Could Pierce (left) and Gay (right) be swapping places soon?
The Boston Celtics have been linked as a possible landing spot for the Memphis Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay. However, such a move would be a significant step in the wrong direction for a team currently playing its best basketball of the season.
Throw Paul Pierce in as trade bait, and all of a sudden, the possibility of a catastrophic backlash from the Celtics fanbase lingers on the horizon.
Welcome to the life of GM Danny Ainge.
It all began when Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported that the Grizzlies were beginning to shop around Gay.
It makes sense. Memphis is about $4 million over the league’s $70.3 million luxury tax line. With a whopping $58.5 million tied up with just Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, trading away one of them is likely their best possible solution.
Boston was thrown into the mix shortly soon after, when Rondo reportedly told his close friend, Gay, “we need you over here.”
But who in green would be sacrificed in order to make Rondo’s wish a reality?
Before anyone could answer, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger broke the news that Ainge was considering parting ways with Pierce. Thus, bringing an end to the Big Three era for good.
Now, the collective belief around the league is that the two teams are considering a straight-up swap of Gay for Pierce.
As you can see, the logistics work out. Both have similar salaries, so there probably would not be an issue on that front.
However, basketball-wise, does such a move really make sense for the Celtics? Would the team be better off?
Absolutely not, and Ainge would be a fool to think otherwise.
Age is Just a Number
Player X is averaging 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 36.4 minutes per game. He is also shooting 41.4 percent from the floor and 31.2 percent from three-point range. Player X also holds a PER of 15.00.
Player Y is averaging 19.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in 33.2 minutes per game. He is also shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from three-point range. Player Y also holds a PER of 20.33.
Do you know which player is Pierce and which player is Gay? Which player is 35 years old and which player is 26?
If you guessed Y, you are correct.
Given his age, Pierce has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s actually putting together one of his best seasons in four years.
If anything, Pierce has only gotten better as the season has progressed.
Over his last five games, the 14-year veteran has averaged 18.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in just 29.2 minutes a night. Pierce also connected on 47.2 percent of his attempts from the field, as well as 40.0 percent from beyond the arc during that span.
Furthermore, he’s scored 23 or more points in three of his previous four games, including a masterful performance against the New York Knicks on Jan. 7.
With Rondo sidelined due to suspension, Pierce led Boston to a season-defining 102-96 victory over their Atlantic Division foes.
In 28 minutes, Pierce scorched the Knicks for 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also led the team with six assists.
But his play in the fourth quarter—eight points on four-of-eight shooting—is what stood out the most.
Time after time, Pierce delivered a big bucket when the Celtics needed it. He showed off the energy, the drive and the finishing touch that has been a trademark of many great performances throughout his career.
He capped it off with a beautiful fadeaway jump shot with 45 seconds remaining.
It’s just the latest addition to his ever-growing scrapbook of game-winners.
Not only is Pierce proving he can still play, but he’s also proving that he’s an integral part to any success Boston hopes to accomplish this season.
That has not been any more clearer than it has been during this five-game winning streak.
Lurking In the Shadows
Now, let’s introduce Player Z.
Player Z has per 36-minute averages of 15.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He also shoots 42.1 percent from the floor and 32.1 percent from downtown.
That player is Boston reserve Jeff Green.
If you really think about it, Green has more in common with Gay than Pierce does. Green also happens to be 26 years old.
So why should the Celtics trade away their captain for essentially the same player they have sitting on their bench?
It doesn’t make sense.
Boston will be fine relying on Green. He’s more than displayed that he has the potential to become a productive small forward in this league.
But don’t be fooled by Green’s pedestrian season averages—9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. When he’s been rewarded with prolonged minutes on the court, he’s made them count.
Green has played 27 minutes or more in 11 games this season. In those games, he’s averaged 14.2 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting. Green has looked confident and been far more aggressive on the floor in those appearances as well.
And when he scores, the team thrives. Boston is 8-3 when Green scores 15 or more points.
He’s also proven to be a tremendous asset on the defensive side of the ball.
According to Synergy Sports data, Green is only allowing 0.721 points per play this season. Not only does that rank him in the 91st percentile among all players, but it also has him ranked ninth overall.
Overall, he allows the Celtics to rest easy knowing that whenever Pierce is ready to hand off the baton, they have a more-than-worthy candidate in Green to replace him.
Summing It All Up
Boston is currently clicking on all cylinders and the team has shown no signs that it plans on slowing down anytime soon.
The Celtics are playing like a team that believes it has a very realistic shot at contending for the NBA title.
So why rock the boat now?
Would you trade Pierce for Gay?
All that would do is ultimately throw a wet blanket over the progress the team has made. Boston’s chemistry would be lost and the fans would likely turn.
It seems Ainge himself knows all of this, stating recently that he sees no need to make any significant moves in the near future.
So relax, all of these rumors are just a bunch of fabricated lies and players grasping at straws.
Maybe Rondo should start worrying less about whom he wants next to him on the court and instead focus on making sure he remains on it by reshaping his attitude.
I’d be all for that.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of January 13, 2013.
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