As was the case over the past five years, the Boston Celtics are once again active participants on the trade market.
However, this time they’re selling instead of buying. A championship is far, far away, and getting back to the top as quickly as possible hinges on Danny Ainge’s ability to exchange players on his roster for pieces that will help down the line.
The good news is that the Celtics have several veterans who’re playing well right now, and any team looking to contend in the short-term could use them.
It’s been said that Boston would be willing to trade any player on the team, and that’s true. But it’s highly unlikely any of the homegrown youngsters (Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger) would be involved in a deal that didn’t bring back a second All-Star to pair with Rondo.
That trade doesn’t appear to be out there, so for the purposes of this article we’ll stick with the veterans: The more realistic names who'll pop up on every other business call Ainge conducts. They're ranked on the likelihood they're playing for another team after February's trade deadline.
Championships are impossible to win without elite talent. One All-Star isn’t nearly enough, and two doesn’t guarantee anything.
When you have one in his prime, it usually isn’t smart to move on.
Rajon Rondo isn’t just the most important player on Boston’s roster, he’s one of the best players in the entire world. He’s currently rehabbing from a severe ACL injury, which severely dampens his value on the trade market, even though he's expected to make a full recovery.
Fact is, not many teams are willing to give up much for a point guard whose contract expires next season. The Celtics may trade Rondo before inking him to a third contract, but that trade won’t come before this season’s deadline.
Rondo's too good.
Trade Probability: Two percent
Surprised to see Jeff Green here? Don’t be. He’s 27 years old (making him a veteran on this squad) with a contract that’s above market value but can expire next season (Green has a player option for the 2015-16 season).
Green is averaging as many points per 36 minutes as last season but has a lower usage rate and PER, which is strange considering the presumed increase in responsibility he faced heading into the season.
He’s also played poorly on defense this year.
So why would another team want him? He’s sometimes good! And he can be of much greater use on a squad that isn’t rebuilding. It’s probable that Danny Ainge has already entertained a few phone calls for Green’s service; he’s a fantastic spot-up shooter (especially from the corner) who can create offense for himself when he wants to.
In the end, it doesn’t stand too likely that a team would be willing to give up either A) a first-round pick or B) a highly touted prospect who’s yet to fully bloom.
But who knows, maybe the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers or New Orleans Pelicans (all with a vacant hole at small forward) grow so blinded by their desire to make the playoffs that Green looks like a logical solution.
Stranger things have happened.
Trade Probability: 10 percent
Any team that acquired Jordan Crawford may be getting him on a short-term rental, as the combo guard is set to enter restricted free agency this summer. But any team out there lacking an offensive punch should think a trade is worth it.
In what’s essentially a new role for him (starting point guard), Crawford has exceeded his modest expectations. His 29.9 percent assist rate, 57.3 True Shooting percentage, .146 Win Shares/48 minutes and 19.0 PER are all well above his career averages.
If the season ended today, Crawford’s shooting splits from the floor, on threes and from the free-throw line would all be career highs, too. He can create his own shot from just about any spot on the court and find open teammates with pinpoint passes.
Crawford will be benched when Rajon Rondo returns, making him more than expendable. Can a younger player who’s earlier on his rookie deal be had? Maybe a late first-rounder? (Don’t hold your breath.)
Trade Probability: 30 percent
Kris Humphries' deal expires after the season, and there’s all but no chance Boston keeps him on any longer than they’re contractually required. The motivation to move him, then, should be obvious. Humphries is a rebounding machine. A smart, bulky power forward who can keep possessions alive and end them with a reliable jump shot.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, Humphries’ play was nearly deserving of the $12 million he’ll be paid this season. He’s only 28 years old and could easily have another decade of solid basketball in his body.
What makes a trade difficult is the high price tag. Any team that needs a bruiser who gobbles up one out of every four available defensive rebounds will look for him at a price much lower than the eight figures Humphries is due.
Luxury tax restrictions that include the frightful repeater tax have lessened the worth of high-priced expiring contracts. They aren’t nearly as valuable as they once were, and pale in comparison to draft picks or developing talent on rookie-scale deals.
But Humphries can play and should be on a team that can give him the minutes he deserves.
Trade Probability: 55 percent
Courtney Lee can do two things pretty well. He can shoot from the corner and he can hound his man on the defensive end.
If you're an off guard in today's league, that makes you deserving of playing time. Unfortunately for Lee, the Celtics are soon to have an overstuffed backcourt.
In a couple months they'll have Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Phil Pressey and Lee. Being that Bradley is younger and better, he'll get what would be Lee's playing time at shooting guard.
But being able to space the floor while not being a liability on the other end makes Lee valuable on another team. One that's perhaps willing to forfeit a second-round pick or expiring contract (Lee's owed approximately $11 million on a deal that doesn't end for another two years).
Trade Probability: 75 percent
Out of all the players on Boston’s current roster, Brandon Bass is the one Danny Ainge should be actively looking to move.
This does not mean there’s anything wrong with Bass or that the hard-working, steady forward hasn’t been a positive presence on the floor for Boston this season.
On the contrary, his solid two-way production conflicts with the team’s desire to enter the lottery. If Most Improved Defensive Player was a thing, Bass would be a front-runner. He’s banged with some of the game’s best down low and more than held his own while providing forceful help from the weak side and well-timed rotations all over the floor.
To top it off, he plays the same position as Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger and is on a contract that extends through next season.
The Celtics have a trade exception for approximately $10.3 million, and moving Bass’ very tradable $6.9 million deal sooner than later could open up some interesting possibilities for Boston on the trade market this summer.
Trade Probability: 80 percent