The Brad Stevens Era has begun, and the Boston Celtics already have two preseason losses. Many Celtics fans hope the losses keep piling up right through April so that the C's find themselves at the top of the lottery in next June's NBA draft. But should the young, rebuilding Celtics "tank" the 2013-14 season? Sun staffers Matt Langone, left, and Carmine Frongillo discuss the matter.
MATT LANGONE: Carm, here's the thing, seemingly everyone points to tanking as the logical solution for so-called bad NBA teams. But the NBA draft is far from a sure thing. First, you have to win in the lottery (see the 1996-97 Celtics). Then you have to make the right selection. History tells us top-five picks don't always pan out, let alone result in franchise-altering talents. The Bobcats, Wizards and Kings always seem to have top-five picks and where has it gotten them? Also, it's difficult to think 36-year-old Brad Stevens -- a first-year coach trying to prove he belongs in the NBA -- and his young roster, filled with players fighting for their NBA lives, will be all-in for a season of tanking.
CARMINE FRONGILLO: Matt, I believe Stevens is going to be a fine NBA coach in time, but in Year One he should try and follow the lead of former Celtics head man M.L. Carr, who guided the Green to a 15-67 record during the 1996-97 season. The pingpong balls didn't bounce the Celtics' way in the draft lottery, but M.L. coached them into position to possibly land Tim Duncan (wouldn't he have looked good decked in green?). This year's draft pool is supposedly very deep, with Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins the big prize. What would you rather see? The Celtics land a top-five draft pick or finish as the eighth or ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and be stuck in neutral for forever like the Milwaukee Bucks?
LANGONE: The key here is point guard Rajon Rondo. The later the All-Star returns from his torn ACL, the better the chances are that the C's cement a spot in the lottery. Rondo said at Media Day there's no timetable for his return. If he came back by Dec. 1, he'd only miss 20 games or so. We know he's not about to willingly waste away a season with losses, not when he finally has his chance to be The Man in Boston and prove his worth to his critics. Plus, players like forward Jeff Green and guard Avery Bradley are young, talented and hungry for success. And the Eastern Conference is weak. Outside of Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn, Indiana and New York, the playoff picture is wide open.
FRONGILLO: I believe the Celtics can play their way into a high-lottery pick without trying to tank. First off, Stevens is learning on the job. Secondly, let's say Rondo misses the first 20 games, do you think the Celtics can win more than seven games over that stretch without him? Once Rondo comes back he probably won't be in top form for another 15 games. So we're looking at a 13-22 start at best. I'm not sold on Green. Green finished strong, but I need to see it for a whole season. So many questions in this lineup and not enough exclamation points for me to feel shooting for a high pick isn't the best route to go in this rebuilding project.
LANGONE: If the Celtics happen to play their way into a top-five pick, it won't be the worst thing. I'm just skeptical it will happen. This could be a 35-win team, which laughable as it may sound, may be good enough for the postseason in the East. Boston already has future assets. If it develops the players on the roster, the always-creative Danny Ainge can use it all to do what he does best -- pull off a blockbuster deal. Hey, it worked before.
FRONGILLO: The Celtics have some pieces to build around in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Bradley, but the future isn't now, no matter when Rondo returns and how well Green and Kris Humphries play. Year one of the post Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett era likely won't be easy on the eyes. In fact, 35 wins may have Stevens in the running for Coach of the Year honors. We can only hope the C's play their way into the lottery.