Following Rajon Rondo’s devastating ACL tear which ended his 2012-13 season, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was faced with a lot of pressure to either reload before the trade deadline or risk dismantling the team this offseason.
Ainge opted for the latter, keeping the team intact long enough to notch a playoff berth and an eventual first-round exit.
The Celtics did everything they could to stem the tide and make a run at the title, but without Rondo on the floor—and with an aging roster feeling the strain of the heavy burden—Boston was never that close to bringing home another title.
Thus began the rebuild.
While Ainge’s decision to blow up the roster this offseason couldn’t have sat well with Celtics faithful (particularly Paul Pierce fans), it was necessary for the sustainability and long-term success of the organization.
On July 12, NBA.com officially announced the previously agreed-upon deal to send Pierce and Kevin Garnett (as well as Jason Terry and D.J. White) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and three first-round draft picks, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Boston’s return will allow it to begin the rebuilding process with nine first-round draft picks in the next five years. Paired with financial flexibility and some young talent in place, Ainge has put the team in position to succeed in its rebuilding efforts.
But Ainge also had to make some concessions—namely Wallace’s sizable three-year contract.
The forward is set to make just over $30 million in the final three years of his current deal, but the Celtics don’t seem prepared to pay it. According to a CSNNE staff report, Boston is looking to trade both Wallace and Humphries:
Among the players coming to Boston are Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. However, CSNNE Celtics insider Sherrod Blakely has learned that the team may be looking to deal those two. Wallace has three years left on his contract, while Humphries has only one year left on his.
Wallace’s deal certainly isn’t one of the more movable contracts in the league, but there is always value in an expiring contract like that of Humphries, meaning that packaging the two wouldn’t be a bad option in hopes of netting additional picks and some young talent.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the market for each player.
In the NBA, everything revolves around assets and cap space. In the case of the teams on this list, a move for Humphries would involve the latter.
With $12 million due to the high-volume rebounder in the final year of his contract, any team looking to deal for Humphries would be doing so with the intention of using his contract as ammunition for free-agent spending next summer.
Humphries’ $12 million will come off the books next July, meaning he’s essentially a cap hold this season, with some added value as a solid frontcourt rebounding option.
The Knicks and Lakers could certainly be interested in that combination, with both teams reeling from some offseason losses in their frontcourts. The Lakers, of course, lost Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets in free agency, while New York saw a handful of big men depart via retirement, free agency and trade.
Make no mistake—Humphries isn’t a premier talent who will significantly help either team win this year. But with the second summer of LeBron on the horizon, both the Knicks and Lakers will undoubtedly be in pursuit and could use the cap relief.
And the same goes for the Cavaliers.
It’s no secret that many expect James to potentially return to Cleveland next summer. The Cavs have some cap space to work with, but it wouldn’t hurt to free up a little more room under the cap, even with a crowded frontcourt already in place.
For the purposes of identifying potential suitors for Wallace, we’ll first have to examine his contract.
With three years remaining on a four-year, $40 million deal, Wallace is going to be hard to move. Last season, “Crash” averaged just 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, making his contract one of the most inflated of any small forward in the league. Almost 31, Wallace isn’t likely to get much better as the final years of his deal disappear.
What that means for the Celtics is simple: It’s going to take another player to sweeten the pot.
Unfortunately, that player might have to be Rondo.
The star point guard is Boston’s most valuable asset, but you have to crack some eggs to make an omelet. As it stands, Boston is working with an understocked kitchen.
If the Celtics were to package Rondo and Wallace, they would face a much easier task in moving the forward’s inflated contract, thus clearing additional cap space and likely gaining additional draft picks in exchange for Rondo.
Which teams could be interested in such a deal?
Well, the list of potential suitors would be nearly limitless given Rondo’s talent, even with the point guard coming off an ACL tear.
Detroit and Orlando both have some quality pieces in place, but neither team could balk at adding a piece like Rondo. The Pistons aren’t far from being true contenders in the Eastern Conference, and Orlando doesn’t exactly have an all-star cast running the offense.
Perhaps the most intriguing option is Houston, which already has James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Howard in place. Adding Rondo to that mix would be enticing for any team, even if it meant taking on some extra salary in the process.