In light of their financial situation, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the Grizzlies are still open to moving the oft-rumored Rudy Gay. Berger also notes that Rajon Rondo's torn ACL may be the push the Celtics need to finally move a career-long Bostonian in Paul Pierce.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
So it’s premature, to me, to throw [Paul] Pierce’s name up there with Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol on the list of high-profile names available this trade season, even though we’ve heard more than one rival team speculate — given that the Celtics and Grizzlies, sources say, have indeed held some exploratory trade talks since Gay hit the market — that a three-way deal where Pierce lands in Memphis, Gasol goes to Boston and Gay joins the Lakers makes “some sense.”
Stein's sources are correct, this trade makes sense—if the Grizzlies and Celtics cut out the middle man in the Lakers.
Though Stein also reports: Memphis is reluctant to take on Pierce in fear of his distaste for playing for a small market, and Boston is wary of taking on Gay's contract. A straight up swap doesn't just make sense, it's an ideal accord for both teams.
Grizz, I'm told, highly unlikely to pursue Pierce. Fear No. 1: How happy would Pierce be trading Boston for Memphis? They can guess answer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
Celts, meantime, have shown exploratory interest in Gay but they're $1.3M over tax line. Adding long-term money at this juncture? Unlikely— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 28, 2013
For the Grizzlies, it's simple. Trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to the Cleveland Cavaliers put them more than $4 million under the NBA's luxury tax line. Yet that's not exactly what you would call a lot of breathing room. Not when they still have nearly $68 million committed in salary next season—not including the contract they need to offer unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Tony Allen.
Even after the salary dump, Gay's pay scale isn't exactly conducive with Memphis' financial state. He's owed $34.3 million between now and the end of next season, and if he exercises his player option for 2014-15, he'll earn a grand total of roughly $53.6 million over the next three years. Thus, holding onto him now may very well just be prolonging the inevitable for the Grizzlies.
The small forward is actually owed about $32 million over the next two years, but only $4 million of his $15.3 million salary is guaranteed next season. Dealing for the 10-time All-Star would then not only keep the Grizzlies relevant this season, but provide them with some flexibility next year. The fact that Pierce is averaging more points per game (18.7) and shooting a better percentage from the floor (41.5) is merely a bonus.
Although, it's easy to understand Memphis' trepidation in the matter. The Grizzlies don't need Pierce to be beyond ecstatic about moving to a diminutive market, because they can part ways as soon as next season. Pierce's expiring/only partially guaranteed contract will be a valuable trade chip during the 2013-14 campaign. Gay's boisterous bill will not.
But what about the Celtics?
Well, Gay's salary is bound to play a part in their decision-making process, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker.
As head coach Doc Rivers noted (via Berger), he's not writing these Celtics off just yet. That doesn't mean Boston won't pull the trigger on a deal that improves its future. Gay does that.
Not only is Rondo a known endorser of the star forward, but Gay makes far more sense than most of the personnel the Celtics currently have surrounding the point man. Rondo is no longer going to be a factor this season, but he remains Boston's building block for the future, and it's high time the team gave him some faster-pace comrades to run with.
Remember, Rondo first instinct is to push the ball, yet he plays on a team that (per teamrankings.com) is 13th is fast-break points scored per game with 13.4. That the Celtics are ranked 21st in possessions per 48 minutes (91.1) is also of concern.
Like Pierce, Gay can create his own shot. Unlike Pierce, he's 26, attacks the rim and is a dangerous weapon to have in a team's transition arsenal. He's also capable of assuming the same caliber of scoring responsibility as Pierce.
Boston added Courtney Lee and Jason Terry and re-signed Brandon Bass in the hopes that they could run with Rondo step-for-step. But it hasn't happened. Bass' mobility has failed him this season, Terry is finally showing his age and Lee has been a disaster.
Let's not pretend that Gay won't help keep Boston competitive in the interim either. He is just as potent a scorer (albeit slightly less efficient) as Pierce, and he's a better defender. He's holding opposing forwards to a combined PER of 18 per 48 minutes, while Pierce allows them to post a 20.8.
Does a Paul Pierce for Rudy Gay swap make sense for the Celtics and Grizzlies?
Of course, dealing Pierce in favor of anyone isn't going to be easy. He's spent nearly 15 years as member of the Celtics. But at 35 and enthralled at the prospect of exploring free agency in 2014, he's not the future of this team—Rondo is.
And Gay suits the play stylings of Rondo more than Pierce does. He gives Boston a second young star to build around and allows the team to re-structure while remaining competitive. Not many talents like this can be had.
Nor can are there many deals that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
So, while both teams are fixated on the risk at hand, the Celtics and Grizzlies must also remember that such an endeavor also has the potential to pay gargantuan-sized dividends.
They must remember that the incoming player stands to strengthen the outlook of their future more than outgoing one ever will.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.