Now that the All-Star break has passed, the Boston Celtics have some decisions to make about the direction of their franchise. Will Danny Ainge make a move(s) this season to make the Celtics a playoff contender, or will he build for the future?
Building for the future can mean two things: stand pat and let the veteran contracts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen expire, or move one of these guys, Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce, etc. for a younger, yet comparably skilled player(s).
So, the first decision for the Boston brass is to decide which direction they want to head in, and then decide which players are a part of the team’s long-term plans.
The decision won’t be an easy one for Danny Ainge, and there is a huge amount of risk involved, this season in particular, in making a deal.
Do you risk going after Dwight Howard next season and keeping the Big Four intact? Is Rajon Rondo worth moving for a scoring point guard? Is Pau Gasol’s monster contract worth adding?
There is just a little over two weeks to go before a decision must be made. Here are some scenarios that make sense for the team.
Before we get to the fun stuff, here are some notes to keep in mind. The Celtics have between four and seven players under contract next season. Brandon Bass has a player option, and E’Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma’s deals aren’t guaranteed.
The Celtics will have anywhere from $30-36 million committed to the salary cap, which would allow them to go out and sign two players to large, near-max contracts, if the salary cap hovers around the same number ($58mm) next season.
The Celtics also have two first-round picks in the draft, assuming the Clippers don’t relocate from Lob City to Blob City (top-10 protected), so Ainge does have some leverage in making deals before the deadline.
Kevin Martin has been struggling with his playing time in Houston, and the Rockets have the ability to go hard after the top free agents next season, so acquiring Allen’s expiring deal for Martin (signed through next season at $12 million) makes sense for both teams.
Both players have fairly similar games, so the learning curve in Boston wouldn’t be too difficult for the other K-Mart.
Martin gives the Celtics a dominant 2-guard for another season, and could help the team bring in one top-tier free agent.
This one is probably a little far-fetched. It only works if the Warriors are looking for cap space next season, since Ellis is reasonably priced for two-plus more years. Even so, they’d probably want something more than just an expiring contract in return for him.
But, if Golden State is just looking for cap space, Boston can send Ray and a first-round draft pick to the Warriors for Monta Ellis. Throw in JaJuan Johnson too if you think that would help.
Ellis has the ability to play point or 2-guard, so he’d fit in with the Celtics and play heavy minutes, and he would give the Celtics a cornerstone type player.
Again, this isn’t a likely scenario, but Ainge would be lauded if he could land the talented Ellis.
I’m not a fan of this deal, so no comment, but if you are, it’s a possibility from a financial perspective.
Trading Jermaine O’Neal would help the Celtics land a legitimate backup center who is reasonably-priced over the next couple of seasons. He can finish out this year as a starter and would provide the same production O’Neal does.
Andersen isn’t the same player he was a few years back, but would still help a Celtics team that may have difficulty enticing big men to come to Boston in the offseason.
Obviously this trade doesn’t have the wow factor of some others, but it’s a deal Boston could make in order to acquire a decent young player.
Farmar is solid, but has been overshadowed by MarShon Brooks this season, and has yet to reach his full potential. The key is that he is only 25, so he can still improve.
Farmar may not wow you, but he’s averaging 10.5 ppg and 3.3 apg while only playing 21.6 mpg this season. If he were playing Ray-like minutes, he’d be producing the same as Boston’s current shooting guard is.
Petro is a toss-in, but he’s a legitimate backup center. He also has to be added to make the financials of the deal work.
This isn’t a terribly attractive deal on paper, but Danny Ainge could move Rondo to Orlando for Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson.
Orlando is already pressed with the fact that Dwight Howard may be headed out of town, so they need to make something happen in order to try and retain him for the long term.
With Anderson, the Celtics could become more flexible by adding a terrific outside shooter. KG would slide to center with Anderson running at power forward.
Nelson has two years left on his deal, so while that probably doesn’t make this trade likely, maybe adding a future first-round pick would be enough for Danny to pull the trigger.
The question is whether or not this deal makes the Celtics any better. It’s a tossup.
If Toronto would be willing to trade Amir Johnson, and he can play center, the Celtics would be wise to acquire the athletic big man.
Toronto has Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani and eventually Jonas Valanciunas, so Johnson could become expendable.
The Celtics need durability and rebounding up front, so adding Johnson’s contract could help them during their playoff run.
The financials don’t add up, so Boston will not be pursuing Chris Kaman. They’d have to trade Ray, Kevin, Rondo or Pierce—moves that would contradict a “win-now” attitude that acquiring Kamen would suggest.
This scenario is just as plausible as making a deal. In not dealing anyone, Danny Ainge would be banking on the Celtics’ playoff experience to propel them deep into the playoffs.
Not trading anyone also allows the team to target the big free-agent names during the offseason.
The problem is that by not making any deals, the Celtics have to live or die with their current squad, and judging by the results thus far, it’s not a viable option.
So again, it could happen, but Ainge probably shouldn’t just bank on the current roster to secure another championship for Boston.