“There’s growth, there’s building, and there’s progress,” said Brad Stevens when asked what he saw in the Celtics this season after being swept out of the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cavs.

Brad Stevens and the Celtics had a tough time with the Cavs, but they learned a lot about their young team in the process
Brad Stevens and the Celtics had a tough time with the Cavs, but they learned a lot about their young team in the process

In Boston, fans seemed to have a strong opinion on making the playoffs … one way or another. Some felt it was the right thing to do because their young talent would have a chance to get a taste of the playoffs and further develop. The counter argument was that the Celtics are still so far away from contending that none of these players will even be around to use their experience in a meaningful postseason. So why develop players for other teams while missing out on a lottery pick?

I understand the arguments, but there’s a middle ground here.

Sure, all 15 of these players are not going to be here the next time the Celtics contend … but they also aren’t all going to be gone. Danny Ainge has three jobs this summer. The first is to draft well, and the second is try to get a star player in a trade or free agency (and if not, just don’t sign any crippling contracts).

Assuming the C’s have to keep waiting to land their franchise player, Ainge’s third job is probably the most important: identify which players on this team are going to stick around for the long haul. Maybe Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk aren’t on that list and their playoff experience does nothing to benefit Boston. I’m just throwing names out there as examples. But at the same time, I’m willing to bet that Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas are on that list of guys that the C’s want to keep. Not as the pieces to build around (although you never know what Smart could become), but as the role players if/when the Celtics are able to make a bigger move to put them into contention.

Jae Crowder is not going to make the Celtics contenders, but he's a great piece for them to maintain for many reasons
Jae Crowder is not going to make the Celtics contenders, but he’s a great piece for them to maintain for many reasons

The key is remaining flexible and patient until that next superstar becomes available. If it happens sooner than later then that’s great. The Celtics will be prepared with complimentary players already under contract ready to produce.

If it takes longer than expected? Be flexible. Keeping their players on contracts like Thomas (4/$27M) means that those players will always be tradeable. If someone wants to be overpaid then it’s an easy decision. Let them walk. As long as the Celtics’ front office plays their cards right (and they will) then making the playoffs certainly didn’t hurt. It was worth the cost of moving back from pick No. 13 to No. 16 in the draft (the likely outcome)

The Celtics certainly got attention in the first-round — mostly because everyone tuned in to watch LeBron, but attention nonetheless. But people seemed to be impressed with how hard the Celtics played and how well they were coached.

It’s still probably not enough to attract a star player, but it’s a start in terms of beginning to recapture a winning mentality. And despite the opinions of many, SOME of these players (not all, not none) are still going to be in Boston to play in meaningful postseason action.

What really matters is are the Celtics in better position this offseason than they were last offseason? The answer is yes. Much better.

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