With news that Doc Rivers is reportedly heading to the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, it would appear that the Big Three era in Boston is coming to an end. Many speculate that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be the next to go, such as Jay King of masslive.com.
Although Pierce is not a free agent, Boston has the option of buying him out for $5 million, which would make him free to sign wherever he pleases. However, if the team is ready to let him go, they’d almost certainly rather trade him and receive something in return.
While there are many potential destinations for Pierce, one possible scenario could involve the Toronto Raptors.
Conventional wisdom suggests that at this stage of his career, Pierce would like to play for a team already contending for a title. While the Raptors are not quite at that level, they have several appealing qualities that could factor into a potential deal. For instance, although they failed to make the playoffs this season, they finished ninth in the conference, and the two teams that beat them out (the Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks) are facing massive overhauls.
Of course, the Celtics would first have to be interested in a trade with the Raptors. Fortunately, Toronto has several important pieces Boston could be interested in trading for—namely, Andrea Bargnani and Landry Fields.
The math checks out according to ESPN’s Trade Machine, as Boston would absorb Bargnani’s $10 million contract as well as Fields' $6.2 million deal. In return, the Raptors would take Pierce’s $16.7 million contract.
With this deal, Boston would gain two young and talented players who could immediately slot right into their rebuilding process. Although they both severely underachieved this season, Bargnani and Fields have shown the ability to contribute in the past.
Fields is a serviceable role-player who can score, rebound and defend (albeit in small quantities). He certainly didn't live up to his large contract this season, and with Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross all ahead of him on the depth chart, it doesn't look like he’ll get the chance next season either. Fields would benefit from a trade to a different club, particularly to a Boston team craving new talent.
Bargnani is a special case. While he has proven to be a prolific underachiever, there’s no denying his skill set. The Italian 7-footer has the height and shooting ability that can instantly change the look of a team's offense. He may never be the primary scorer for the Celtics, but paired together with a star point guard like Rajon Rondo, Bargnani could salvage the rest of his career by helping lead a new era in Boston.
While Bargnani and Fields would plug into the Celtics' rebuilding effort, Pierce would join a Raptors' team on the rise. With a full training camp together and another year of experience under their belt, the Raptors are primed to break out in the Eastern Conference next year.
While they already have two gifted scorers on the wing in DeRozan and Gay, the Raptors lack any sort of veteran presence.
Pierce could provide that much-needed leadership.
As constituted right now, the Raptors are a dynamic and athletic bunch, but if Pierce were to join them, he would instantly give them league-wide credibility. This season in Boston, he single-handedly carried the load on offense while Rondo was out with a torn ACL. The burden clearly wore on him, especially in the playoffs.
In Toronto, he wouldn't have to be the man. Instead, Pierce could act as a mentor to both DeRozan and Gay and provide the veteran leadership and clutch play he has demonstrated his entire career.
The Raptors' strategy would obviously have to change in order for this to work, but the results would make the alterations worthwhile. A possible lineup could look something like this:
- Point Guard: Kyle Lowry
- Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan
- Small Forward: Paul Pierce
- Power Forward: Rudy Gay
- Center: Jonas Valanciunas
With Pierce at the three and Gay at the four, this team would be incredibly difficult to stop on offense. Imagine having to guard a team that features three explosive and proven scorers.
At first glance, many will dismiss the notion of Pierce coming to the Raptors to end his career. After all, there are plenty of contending teams in need of a veteran like himself.
However, once you analyze all the positives Pierce would bring to the Raptors' organization and the benefits Boston would reap, you see that this is a trade well worth exploring.