The One Trade Boston Celtics Must Consider Making This Offseason

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The One Trade Boston Celtics Must Consider Making This Offseason
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Could Paul Pierce be out? Is Kevin Love coming aboard?

It's not even summer yet, and the Boston Celtics have already had a doozy of a year with trade rumors. Surprisingly, most of them have centered around the Los Angeles Clippers and two of Boston's “Big Three.”

First, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski had Kevin Garnett departing in a February deadline exchange for guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan. That fell through. Then, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith started a frenzy over an alleged blockbuster involving Garnett, captain Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers for Blake Griffin, Bledsoe and Caron Butler. That fizzled (after Twitter nearly crashed).

Now, many sources feel Paul Pierce could be the newest chip in a Clippers deal, for the original pieces Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sought. If he can get Bledsoe and Jordan, Ainge should absolutely make it happen.

Celtics fans will grapple with the truth here, arguing that it's not the best move for the team and that management has some sort of obligation to be loyal to Boston's 15-year veteran. But the old adage remains that this is a business, and the object of the business is to win.

For both the Clippers and the Celtics, swapping Pierce (and even Avery Bradley) for Bledsoe and Jordan improves their chances of winning.

Pierce brings an immediate veteran presence, as well as the ability to score against almost any shooting guards or small forwards in the game. Bledsoe offers dual-guard versatility and great athleticism, and Jordan (6'11”, 265 pounds) provides the size down low Boston has lacked since Kendrick Perkins' departure.

Based on names alone, it may seem a bit far-fetched to the blind eye. But Pierce isn't what he used to be—he struggled down the stretch as the go-to guy, and his Game 6 woes largely contributed to the Celtics' elimination at the hands of the New York Knicks.

USA TODAY Sports
Pierce could propel the Clippers to elite status. Jordan and Bledsoe would be even better for Boston.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles would embrace the idea of grabbing him as their second or third scoring option. Alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler and former teammate Chauncey Billups, he could push them to the elite level in the west. He would basically be reunited with his hometown (“Truth” hails from Inglewood, CA), but not for the enemy Lakers.

Not to mention, as NESN's Ben Watanabe explained recently, it would work out financially.

The pertinent detail is that Pierce’s contract would allow a team that trades for him to eliminate at least $15 million in salary for just $5 million. That is a swap most NBA executives would have to give some thought.

This would work under a provision of the newest collective bargaining agreement, which lets both teams prosper despite dealing with large contracts. Watanabe explains more thoroughly:

Think about it. As a taxpaying team, the Celtics could trade away Pierce’s $15.3 million and get back an amount equal to 125 percent of his outgoing salary, plus $100,000, under the CBA. (They would not be able to actually add the full $19.2 million, based on my math, because that would put them over the $74.3 million luxury tax “apron” at which they are hard-capped as a result of using the mid-level exception on Jason Terry.) The Celtics have 10 players under contract for next season, not counting Pierce or draft picks, which means they can acquire up to five players for roughly Pierce’s $15 million. The team that acquires Pierce, provided it does so before June 30, can turn around and buy him out for $5 million.

A bit confusing, yes, but downright impossible not to consider if you're either side. And it can be argued that Danny Ainge would net more long-term value based on age, athleticism and team needs.

The two glaring holes in the Celtics' lineup this season (and especially this postseason) were at point guard and big man. After Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa went down with torn ACLs, the Green were left with Bradley at the point.

Rookie Jared Sullinger's season-ending back surgery didn't help—he forced 36-year-old Garnett and Brandon “Sir Struggles-a-lot” Bass to shoulder the load on the interior.

DeAndre Jordan should have Celtics fans and ownership alike salivating. For starters, he's coming off a year in which he averaged 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks as a relative non-option in under 25 minutes per game. He has a ridiculous wingspan, and he finishes with authority. Oh, and he's a lefty—who doesn't love a left-handed big man?

Jordan has shown some weaknesses with his moves in the post, and he often struggles to put the ball on the floor. However, in a Rajon Rondo offense, beside Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Eric Bledsoe and potentially Garnett and Bradley, how can you not get giddy over this 24-year-old?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Ainge wouldn't just get production-- he'd get hugs!

Bledsoe, who joined Jordan, Griffin and Paul as the four Clippers with player efficiency ratings over 17 this season, offers an intriguing skill set. Highlighting that list is his quickness, athleticism and solid backcourt defense. He also has pretty good size for a 6'1”, 195-pound guy.

In only 20 minutes of play per game, he averaged 8.5 points, 3.1 assists, three rebounds and 1.4 steals this season. He's a horse, with a great motor and the ability to streak to the basket at a moment's glance. This was his best year from the field (44.5 percent) and from the line (79.1 percent) in his three-year career.

That said, Bledsoe's shot has struggled in the past, and he still needs to tighten his ball-handling to increase his 1.53 career assist-to-turnover ratio. But he's 23 years old, and he has great promise. He and Jordan could be integral pieces to the next generation of the Celtics. Just imagine, their ages combined are only ten years older than Garnett.

 

Potential Depth Chart with Clippers trade:

Rajon Rondo / Eric Bledsoe / Terrence Williams

Avery Bradley / Jason Terry / Jordan Crawford

Jeff Green / Free Agent or Rookie / Terrence Williams

Kevin Garnett / Jared Sullinger / Brandon Bass

DeAndre Jordan / Kevin Garnett / Shavlik Randolph / Fab Melo

 

Of course, there's no guarantee Ainge could convince KG to stay should Pierce get dealt to Los Angeles. He has maintained that his future largely hinges on his buddy Truth, so the possibility of retirement or a trade request could be in the works well before the new guys touch down at Logan Airport.

If he retires, Garnett actually provides Boston with a huge blessing in disguise, because they would owe no part of his remaining contract ($12.43 million next season, $12 million non-guaranteed in 2014-15). That would give Ainge all sorts of room to move around the chips and put together a young, vastly talented squad.

 

Potential Depth Chart with Clippers Trade and Garnett Retirement

Rajon Rondo / Eric Bledsoe / Terrence Williams

Avery Bradley / Jason Terry / Jordan Crawford

Jeff Green / Free Agent or Rookie / Terrence Williams

Jared Sullinger / Brandon Bass

DeAndre Jordan / Shavlik Randolph / Fab Melo

 

With so many directions to go, it seems crazy to even discuss options at this point. But we've come this far. Let's contemplate a couple other potential (but more unlikely) deals with other teams active on the trade market.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

The one rumor that seemed to take off from the get-go this offseason was Pierce and Bradley for New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, floated by Michael McNamara (Pierce would be bought out if the deal went through, and he'd land elsewhere after the deal).

While a backcourt with Rondo and Gordon sounds enticing, it just doesn't seem like enough for Pierce and the still-developing AB (who, we must add, earned All-Defensive second team honors this season). Gordon can score with the best of the league, but he has a sketchy injury history.

One might wonder, though, if Rivers would have any interest in coaching his son, Austin Rivers. If so, a deal with the Pelicans would have, uh, wings.

 

Potential Depth Chart Following New Orleans Trade:

Rajon Rondo / Terrence Williams / Free Agent or Rookie

Eric Gordon / Jason Terry / Jordan Crawford

Jeff Green / Free Agent or Rookie / Terrence Williams

Jared Sullinger / Brandon Bass

Kevin Garnett / Shavlik Randolph / Fab Melo

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

One scenario that seems worth checking out involves Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The star big man from UCLA, with a penchant for ripping rebounds on one end and canning treys on the other, has expressed his occasional (and understandable) unrest with Wolves' management from time to time.

His qualms especially increased after receiving unfair criticism about his inability to lead Minnesota to the playoffs, and after getting offered a four-year deal rather than the max offer he deserved.

With Minnesota clutching to Ricky Rubio like a bullfighter to his toro's horns, Love might be better suited for a contender in a larger market. He would fit in well with Boston, despite his mediocre defense.

He would immediately take the Celtics out of the basement of the NBA's rebounding ranks, improve their middle-of-the-pack three-point numbers and add his intelligent offense to Rondo's host of options.

Minnesota might not be especially interested in Pierce or Garnett, and Ainge might not even have the heart to send his veterans over there in the first place. But a package involving Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and/or Avery Bradley might woo them a bit more, especially if Love got lumped in with Luke Ridnour's $4 million contract and maybe a throw-in like guard Malcolm Lee.

 

Potential Depth Chart Following Minnesota Trade:

Rajon Rondo / Luke Ridnour / Terrence Williams

Paul Pierce / Jason Terry / Jordan Crawford / Malcolm Lee

Jeff Green / Paul Pierce / Draft Pick

Kevin Love / Jared Sullinger / Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett / Shavlik Randolph / Fab Melo

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Then there's the possibility that Ainge goes after Pau Gasol, which could be a much more distinct possibility should the Los Angeles Lakers give Dwight Howard a max deal. Gasol has never been terribly loved in LA (not that Boston loves him any more), but he could win folks over in the Garden.

Of course, the biggest issue would be the fact that Boston would have to give up its veteran captain in order to acquire an arch-enemy. Gasol and a Chris Duhon type would certainly fill voids, and arguably improve both rosters, but it wouldn't make much sense for the Celtics, both short-term (emotionally) and long-term (financially).

 

Potential Depth Chart Following Los Angeles Lakers Trade:

Rajon Rondo / Chris Duhon / Terrence Williams

Avery Bradley / Jason Terry / Jordan Crawford

Jeff Green / Free Agent or Rookie / Terrence Williams

Kevin Garnett / Jared Sullinger / Brandon Bass

Pau Gasol / Kevin Garnett / Shavlik Randolph / Fab Melo

 

Which player(s) would you most want to see in a Celtics uniform?

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As previously inferred, the one move out of all these possibilities that Ainge should absolutely push for is Pierce for Bledsoe and Jordan. That's the deal that gives the Celtics the most short and long-term value, and keeps them competing without further perpetuating the team's cap.

Of course, anything can happen between now and the end of summer, never mind July 1 when any potential Pierce move will likely be made.

Keep your eyes glued to your Twitter accounts, and let your imaginations run wild, Boston fans. It could be a truly wild offseason.

Just remember, kids: anything's possible, but never listen to Stephen A. Smith rumors!

 

All statistical information obtained from ESPN.com. All quotes sourced with in-text citation. YouTube clip courtesy BullsMontage. Salary information courtesy of HoopsWorld.

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