The Boston Celtics are sliding further and further out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The chemistry and cohesion that kept them at the top of the NBA's food chain for the past four seasons has disintegrated in 2012.
Doc River's club appears disjointed, disgruntled and disinterested
However, help is out there if Boston wishes to pursue it. Although most analysts and critics have written the C's off their list of contenders, a major trade could potentially surge the Celtics back into the elite of the Eastern Conference.
Using 'ESPN's Trade Machine', which follows NBA trade rules, let's examine the five best possible trades to improve the Boston Celtics' chances of raising banner 18 in 2012.
Proposed Trade: Rajon Rondo & Brandon Bass (BOS) for Andrew Bynum (LAL)
This deal makes sense on several fronts. Most importantly, a swap of Rajon Rondo for Andrew Bynum identifies the weaknesses of each struggling franchise.
Boston needs size. Since trading Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City before the trade deadline last season, the Celtics failed to find an adequate replacement at the five-spot. Their current centers (Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox) combine for just ten points per game and Boston currently ranks dead last in rebounding.
Acquiring Bynum (16 ppg, 12.8 rpg) gives Boston a legitimate low post presence and a versatile center for the first time since Robert Parish.
As for the Lakers, Los Angeles desperately needs youth and quickness at the point guard position. Derek Fisher is averaging just five points per game and is shooting a career low (37 percent) from the field. With the addition of Rondo, the Lakers immediately boast one of the most dynamic and explosive back courts in the league.
Proposed Trade: Paul Pierce (BOS) for Josh Smith (ATL)
One day, Paul Pierce will be in the Hall of Fame. The same can't be said of Hawks forward Josh Smith.
Nevertheless, the Celtics (the fourth oldest team in the NBA) need to acquire youth, not legacy
Thus far this season, Josh Smith is averaging more rebounds (9.6), more blocks (2.1) and less turnovers (2.6) per game than Pierce and is shooting at a much higher percentage from the field. Most significantly, Smith is eight years younger than Pierce and is one of the most athletic players in the league.
For Atlanta, acquiring Paul Pierce adds an experienced and proven post season performer they need in order to avoid another early playoff exit.
Proposed Trade: Rajon Rondo for Monta Ellis (GSW)
The biggest problem facing the 2012 Boston Celtics is their inability to score.
As of March 1st, the Celtics were in the bottom five of the league in points per game.
On a related note, scoring has never been a problem for Warriors guard Monta Ellis. Ellis has finished in the top ten in scoring each of the past two seasons and is on pace to finish there again this season. He currently averages more points per game than any player on the Celtics roster and is averaging a career high in assists.
Rajon Rondo is a tremendous distributor. However, the talent surrounding Rondo no longer fits his skill sets. Rondo is an extremely athletic player who needs to play in a more uptempo offense. Those are the reasons why he would be a perfect fit playing in Golden State alongside Stephen Curry and David Lee.
A swap of Rondo for Ellis fits the bill as as a 'win-win.'
Proposed Trade: Ray Allen (BOS) for Derrick Favors & Raja Bell (UTH)
The all-time leader in three-pointers made is currently suffering through the worst season of his professional career. Ray Allen's per game averages in points and minutes are the lowest they've been since his rookie year in 1997. The Celtics are a perfect 4-0 without Allen this season (including back-to-back wins against Orlando) and just 7-8 since his return from injury.
With Favors, Boston gains size, youth and athleticism. Favors has not quite lived up to the hype that made him the third overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, but there is still tremendous upside, considering that the 6'10'' power forward is still just 20 years old.
Trading Allen gives Utah a veteran shooter to put alongside point guard Devin Harris as the upstart Jazz make moves to compete in the Western Conference. Utah's front court is crowded with size and talent as Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson continue their progress and subtract minutes from the younger Favors.
Proposed Trade: Rajon Rondo (BOS) for Steve Nash (PHX)
The argument against this deal, on behalf of the Celtics, is easy to make.
Nash is 38 years old, twelve years older than the Celtics current point guard. Rondo is still on the way up, where as Nash could be in steep decline soon.
However, the Canadian still averages nearly eleven assists per game, and unlike Rondo, he is a terrific perimeter shooter. And beyond the stats and the box score, Nash (now in his 16th NBA season) still makes his teammates better.
Furthermore, this deal allows the Celtics to rent Nash for the remainder of the 2012 season as they make a final push for a title with a veteran roster. Then at the end of this year, Boston can part ways from Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash, and invest in the upcoming free agent pool.
Surprisingly, a trade for the veteran point guard actually serves as the best deal to build for the future.