Posted by Andrew Shi
The Celtics are currently in a unique position. After jettisoning their two all-stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and former sixth-man Jason Terry, the Celtics officially entered a period of rebuilding. At the moment, general manager Danny Ainge apparently plans on rebuilding around a core consisting of all-star Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, a group of young, very talented players. Everyone else, including the expensive contracts obtained in the Nets trade, are expendable.
The issue at hand is that while the Celtics are rebuilding, Ainge also seems to be committed to not tanking, as the Suns and 76ers are doing. The Celtics are currently comprised of a bunch of spare parts that on a team with another all-star or two could lead a team to a championship; but alone they'll just mire the Celtics in the undesirable position of straddling the eighth playoff spot. The Celtics are currently a team that will enter the lottery, but are still too good to likely have a chance of acquiring the prizes of a deep lottery.
Ainge currently has two concerns on his mind: the luxury tax and the loaded 2014 draft. Pricey contracts will burden the rebuilding process by restricting trade leeway, and this is a draft that needs to be heavily invested in to expedite the rebuilding process. If Ainge is savvy enough, which he has proven himself to be in the past, then he can trade away the expensive contracts and acquire the draft picks in their place.
There should be a core of players Ainge builds around, but that list should consist only of three of the current players: Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. These are all young players that are good "as is" and will only get better. While Rondo may be the current face of the Celtics, and one of the top point guards in the league, his inconsistent shooting leaves much to be desired, and in a deep draft his value may be optimized by the picks he is traded for. Green is now being given the burden of being Paul Pierce, but he has never shown the ability to do so. Like Rondo, he may be more valuable as a trading piece.
Once the playoffs near and teams begin to look for players to give them that extra boost, the Celtics will receive a lot of calls. Ainge can expect inquires from the Trailblazers, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Mavericks and possibly the Lakers, all who will be battling for that 7th and 8th seed in the Western Conference. Just as likely though, he may receive calls from the Rockets who, once their Omar Asik-Dwight Howard pairing falls through, will need a serviceable power forward.
A possible trade with the Rockets may look like this:
Celtics: Kris Humphries to Houston Rockets
Rockets: Omar Asik to Thunder
Thunder: Kendrick Perkins and first round to Celtics
Kris Humphries, before the move to Brooklyn a year ago, was a double-double machine, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Thunder are also in desperate need of a good center. As the Thunder battle the Clippers and Spurs for a top seed, they'll need Asik and will likely be more than willing to give up a draft pick. The Rockets may need something more in return, perhaps a young player from the Thunder like Jeremy Lamb, but this is definitely a trade that would benefit all three teams.
The true target of Ainge, though, should be the Bobcats. The off-season acquisition of Al Jefferson showed that this team is impatient to reenter the playoffs after being the butt of jokes for years. What the Bobcats need most is a star point guard. While the Bobcats do not have their own pick, they do have Portland's and Detroit's. This trade will require Rondo, and it is overall a bit unlikely regardless, but if anyone can pull it off it is Ainge:
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace,
Bobcats: Ben Gordon, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Portland's 2014 pick, Detroit's 2014 pick, future first round pick.
This, like the Rocket trade, assumes that Wallace plays again like he did before the move to Brooklyn, when he was hitting career highs from outside and at the free-throw line. Moving Gerald Wallace would move the Celtics' currently highest contract in exchange for Gordon's, which is more expensive but expiring. Portland and Detroit can be expected to be at either a late lottery or a pick or two afterward, where there will still be plenty of talent.
With players like Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee and Kieth Bogans, the Celtics have a lot of valuable assets. Even without having to give up Rondo or Green, Ainge, if dogged enough, should be able to trade these players away for a first-round pick or two. At the moment, though, Ainge needs to commit to rebuilding, which means tanking. If he is to keep Rondo, he should have him pull a Derrick Rose and sit out the whole season so that the Celtics can expect to land bottom five and thus acquire a top-five pick among whatever other picks Ainge acquires by then.