The problem with all of the trade rumors surrounding the post-Rondo Boston Celtics is that they are, for the most part, conceived on two different premises:
- All-Star X should be traded for Role Player Y because it works well for the Celtics (Boston fans view).
- The Celtics are screwed and everybody on the roster is available. Garage sale time. Pick up any junk you might find useful and offer minimal returns (Opposing fans view).
Both views are equally flawed. Either you are a Celtics fan (likely the case for you personally since you are reading this post) and you overvalue the players because you like them (very understandable), or you aren’t a fan, like any fan of the Heat/Lakers/Knicks/Nets/Hawks/Magic/Cavaliers/any other team who feels personally wronged by the KG-era C’s, and you dislike them strongly (and thus undervalue the players).
Hand-in-hand with this dislike frequently comes a mentality that every player on the Celtics is, as previously mentioned, junk at a garage sale. Non-Celtics fans often assume, for example, that since Paul Pierce is on the decline (and he is clearly on the decline), we are ready to see him dealt for next to nothing. And that’s not true. Where opposing fans see an aging, battered veteran with next to no footspeed and a weird-looking jumpshot, we see PAUL PIERCE. We see the man who resurrected himself and came jogging back in Game 1 (and you can piss off with your worn-out wheelchair jokes). We see the man who lay on the ground and pumped his fist wildly after grabbing a jumpball and putting away LeBron James and the Cavs. Where you see junk at a garage sale, we see just about every good memory of the past decade. So pardon us if we are a little offended by your offer of Darren Collison (or some such nonsense) and a second-round pick.
ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, it’s not unreasonable (in fact, it’s probably very reasonable) to assume that the Celtics will make several roster moves, whether those moves set down the dynamite and light a match, or whether those moves reload the roster one last time. Don’t rule either possibility out: By keeping Pierce, KG and Rondo around (and trying to keep Allen around last summer), Ainge has shown more sentimentality than most C’s fans are probably ready to give him credit for.
But moves are almost certainly coming. And if the decision makers decide to blow the team up, one of the players most likely to move is, unfortunately, Paul Pierce. Pierce is no longer able to handle the role of a primary offensive weapon, but he can still be very dangerous as a supplemental scorer and, unlike KG, he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Plenty of teams would see value in him, although not the value Celtics fans see, to be sure.
Discussing any Pierce deal is immediately an emotionally fraught issue, so we are lucky that one of the best, most rational basketball writers on the web also happens to be a Celtics fan. Zach Lowe has a rather spectacular breakdown over at Grantland.com of the various trade possibilities Boston might consider in exchange for the Truth:
What deals for Pierce might be realistic, given that Boston under new cap rules can add only about $2.4 million in salary? Ainge’s first target will be either a blue-chip guy on a rookie contract or a good first-round pick. He’s not getting both, and getting just one will likely require Boston taking something unpalatable back — and/or sending out one of the Avery Bradley–Jared Sullinger pair.
Some of the better centerpieces (for Boston) in the packages Lowe mentions:
- Either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes (and Richard Jefferson’s unpleasant contract) in exchange for Pierce.
- Eric Bledsoe (and parts) in exchange for Pierce (Lowe points out that contractually, this will be very difficult to swing).
- Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon for Pierce and Bass.
- Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry for Pierce and Bass.
The last two deals don’t sound particularly appealing because Andrea Bargnani’s contract is perhaps the only deal more loathed around the NBA than Jeff Green’s. But Lowe brings up a few interesting points about Bargs. For example: The Celtics do not have a power forward who can stretch to the 3-point line, a skill which Rondo, upon his return, would find very useful. It might also be useful for Jason Terry. From Lowe once again:
One reason Terry has attempted so few shots via the pick-and-roll this season is that he doesn’t have Nowitzki as a partner; opponents fear Nowitzki’s jumper so deeply, they have their big men stay attached to him on pick-and-rolls, opening a lane for Dallas guards.
As for Calderon and Lowry, the obvious preference would be the latter, a borderline All-Star point guard who also happens to be very efficient. But Calderon is a very serviceable player, and Celtics fans would probably be surprised how much the lane opens up with a point guard who regularly takes open jumpers.
We all love Pierce, and we would all love to see him retire a Celtic. As such these deals are all painful. In fact, the most likely one (Toronto, according to both Zach Lowe and Marc Stein) is also probably my personal least favorite because if Ainge decides that Pierce has to be traded, I would prefer it be to a contender so we can cheer him from a distance deep into the playoffs. But all of the deals make a certain amount of sense practically.
Whether or not any of the deals make sense emotionally (answer: They don’t and this whole situation is completely fubar’d and depressing) is a different topic for a different day.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.