It would be naive to say that the Boston Celtics have finished making moves this offseason. One major trading chip they sill have to look into is Jeff Green.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stockpiled assets through the early summer months, but perhaps his greatest chip has remained in green all along.
There is no doubt that Rajon Rondo is Boston's best player and thus would return the most in any deal with other teams around the league. However, at $25 million over the next two seasons and with a max extension looming, Rondo is increasingly tough to move this late in the offseason.
Rondo has also become somewhat of a pillar in the Boston community. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett gone to Brooklyn, he will become the de facto face of the Celtics. Rondo's picture will be on banners outside the TD Garden and on tickets scanned at the gates.
He has earned that position over seven consistent years of good-to-great play.
Has Green earned the same respect?
Back in 2011, when Boston shipped Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Green, the trade was almost universally panned by Celtics fans. However, over the past couple years, things have lightened up considerably.
That can be partially attributed to Perkins' poor play for his new team and sympathy for Green's past heart scare. Both are completely valid reasons to backtrack a little in hindsight.
Green also showed some major flashes last season. He proved his ability to score at a high level against very good competition. There was also a bit of clutch play in his game with a couple buzzer-beaters during the season, and he had a solid playoff performance.
However, his inconsistencies remain, along with the concern that his ceiling just isn’t all that high.
Green wasn’t a prolific scorer in college and has consistently been a third or fourth option in the NBA. There is minuscule evidence that he can become a go-to guy or a scorer who averages 20 points a night. A handful of random regular-season games, plus four great starts in a losing playoff series, don’t make him an All-Star.
What they do make Green is hopeful that NBA executives dream too big. In other words, the Celtics could very well sell high on the solid couple of months Green had in the 2013.
Ainge’s other chips just don’t hold the same value.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, the only franchise financially insane enough to trade for a contract as poisonous as that of Gerald Wallace is the same one that just sent the contract to them. Wallace is more than likely stuck in Boston for at least a year, considering that the Celtics would have to part with a more desirable asset to make another team swallow his deal.
Green will make $8.7 million next season and $9.2 million in 2014-15. He holds an identical player option for 2015-16 as well. In terms of overall money, that is about $3.2 million cheaper than Wallace's three-year, $30.3 million deal. Green is also four years younger than Wallace and has played seven fewer NBA seasons.
The point is, Green is far more attractive to buyers on the market than Wallace. Since Green isn't a potential superstar of the future in Boston, there is little reason he shouldn't be on the table.
Still, for around the same price as Green, there isn’t much better to be found in the NBA. Mike Conley makes similar money, as do Ryan Anderson and DeMar DeRozan. Beyond those three, Green is probably more desirable than the rest, so he could return a solid expiring contract and a middling first-round pick.
Small forwards with a serviceable three-point stroke, an ability to finish at the rim and defend one-on-one don’t grow on trees in the league. There are teams out there who would give up a sizable haul for Green.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have big plans for next season. They are looking to make a playoff run with Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bynum leading the way. However, how far can they truly get with Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee defending elite small forwards?
The Detroit Pistons could be in the same boat, depending on how much you want Josh Smith playing at the 3 instead of at the 4. Washington will have a lot riding on rookie Otto Porter Jr.‘s transition to the NBA. The Memphis Grizzlies just learned how far they can get with Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter as top wings.
The NBA luxury tax level for next season has been set at $71.748 million, with a salary cap of $58.679 million. With already 15 guaranteed contracts for 2013-14, the Celtics' payroll sits at $72.531 million and they have yet to make decisions on Shavlik Randolph (non-guaranteed until Aug. 1) and second-round pick Colton Iverson.
Right now. the Celtics are a luxury tax team. Though that number will be fairly low, they have been paying the tax for each of the past six seasons, according to ShamSports.com's Mark Deeks. That can become a serious problem starting in 2014-15, when stiff repeater taxes will be levied against teams paying the luxury tax for three straight years.
To safely avoid those additional taxes, Ainge is still looking to drop salary, and by swapping Green for a pick and an expiring contract, he can do just that.
Players like Shawn Marion ($9.3 million), Charlie Villanueva ($8.6 million), Rodney Stuckey (8.5 million) and Trevor Ariza ($7.7 million) have similarly priced deals that expire next summer. They are also on teams looking to win right now and that could sacrifice a pick to get a player like Green.
If Boston could add a second big expiring deal to that of Kris Humphries, it would be in good shape moving forward. Adding those two contracts with that of Keith Bogans and some smaller guys, they could be looking at shaving around $25 million off the books next summer.
That not only creates room for extensions for Rondo and Avery Bradley, but adds the possibility of a big free-agency splash in 2014.
This time around, almost no one in a green jersey will be safe, including the jersey with Green's name on the back.