The Boston Celtics find themselves in quite the dilemma. Fours year after winning the elusive Larry O'Brien Trophy, the organization is facing an abundance of uncertainty heading into the offseason, as the team just fell to the Miami Heat in a 101-88 Game 7 bout. One of these many questions is the respective futures of the stars that comprise their "Big Four."
While the franchise has seen a plethora of playoff success since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007, the end is, and absolutely should be, near for this legendary quadrumvirate. Throughout this era, the team has had five playoff appearances, two NBA Finals berths and an obtained banner. However, "Father Time" may not let this savvy group of veterans compete at a high level in the competitive Eastern Conference.
After all, the Celtics were a dismal 15-17 at the All-Star break. Sure, the team rallied under coach Doc Rivers at the end of the season, winning 19 of 26 games to lock up the fourth seed, but their inconsistent play does raise a few pivotal questions. Even though the organization reached the Eastern Conference finals after a tumultuous seven-game series against the 76ers, nobody, including longtime Celtic Paul Pierce, is assured to be back on the team.
Even Rajon Rondo, who just made Third All-NBA team, has heard his name on the rumor wire.
By failing to take home another title to Boston, the Celtics will most likely pursue deals to add more depth and athleticism to their core or start a dreaded rebuilding phase.
So, who should the Celtics keep of their current "Big Four"?
Both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will become free agents this offseason. Allen, whose play has been hampered by a bone spur during the playoffs, has probably played his last game on the TD Garden's parquet floor. His age, he turns 37 this summer, and fading athleticism has been on full display this year, as the sharpshooter looks like a shell of his former self.
Additionally, Allen will command a contract near the mid-level exception of $5 million, an amount the Celtics might not want to invest. While teams like the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs seem like viable options for the marksman, Allen's ineffectiveness in the playoffs will keep his future in Boston shady, to say the least.
Garnett, on the other hand, has been indispensable to the Celtics playoff run. Between his efficient mid-range jumper and intense demeanor, Garnett's contributions this season can't be understated. The 6'11" power forward looks like vintage KG, which is an incredible sight for the fans of the Celtics. This, in turn, will make it difficult for Boston brass to let him walk.
But in the team's best interest, the Celtics should rid themselves of both future Hall of Famers.
It has become painfully obvious that this elder core can't deliver another championship at this stage of the game. So, why not open up some cap space and minutes to allow a few of their prospects to flourish? In addition, Garnett and Allen can go title-chasing, a privilege any former All-Star should partake in.
However, in the efforts of retooling the shed, the Celtics must not get carried away and release or trade Pierce and Rondo. Both of these players, who each have one year left on their respective contracts, are essential to the team's growth in the immediate and long-term future.
Rondo has developed into arguably the league's best point guard. While there have been whispers about his less than stellar attitude, there is no player, let alone point guard, in the league who can tally a triple-double like Rondo.
If Rose doesn't heal completely from his torn ACL, expect Rondo to be labeled the top facilitator in the East for the next decade.
In the defense of Pierce, the Boston Celtics must become sentimental and keep their high-octane scoring small forward. Through thick and thin, Pierce has always put up a good effort for the city that drafted him 10th overall in the 1998 NBA draft.
After all, this would be a huge stab in the proverbial back to ship Pierce to another squad. What would future franchise cornerstones think to see a team betray their longtime star?
Who could even see Pierce draped in colors other than green and white?
However, the time is now for change in the city of Boston. Despite taking the Miami Heat to a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics' reign in the East, due to their advanced age, lack of athleticism and extensive injury history, is quickly coming to an end.
And if Boston knew what was best for the franchise, they would allow a rebuilding phrase to begin.