Posted by Andrew Shi
For the past month, the Celtics have been an epicenter of trade talk. Bogged down with inconsistent play, six-game win streaks followed by six-game losing streaks, and headed by a notoriously astute and merciless General Manager, Danny Ainge, it was always likely that someone was to be moved. Now, All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. To compound the Celtics' problems, their playoff seed seems just as fragile, as they barely hang onto the eight seed. With a month left until the February trade deadline, it seems certain that a trade is imminent.
The Celtics under Doc Rivers have been notorious for an impregnable defense. Their hardened defense has always provided compensation for average scoring. Still it hasn't counterbalanced the fact that Boston is currently 29th (out of 30) in rebounding and 26th in shot blocks. As important as these statistics are, they can't be extrapolated to tell the whole story, but watching any of their current games will exhibit haplessness at the rim that provides easy second-chance points for the opponent.
What Boston needs most is a true big man. Currently, they have Garnett playing the role, but having played the four a majority of his career, and not being as aggressive or powerful as he was in his prime (he's 36), he is ill-suited for the role.
Several names have been connected to the Celtics, the two most prominent are Demarcus Cousins, of the Sacramento Kings, and Josh Smith, of the Atlanta Hawks. Although Smith isn't a center, if he could start at the four and KG at the five, the Celtics would have one of the most dominant and dangerous front courts that would undoubtedly catapult the team up the rebound rankings, and easily the conference rankings as well. The same can be said if Cousins starts at center and Rivers plays KG in his natural four. Both players will be hard bargains, but if any man can achieve this kind of trade it's Ainge, and to do so he should put any player on the table but five: Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
Rondo is possibly the best point guard in the NBA and will be the star of the show when Pierce and KG retire. Bradley is one of the toughest defenders and an expert at guarding the perimeter, he is also only in his third year. Sullinger has been one of the few bright spots in the Celtics' unimpressive season thus far. He has in the last ten games averaged 8.1 points and 7.9 points coming off the bench. On both ends of the floor he has demonstrated commendable tenacity, and as a rookie he will only get better. These three will form a solid core to build around in the next few years when the Celtics truly begin to rebuild.
Pierce and KG are off the table for slightly different, but equally legitimate reasons. Pierce has never played on another team, and it doesn't even seem that Ainge would have the ruthlessness to trade him away when he only has two or three years left in the league. Still, Pierce is the leading scorer for the Celtics with 18.7 per game, and now that forward Rudy Gay has been traded to the Raptors, there are no other high caliber small forwards on the market to exchange for Pierce. Garnett, meanwhile, has in his contract a no-trade clause, so regardless of Ainge's wishes, he's not going anywhere.
With Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa and seven-foot rookie Fab Melo, Ainge should be able to convince either Sacramento or Atlanta to trade for two or three of these above average players along with a few future draft picks. The Kings have a lackluster bench which could be greatly improved with several of these players. The Hawks starting shooting guard, Louis Williams also recently tore his ACL, and the team could be interested in either Courtney Lee or Jason Terry as a temporary replacement.
It won't be an easy task by any means, but the Celtics need to do something, and fast if they wish to see the playoffs this year.