By and large, I’ve actually enjoyed this season.
Yes the Boston Celtics are sitting at 18-34, good enough (bad enough?) for the 6th worst record in the NBA. Yes, they’re only scoring 95.0 ppg, 25th overall. Yes, Gerald Wallace concurrently leads the league in “Most Minutes Sitting On Bench Staring Glumly into Nothingness” and tied for “Most Inappropriate Sniping of Team In Post-Game Interviews” (though Carlos Boozer could make a late-season surge). Yes, there still isn’t a buddy cop comedy made about Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani titled “El Hombre and Sunshine” (I am FURIOUS about this).
But it’s alright. Because this season has strangely been a season-long win-win for Celtics fans. The team isn’t winning? Good, they’re plunging towards one of the deepest lotteries in years. The team is winning? Awesome, it proves that there are pieces worth keeping and that Brad Stevens is a miracle man.
I’ve been going through this season with some kind of unfaze-able zen. I’m never outraged or overjoyed, just pleasantly surprised every once in a while. I imagine for most Celtics fans, it’s been an overwhelmingly calm and collected year.
But no more. Chaos reigns.
That’s right. It’s deadline time.
It’s an understatement to say that anything can happen in the next days; indeed, the biggest surprise would be if nothing happened.
Danny Ainge has been waiting patiently for this week to come around. Yes, he’s already dealt Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, and Marshon Brooks, collecting assets and shedding salary. But that’s just the appetizer to what be one helluva entrée.
In reverse order, here’s who’s most likely to be traded.
Actually Can’t Be Traded
Joel Anthony, Jerryd Bayles, Chris Johnson
Neither Bayless nor Anthony satisfy the two month requirement to be traded after being brought in in January. It’s probably for the best, as, supposing Anthony doesn’t enact his player option, both are expiring contracts. Chris Johnson was just signed to a three-year deal last Friday, and has been one of the silver linings of this team.
Not Going Anywhere
Kelly Olynyk, Vitor Faverani
Cheap, young big men. Lovable foreigners. They should either move into an apartment together a la Bosom Buddies, or dominate the Men’s Doubles Volleyball circuit. They ain’t goin nowhere.
Is there a more beloved Celtic right now? The 6’9 Sully is averaging 20.5 ppg and 12.5 rpg in February, and seems to have a good relationship with Brad Stevens, and, more importantly, with Rajon Rondo.
Count me in the camp that Rajon Rondo absolutely shouldn’t be traded. He’s looked great as he’s acclimated back from injury. He’s gelled quite well with both his teammates and Stevens. And elite point guards don’t grow on trees.
But….there’s still a chance. Ainge is demanding either a stud prospect or certified superstar in return for Rondo, and some team might be desperate enough to pull the trigger (Joe Dumars fighting for his job maybe….?). It’d take a helluva offer, but it’s still possible.
Poor Phil Pressey. The Mizzou grad has had a tough time in big minutes for the Celtics, but is a hard worker, more than happy to play distributor for the bench mob. But if the money on a deal is a bit short, Pressey’s 490k contract will be used to even things out.
The Unhappy One
I rag on Wallace a lot, perhaps unfairly. He’s in a tough position: traded to a team he didn’t want to go to, made to ride the pine, and is now getting to the age where he really wants a ring. So why hasn’t he been traded? Because his contract is unsightly (3yrs, 30mil), the worst in the NBA when you throw in his contributions on the court. Wallace has all but demanded a trade, and a contender might value his scrappy play, but only if he’s attached to a young, cheap(er) talent.
The Iffy One
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what will/could happen with Bradley. He’s unquestionably a good piece for any team to have, even if he’s really just an ace third guard. It really depends on whether the Celtics would commit to re-signing him (his contract is up), or if they’ll deal him now for another young talent/draft pick. He’s also a prime candidate to be matched up with Wallace or…
I’m actually really sad we didn’t get to see more of Bogans. The 33-year old was dismissed for the foreseeable future by the team, after appearing in only 6 games, but he’s by all accounts a hard-working veteran that could still contribute to some team. Like Pressey, Bogans could be used to round out the money, but his contract is much more sizeable ($5mil.).
And Now the Final Three
I like Jeff Green a lot. When he decides to take over a game he can be unstoppable, and his contract isn’t nearly as unwieldy as some have made it out to be. But he has no business being any team’s No. 1 scoring option. 16.3 ppg is impressive. A .418/.367/.770 line is less so. But you can’t tell me some team wouldn’t give up expiring contracts/draft picks for Green’s services knowing that he could flourish if he doesn’t have to be the star. His extreme athleticism could be put to good use, and if the right contender found him, could be a valuable asset in the playoffs.
If Sully is the “Most Beloved”, and Gerald Wallace is the “Most Cranky”, then Kris Humphries is the “Most Pleasant Surprise.” The Ex-Mr. Kardashian has been all energy: grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, throwing down dunks, even in a limited role. His $12mil expiring deal is enticing, and he could be a valuable asset to a playoff team. I like Humph a lot, (and it seems he really wants to stay with the Celtics) but there’s a good chance he’s gone.
And now, the definitely going to be traded…Brandon Bass. The 28-year old is a veteran big man, who’s been displaced by Sully’s prowess and the team’s commitment to Olynyk, but who’s mid-range jumper and feistiness on the boards could be a boon as a third big man to a playoff contender. His contract is wildly palatable ($6.5 mil), and has already been declared by sources as the most talked-about Celtic.
But what are the Celtics looking for?
- Draft picks. Preferably in the next two years.
- Expiring contracts. In order to free up space this summer, and, especially, next summer.
- Cheap, young talent.
The great rebuild! Ainge is cashing in his veteran talent for more assets. No GM is better poised for remaking his team than Danny Ainge, and the deadline is the final step before draft day.
My Three Favorite Trade Machine Masterpieces
- Brandon Bass to Charlotte Bobcats for Ramon Sessions + Portland’s 2014 1st Round Pick
This is a bit of a long shot, but is a huge win-win. The Bobcats seem intent on making a real playoff push, and they desperately need big men to play next to Al Jefferson (Josh McRoberts is playing 30.2 mpg for chrissakes). Ramon Sessions’ $5mil expiring contract would help the Celtics flexibility this summer, and the Portland 1st rounder, while almost certainly in the late 20s, could be paired with the Celtics pick from the Hawks/Nets to move up into the teens should they wish to do so.
2. Kris Humphries, Phil Pressey to Phoenix Suns for Emeka Okafor + Indiana’s 1st Round Pick
Phoenix would obviously only consider this if they decide Pau Gasol isn’t the way to go. Phoenix is reportedly in the hunt for a superstar, but they could just as easily look to make a playoff run while holding onto their better picks, playing more for next year. Kris Humphries is obviously an expiring contract, but I think may be open to re-signing with Phoenix (another young up-and-coming player’s coach in Jeff Hornacek, young stud guards), and would add another high-energy big man to put next to Mason Plumlee and the Morris twins. Basically they’re swapping expiring contracts, but this one can help them now.
But I love the Celtics haul in this for three reasons. One, they get another first draft pick that, like the Portland one above, wouldn’t be valuable on its own but could be packaged elsewhere. Two, Okafor’s deal is an expiring contract (with possible insurance relief as well). Three, if he feels well enough, I’d want Okafor on the bench in plainclothes. He’s been a great locker room presence, and could be an invaluable asset in helping Olynyk, Sully, and Faverani mature.
3. Jeff Green to Atlanta Hawks for DeMarre Carroll, Elton Brand, and Atlanta’s 2nd Round Pick
This isn’t my favorite Jeff Green potential trade (I much prefer sending him to Washington), but it’s the most heavily rumored, so whatever. Atlanta seems desperate for another scoring option, as the season-ending injury to Al Horford has left Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague shouldering much of the load. DeMarre Carroll has been playing exceptionally well and would be a superb backup option should the Celtics draft/sign a small forward in the offseason. Elton Brand is an expiring contract, and could be a healthy vet presence for the Celtics young bigs. And the 2nd round pick would sweeten the pot (I asked my friend, a Hawks fan, if they’d give up their 1st. He laughed). It’s not a great haul, but it might be the best the Celtics can ever get for Green.
My biggest regret is that I couldn’t find a place for Gerald Wallace…
So that’s that. The next week and a half will almost certainly be anxiety-inducing, exciting, jubilant, terrifying, and wonderful. But we shall all hunker down in our Deadline Day Bunker and re-emerge to see what the team looks like the morning after. Who knows, by the time this article is published, it might be made irrelevant by a deal already made.
This is not a time meant to set up the rest of the season. This is the time Danny Ainge and co. will be determining the Celtics’ future.
May the basketball gods watch over us, and smile.