Ranking the Celtics' Most Expendable Trade Chips Heading into NBA Trade Deadline

Michael Pina@@MichaelVPinaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2013

Nov 9, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9), power forward Kevin Garnett (5), shooting guard Jason Terry (center back), small forward Paul Pierce (34) and shooting guard Courtney Lee (11) take the floor against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at TD Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA's trade deadline is February 21. As it nears, the Boston Celtics are a team as likely as any to strike some sort of deal to improve their short-term shot at a title. Boston's current roster is full of flexible contracts that double as useful and talented players. Almost all of them could be moved. 

Here's a rundown of all the nine players in Boston's regular rotation who could be dealt, ranked from least to most likely. (Note: Fab Melo, Chris Wilcox, Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins could easily be traded, but they don't carry enough weight—both with salary and on-court production—to be the focal point of any deal. Therefore, they aren't included here.) 

The All-Star Starters

9. Kevin Garnett

8. Rajon Rondo

These guys aren't going anywhere. Kevin Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract and embodies the team's entire defensive personality. Therefore, the probability of him getting traded before the deadline is roughly zero in 10 trillion.

The odds of Boston trading Rajon Rondo are about the same unless an exchange involved Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving. He's arguably the best point guard in basketball, leads the league in assists and is the only Celtic for whom the Miami Heat have no answer.

Rondo's contract is one of the most team-friendly deals in the league, only adding to Boston's unwillingness to include him in any sort of trade. As already stated: These two aren't going anywhere.

The Major X-factor

7. Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce is owed $16.7 million this year and has a $15.3 million player option in 2013-14. Only $4 million of next year's money is guaranteed, however, making him extremely attractive to general managers around the league who are looking to add an All-Star candidate with championship experience and the ability to carry a good team's offense for quarters at a time. 

But it'd be nearly impossible to bring back a player of equal value who wouldn't disrupt Boston's tight chemistry. Pierce isn't the best small forward in the league, but he might be the best for this Celtics team.

Good Luck Finding a Partner

6. Jeff Green

Jeff Green's contact is...well, it's awful. Whoever acquires him would be required to pay a 26-year-old forward with a stagnant PER that barely hits double digits an approximate average of $9.2 million for the next three years. That's not attractive.

So why could he be traded? Green's athleticism is nearly elite. He can post up small forwards and blow by power forwards. As a Celtic, he's finally showing a consistent aggressiveness attacking the rim, and his overall technical skill set might still create a mirage to general managers around the league who salivate over someone his size who is able to move the way he does. 

In the end, Green's contextual value on Boston is different than it would be for almost every other team in the league. Boston needs a capable two-way player to afford Paul Pierce a decent nightly rest, and Green does that.

His contract is bad, but that doesn't mean the Celtics are looking to get rid of it just to create cap flexibility. They knew what they were doing when they signed him, and for the most part, they're getting what they expected.

The Valuable Assets

5. Avery Bradley

4. Jared Sullinger

Even though there's a good chance neither player's value grows higher than it currently is, the timing probably isn't right to deal either one before this year's trade deadline.

These two are the most valuable young assets Danny Ainge has had to play with since Rondo—Jared Sullinger serving as a potential elite offensive rebounder, and Avery Bradley already residing as the league's most dangerous on-ball defender—and any deal involving either one that didn't bring in an all-star-caliber player would be a major mistake.

Think something like Brandon Bass, Bradley and a first-round pick for Paul Millsap.

The First To Go 

3. Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass' contract is somewhat manageable (two years and $13.3 million left after this season), and it isn't outside the realm of possibility for Ainge to flip him in a straight-up deal similar to the one that brought him to Boston for Glen Davis (in this case, sacrificing Bass' jumper for a taller, better rebounder), or as previously mentioned, pairing him with a younger asset or draft pick.

Due to the length of his contract and the fact that his skill set doesn't fit in with most NBA offenses, opposing general managers probably aren't waking Ainge up in the middle of the night with a trade proposal. Nevertheless, given his below average defense and rebounding ability, it shouldn't be a surprise if Ainge is the one frantically making the calls.  

2. Jason Terry

1. Courtney Lee

Despite Courtney Lee usurping much of Jason Terry's playing time as the first guard off the bench since Bradley returned, these two are about a wash when it comes to choosing who is more likely to be dealt. But taking into account Terry's age and defensive inability, his value is far lower on the open market, which is why he comes in at second.

If the Celtics are willing to upgrade their front line, it's unlikely Terry is enough to make it happen. He's guaranteed $10.6 million through the next two seasons—at which point he'll be 37 years old, in his 15th season and even worse on defense than he is today. 

Lee has an extra year and $5.7 million left on his deal, but at any point in the future the Celtics could move him if they were desperate for a salary dump (Terry's deal is harder to shake).

He's a versatile, athletic defender who's capable of stretching the floor with a reliable (except for this season) three-point shot. Most teams in the league would gladly take him, and if they have someone good enough to exchange, Lee could be as good as gone. 

Salary and statistical information from this article were taken from Basketball-Reference.com. 


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