The Boston Celtics are in full-fledged rebuilding mode. And as with any teardown project, no player is safe from the trading block.
Since the Celtics currently have around $68 million in guaranteed salary (not including first-round pick Kelly Olynyk, according to Hoopsworld.com), Danny Ainge will likely seek to shed salary to try and get under the roughly projected $70 to $71 million luxury tax. For a team trying to be bad, the last thing the Celtics need is to pay repeat offender penalties.
For now, salary trumps talent in what Boston is seeking in a trade. With that prevailing caveat in mind, here are the six Celtics most likely to get traded before the start of the season, as well as what the Celtics could potentially get in return.
*All salary data courtesy Hoopsworld.com. All stats courtesy NBA.com
Salary Info: 2 years, $24.8 million remaining from five-year extension
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Most likely, Rondo will only go if he demonstrates an incessant and unmistakable desire to leave Boston. He is the only surefire foundational player currently on the roster, and the whole point of rebuilding is to acquire those kinds of assets, not send them away.
Despite playing in just 38 games last season, Rondo still finished 18th in PER for the entire season. For reference, the next most efficient player currently on the Celtics' roster was Jeff Green at 125th.
Of course, that may serve as the very reason for Ainge to trade Rondo. If the Celtics want to sink to Bobcat-esque levels to ensure themselves a franchise-changer like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle, the team could just stockpile expiring contracts.
Consider the recent Rondo-to-Dallas buzz circulating through cyberspace. If the Mavericks were willing to eat some of Boston's long-term deals (more on those later), the Celtics could take back first-rounder Shane Larkin and the expiring contracts of Vince Carter and/or Shawn Marion.
The team would be excruciating to watch, but they would have a young point guard as a potential Rondo replacement, a terrible team likely to earn lots of lottery balls and most importantly, financial flexibility.
Likelihood of a Trade: 25%. Ultimately, it might be too much for Ainge to stomach the possibility of deconstructing the Celtics to a 15-win team. If Rondo is willing to stay, a more practical method might be slowing down the point guard's ACL rehab so that he does not come back until after the All-Star Break. That timeline would ensure a complete return to health, as well as a Wiggins-worthy record.
Salary Info: 3 years, $30.3 million remaining
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Boston has 30.3 million reasons to trade Gerald Wallace. If this were a ranking of players the Celtics wished they could trade, Wallace would top the list by miles.
Alas, the Celtics will have to find a suitor for the 30-year-old forward, though it's hard to imagine getting anything for Wallace's diminishing skills. Last season, Wallace shot barely above 36 percent in shots outside the paint. His rebounding rate declined well below his career average for most of the season as well.
The Celtics would probably have to package a huge sweetener for a team to take Wallace. Previously, I have floated the possibility of a Rondo/Wallace for Pau Gasol swap to the Lakers, which would give the Celtics a $19 million expiring contract. Some may be concerned about the implications of that trade for Boston's tanking efforts, but it seems highly doubtful the hobbled 33-year-old would do much damage.
Likelihood of a Trade: 40%. No sane general manager would take Wallace as the centerpiece of a trade (though the Knicks did just swap a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani, so maybe that's not entirely true). Unfortunately, the easiest way to deal him may be as a poison-pill attachment to a potential Rondo trade. Wallace's renowned reckless playing style endeared him to fans when he was still explosive enough to produce, but it appears those days are over.
Salary Info: 3 years, $15.1 million. Only first year ($5,058,138) guaranteed.
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Most Celtics fans are familiar with the hefty Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries contracts from the Nets trade, but Bogans also carries a fairly hefty salary the first year. Before you start pulling your hair out, read Devin Kharpertian's (TheBrooklyngame.com) helpful breakdown of how sign-and-trade rules mandate Bogans' overpriced deal.
At any rate, the Celtics have no need to keep the 33-year-old wingman on the end of their bench. Because the last two years are non-guaranteed, Bogans is a little easier to include in potential trades as essentially an expiring contract. Since the Celtics are looking for large expiring contracts to clear cap space after 2014-15, Bogans could work as salary filler.
Ainge has been rumored as targeting Paul Millsap as his "Plan A," according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston. Since Boston could only acquire Millsap in a sign-and-trade, something like Courtney Lee and Bogans would suffice financially, though the Celtics would probably have to throw in multiple picks to entice Utah.
Likelihood of a Trade: 45%. Since Bogans is effectively on a one-year deal, the Celtics don't have as much incentive to trade him as some of their multi-year commitments. Without really any demand for Bogans, the Celtics might just hang onto him until his contract becomes non-guaranteed.
Salary Info: 3 years, $16.3 million remaining
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Lee is one of several long-term contracts Ainge signed last summer in his final push to keep the Celtics' window of contention open. While these mid-range contracts are perfectly acceptable for an actual contender, they're officially cap liabilities for the rebuilding Celtics.
Lee is one of those players whose youth and "3-and-D" skill set has made him enticing to teams, but not enough so for any long-term commitments. In five seasons, Lee has already played on four teams. Still, at age 27, the Celtics should be able to squeeze out some interest in him.
At the trade deadline, the Memphis Grizzlies reportedly showed interest in acquiring Lee. The Grizzlies still have the $7.5 million trade exception from the Rudy Gay deal, so they could certainly take in Lee's salary. The Celtics may want a couple of second-round picks or young power forward Ed Davis back, but simply dumping Lee's salary itself would be a victory.
Likelihood of a Trade: 55%. For the reasons outlined above, Lee should garner enough interest to at least generate viable offers for Ainge to consider. Still, his roughly $5.4 million annual salary isn't terrible, especially if he can get back to being a 40% three-point shooter. Besides, trading Lee now would be selling low, and the Celtics could certainly get more for him at the trade deadline if he picks up his game.
Salary Info: 1 year, $12 million remaining
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Along with Wallace, the Celtics will reportedly attempt to trade fellow ex-Net Humphries, according to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. But unlike Wallace, Humphries has legitimate value if the Celtics really want to seek out a trade.
Last season, Humphries was in the doghouse, averaging just over 18 minutes per game. But two seasons ago, the power forward was a legitimate double-double threat, averaging nearly 14 points and 11 rebounds per game. The key was his high rebounding percentage, as he was in the top 20 in both defensive and total rebounding percentage.
Oddly enough, Humphries is exactly the type of player the Celtics could have used during their contending years. Boston has always been a porous rebounding team, bottoming out in last place last season.
Middle-of-the-pack rebounding teams like the Jazz or Rockets might have interest, though both those teams have lots of free-agent juggling to do.
Likelihood of a Trade: 65%. If Ainge really is intent on trading Humphries, as reported, then he could probably find a suitor willing to take the expiring contract. But given the dearth of good rebounding big men on the roster (i.e., none), it may be more beneficial for the Celtics to keep him on the roster and take the cap space after the season.
Salary Info: 2 years, $13.3 remaining
Why the Celtics Would Trade: Much like Lee, Bass is a fairly young player on a reasonable contract for a contender. Unlike Lee, Bass is much more predictable in what he will bring to a team. Though his ceiling is known, that kind of reliability could make him Boston's most realistic trade asset.
Bass' strengths and weaknesses are well-known by Celtics' followers. He is an elite mid-range shooter who can provide valuable spacing for an offensively-challenged team. On the flip-side, he is a fairly poor rebounder who is allergic to passing, earning the nickname "No Pass Bass."
Nonetheless, that niche could be valuable for offensively challenged contenders like the Bulls and the Grizzlies. While Bass is not enough to vault either from their second-tier status as contenders, he would certainly inject perimeter spacing into offenses that desperately need them.
In case you think point guards like Derrick Rose and Mike Conley should easily overcome those spacing woes, check out Zach Lowe's Grantland article from last season. Lowe's interview with then-coach Lionel Hollins detailed how precise the Grizzlies had to execute offensively just to generate an above-average shot. Bass is exactly the type of player who could ease that burden.
Likelihood of a Trade: 70%. Other than Rondo, Bass is probably the player the Celtics will receive the most calls on. But unlike Rondo, Ainge faces no dilemma about whether to ask for the moon or to give up a franchise player. Bass is simply a good offensive forward whose playing style and salary fits best with a contending team.