Wolves elect to move him then.
LOOK TO FUTURE
If the Celtics can’t find the assets elsewhere to make a better offer for Love this summer, their goal for the interim has to shift to acquiring more parts for the future. That process started with this week’s three-team trade, but should continue with the shopping of veterans like Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.
Both players are in their late 20’s and probably aren’t a part of Boston’s long term building plans. If the Celtics aren’t able to make a competitive splash this year, they are better off acquiring more trade chips for the veterans.
Boston can also use the unguaranteed contracts on their roster (Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson, Chris Babb, Keith Bogans) to help facilitate any other deal in which they can acquire future trade chips. Those deals are crucial for teams looking to create cap room or a trade exception and the team should not let them go to waste by simply waiving the players from their crowded roster (17 players under contract currently).
Finally, once the dust settles in the free agency period, teams that did not land the stars they desired may come knocking on the Celtics door again to ask about Rajon Rondo’s availability. Boston should be advised to put a high asking price on their top guard, as he could be key in recruiting players via free agency or trades during upcoming seasons, if the team wants him around long-term.
My guess is the team probably won’t get what they want to move him this offseason, but exploring the possibility seems to be the right play. LeBron’s presence in Cleveland now makes the Eastern Conference more wide-open, which could give other teams more incentive to want to add a major piece. The Celtics are one of the few teams that have a player like that available in Rondo.
All in all, the complexion of the East just got a bit more interesting for the next couple seasons with LeBron’s decision. Boston won’t be in position to make some noise in the conference for another year or two, but they still stand to benefit this offseason from the domino effect of moves around the league.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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