Not even a week after their season ended with a wondrous failed comeback against the Knicks , the Celtics  have already entered full-blown offseason mode. They’ve since lost wunderkind assistant general manager  Ryan McDonough to the Suns, and the ridiculous rumor mill  is churning like never before.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers  stated the obvious after the Game 6 loss on Friday night when he explained team president Danny Ainge “has already worked on stuff.” Here’s the “stuff” facing Ainge over the next few months.
Step 1: What to do with Paul Pierce ?
A decision on one of four options for Pierce must be made by July 1:
- 1) Trade him for a bad contract and young talent.
- 2) Waive him for a $5 million cap hit in 2013-14.
- 3) Amnesty him to clear his salary from the cap.
- 4) Bring him back for $15.3 million next season.
The trade market for Pierce was set at Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and a late first-round pick at the February deadline, so Ainge shouldn’t get his hopes up for a deal of much value. Unless they can pull off a sign-and-trade for someone like Josh Smith, the market won’t improve for Pierce after his postseason performance.
Likewise, Ainge recently admitted , “You’re not going to find Paul Pierces and Kevin Garnett s on the free agent market,’ so why take a $5 million cap hit and pay a downgraded free agent when they could just keep Pierce for another season? And given Pierce’s value to the franchise, amnestying one of the five greatest Celtics in history would be a PR nightmare for ownership. So, Pierce staying put seems to be the most likely scenario.
Step 2: Convince Kevin Garnett not to retire.
The added bonus of bringing back Pierce is that Garnett and Rivers would almost certainly follow suit, giving the Celtics a better center and coach than anything they could find on the open market. If Pierce goes, KG suggested he’d be on his not-so-merry way, too. How he goes would be an entirely different matter.
Garnett would then have two legitimate options: 1) waive his no-trade clause, allowing Ainge to first and foremost resume talks with the Clippers over a potential deal for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan; or 2) file for retirement with the league, foregoing $24.4 million over the next two seasons and giving the Celtics some cap wiggle room.
Step 3: Explore the trade market for everyone else.
After having a ton of cap space last summer, the Celtics have none this offseason should Pierce and Garnett return. They locked up Jeff Green , Brandon Bass , Courtney Lee  and Jason Terry  for considerable money over at least the next two seasons. Given the youth of the first three and the fact Terry finally, if only briefly, fulfilled his playoff promise, each has some worth. As do Rajon Rondo , Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley , although the value of each might be at an all-time low given injuries to the first two and Bradley’s playoff struggles.
Anyhow, the Celtics will be in every major trade discussion this summer. Ainge always is.
Step 4: Nail the draft.
Ainge has had some success in the late first round (Bradley in 2010 and Sullinger in 2012) and some failures (J.R. Giddens in 2008 and JaJuan Johnson  in 2011), and while the Celtics own the No. 16 pick on June 27 — the highest such selection of the KG era — this year’s draft class is a weak one.
Various mock drafts have the C’s taking wiry Syracuse point guard and Massachusetts native Michael Carter-Williams, Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin, Croatian forward Dario Saric, Louisville  center Gorgui Dieng, Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk or French center Rudy Gobert. Carter-Williams and Dieng both fill a need — the former as a top-10 talent behind Rondo and the latter as a 23-year-old big capable of contributing defensively.
Step 5: Target someone for the mid-level exception.
Should Pierce and Garnett return, the Celtics have $72.9 million committed to 11 players in 2013-14: Pierce ($15.3 million), Garnett ($12.4M), Rondo ($12.0M), Green ($9.0M), Bass ($6.5M), Lee ($5.2M), Terry ($5.2M), Bradley ($2.5M), Jordan Crawford ($2.2M), Sullinger ($1.4M) and Fab Melo ($1.3M).
As currently constituted, they’re hovering above the luxury tax ($70.3 million) but below the $4 million apron, so money-saving trades of guys like Crawford or Melo potentially pave the way for use of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.15 million) and/or the bi-annual exception ($2.65 million). Obviously, frontcourt help and backup point guard are Ainge’s top priorities as soon as the clock strikes midnight on June 30, and Kendrick Perkins  is a likely target should the Thunder amnesty the $17.6 million remaining on his deal after this season.
Step 6: Determine the futures of their league minimum guys.
Chris Wilcox  has probably played his final game in a Celtics uniform. The 30-year-old veteran played all of seven minutes and failed to score a point in the playoffs when they desperately needed a warm body off the bench.
That leaves Terrence Williams, Shavlik Randolph and D.J. White, all of whom are signed to non-guaranteed deals next season. Ainge doesn’t have to make a decision on any of them until training camp, when Williams and Randolph should at least compete for roster spots if someone better doesn’t come down the Pike.
In summation, all Ainge has to do this summer is determine the future of the face of his franchise as well as one of the game’s all-time greats, explore every trade possible, find a steal in a weak draft and convince a bunch of free agents to accept less money to play for a team that’s championship window appears to be shut. Easy enough.