“We are not tanking, that’s ridiculous. This is the Boston Celtics” – Danny Ainge
When Pierce and KG were traded to the Nets (for picks and spare parts), it seemed inevitable that the Celtics were going to “tank” in the ‘13/’14 season. With a lopsided roster and their superstar point guard rehabilitating, it only made sense to perhaps mail it in this season in hopes of landing a high lottery pick in the deep 2014 draft. The Celtics were supposed to be sellers this season, looking to offload any of their veterans to teams that are playoff bound for picks/salary relief. With a quarter of the season done, the Celtics has been one of the biggest surprise teams in the league, currently sitting on top of the Titanic Atlantic division. With the way Brad Stevens has the Celtics currently playing, this poses a question for Danny Ainge during this season: are the Boston Celtics buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
After the horrid October/November schedule where the Celtics played a crazy 19 games (11 away) in 32 days with a first year NBA coach and without Rondo, they came out still standing at a surprising 7 wins and 12 losses. After the top 2 teams, the Eastern conference is in a steep nosedive – couple that with the surprising surge the Celtics are on as of late without their best player in Rondo and you have a team that may very well contend for a low playoff spot.
A low playoff seed is where the Celtics don’t want to end up as it means most likely getting bounced out of the first round by either Indiana or Miami, and getting a pick in the mid to late teens. Danny has never been a person to make a decision going on current form, every move is made solely for the betterment for the future of his team – he shook the foundation of the team to its core back in 2003 when he traded Antoine Walker fresh after the Celtics’ back to back playoff appearances. He was convinced that the current roster was not championship material, so he went about to acquire assets and rebuild. This roster is obviously not a championship contender, but, Ainge has a lot more pieces/assets to work with this time around.
There are a lot of teams that are looking for that one piece to give them a boost and the Celtics have a lot of players that fit that mould. This is where Danny can come in as a seller. Veterans such as a Brandon Bass, who is playing excellent basketball on a reasonable contract, would be a great pickup for many teams that are looking at either a starting or backup power forward, same could also be said about Courtney Lee at the shooting guard position. There is also the most attractive asset on this roster – Kris Humphries’ $12m expiring contract – Kris Humphries has stepped right up lately and shown the league that he is not just a walking contract, he can be a valuable contributor too.
Why would Danny look to move these guys? For vets like Bass and Lee, it could mean the following: freeing up court time to develop younger talent playing the same position, freeing up future cap room if we get a shorter deal in return, possibly land more draft picks to use or barter with or even getting back a younger player with potential upside. For vets like Kris Humphries and even Keith Bogans to a lesser extent, the lure of an expiring contract could bring back prospects or a draft pick from a team desperate to get out of a crippling contract. I haven’t bothered mentioning Gerald Wallace as it would be a miracle for us to shed his albatross of a contract without giving up anything major.
If the Eastern Conference continues to stink, at what point do teams start dismantling their roster in hopes of sinking into a top lottery pick? If Boston continues on their current upward trend whilst gaining Rondo back from injury, with all the chips they have, the Celtics could very well become buyers. There are a few teams where the Celtics could take advantage of their situation:
- A team that is underachieving and has a superstar that is coming up to free agency. Think New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony, or the Timberwolves with Kevin Love. If these teams are convinced that their star is going to leave them high and dry in free agency, they could look to move them proactively to get some compensation back for them – imagine the James Harden trade, where OKC did just that and sent him to Houston.
- A lowly team in the middle of the pack looking to blow it up and start from scratch. We have already seen Toronto do this by trading Rudy Gay and making everyone except for Jonas Valančiūnas available, the Bucks or even the Hawks could be another team looking to blow it up and start from scratch.
- Borderline contenders with assets looking for immediate help. A team like Houston, for example, who have a big asset such as Omar Asik who they can offload for the correct package could help both us and them.
Danny Ainge has done an excellent job in gaining a number of assets, which gives him the flexibility of going many different ways. Whether it is buying or selling, I am certain that he will be extremely patient, and will wait for exactly the right package/players that he wants.
Ultimately, I think Danny sticks with the current roster for the most part – and looks to offload some of the veterans not in the future plans for some financial relief or lower draft picks. Having said that, with Danny Ainge you can never say never – if the right superstar is made available for the right price, expect Danny to be all over it.
What do you think Boston should do this year? Buy, or sell?