What does any good seller do? Find motivated buyers. The rebuilding Boston Celtics have done just that by striking a deal with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Celtics have agreed to a three-way trade with the Heat and Warriors:
As part of a three-team deal, the Boston Celtics have traded guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Golden State Warriors, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Warriors will send guard Toney Douglas to the Miami Heat, and Miami sends center Joel Anthony and a future first-round pick and a second-round pick to the Celtics, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Before we dive in, there are a couple of important details to note.
Every player in this trade is on an expiring contract except for Joel Anthony, who is headed to Boston. Anthony has a player option next year worth $3.8 million.
Although Crawford is expiring, he'll be eligible for restricted free agency, meaning the Warriors can match any offer sheet he signs so long as they give him a qualifying offer worth $3.2 million. Brooks (GSW) and Douglas (MIA) will both be unrestricted.
The future first-round pick that Miami gave up is via the Philadelphia 76ers from a trade made in 2012.
That pick, which now belongs to Boston, is lottery-protected (selections 1-14) in 2014 and 2015. If the 76ers don't make the playoffs this season or next, the pick obligation will instead become two second-round choices, one in 2015 and one in 2016.
Now that the particulars are out of the way, let's look at this deal through the lens of each team.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have wanted to upgrade the backup-point-guard spot behind Stephen Curry and improve a bench that has struggled to find ways to score. Depending on which version of Jordan Crawford they're receiving, this trade likely accomplishes that.
Crawford has been one of the league's biggest surprises so far this season. After being cast aside by both the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards, the 25-year-old scoring guard revived his career under Brad Stevens and proved to be a capable playmaker while still maintaining his scoring ability.
The Warriors, meanwhile, have had a hole to fill in the second unit since losing Jarrett Jack to free agency this past offseason. Although they're different players, Crawford is similar in that he aggressively pursues his own shot, in particular the mid-range jumper.
While that can lead to some inefficient nights, Crawford is posting a career-high true shooting percentage of 52.6 percent while scoring 13.7 points a game and dishing out 5.7 assists. Although he's not the defender or three-point shooter Jack was, Crawford is a pretty big upgrade from Toney Douglas as a scorer and a creator.
Toney Douglas was averaging 49% TS on 17% USG with 2.6 AST/36. Jordan Crawford is massively better than that, which is crazy.— EvanZ (@thecity2) January 15, 2014
MarShon Brooks is nothing more than a throw-in, essentially, but he does have some raw scoring ability. He showed flashes as a rookie on a weak New Jersey Nets team, averaging 12.6 points in just under 30 minutes, but he's been buried on the bench ever since. And considering Golden State's depth on the wing, it would be a shock if his role were to change this year.
Although Crawford has come back to earth a bit as the season has progressed, he offers valuable insurance behind Curry and the scoring pop the Warriors second unit desperately needed.
The bench for the Golden State Warriors averages just 22.8 points, which is last in the NBA. Jordan Crawford/MarShon Brooks will help.— Christopher Walder (@WalderSports) January 15, 2014
Don't discount Golden State's ability to retain Crawford as a restricted free agent, either. The Warriors are already slated to be over the projected cap next year, so Douglas' expiring salary worth $1.6 million provided no real relief or means to acquire a replacement. In Crawford, the Warriors get a player who will help right away, and possibly down the line as well.
Upgrading at a position of need while staying under the luxury tax and not sacrificing any future draft picks is a definite win for the Warriors. This is a very low-risk, high-reward move.
Miami was another title contender rumored to be interested in backcourt help (and Jordan Crawford, incidentally), and that was before starting point guard Mario Chalmers went down with Achilles soreness. With Chalmers still sidelined, Miami needed to address the situation, one way or another.
Toney Douglas does that, and he fits the mold of what Miami likes from its guards. If you're asking Douglas to run an offense or pick-and-roll, you're going to have a tough time, but Miami doesn't ask its point guards to do that since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade shoulder so much of those responsibilities.
Douglas, like Norris Cole and Chalmers, will be asked to do two things: knock down open threes and harass ball-handlers. Douglas is a limited player, as Golden State found out, but he has shown in the past that he can do those two things very well.
He's been much maligned during his time in the league, but Douglas is nearly a 36-percent career three-point shooter. It's understandable why the Warriors would quit on him after injuries and some poor offensive play this year, but Douglas couldn't be in a better situation than he is in Miami. He's a complementary player, and with less pressure to score, he could rebound from his subpar performance thus far.
Of course, acquiring Douglas wasn't the most attractive part of this deal. Let's allow Jeff Goodman of ESPN Boston to explain:
The trade will save the Heat $6.4 million in luxury taxes and remaining salary this season and frees them on the $3.8 million they owed Anthony for next season. Depending on the Heat's salary situation for next season, the deal could end up saving the team more than $15 million in salary and luxury taxes for a player who played just 37 minutes this season.
Getting Anthony's salary off the books is a big deal for Miami, but it came at a price. Moving a first-round pick is always a little nerve-racking.
But as far as gambles go, this one feels pretty safe. Philadelphia is in a heavy rebuild and likely has no interest in losing its first-round pick this year or next. Barring massive changes this offseason, this is a team that will actively look to avoid a playoff spot in order to keep its pick. Miami wouldn't dream of doing this deal if it didn't know that.
But even if it seems certain that this will amount to trading three future second-round picks, there's still some sacrificed value. Philadelphia's second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 should be near the very top of the round. There's a lot of value to be had in that area, as teams are afforded more flexibility to negotiate unique deals, like the Houston Rockets did with Chandler Parsons.
Ultimately, Miami decided that Douglas and the savings were worth more than the picks. Miami could always turn around and buy or trade for a few second-round picks down the line, and this does offer some extra cap space if a member of the Big Three leaves next season.
This was a shrewd move from a salary standpoint, as it was one of the only ways Miami could address its backcourt need and actually shed salary and tax payments in the process. Now, Philadelphia just can't stumble into success this year or next.
If Jordan Crawford had managed to keep up his torrid early-season pace, perhaps the Celtics could have squeezed a little more value out of him.
That being said, if I had told you before the season started that Crawford would headline a package for a first-round pick, you probably wouldn't have believed me.
Selling reasonably high on Crawford was the right move to make, especially if he wasn't viewed as a player to keep long term. Although Crawford is still a young player, the presence of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the backcourt made him expendable, even if he has been Boston's best player on many nights. Teams that are rebuilding rarely stock up at one position, particularly if it's expensive to do so.
Of course, this helps the current tanking effort as well. Crawford is a big reason why Boston has flirted with competency much of the season, and trading him for Joel Anthony is a massive talent downgrade that should lead to more lottery balls.
The price of those picks and improved odds isn't cheap, though. Anthony's player option worth $3.8 million will cut into the slim amount of cap space Boston was projected to have this offseason.
Perhaps that doesn't matter much right now, though. Boston may want no part of free agency this summer anyway, especially if retaining Bradley is a priority.
Anthony may actually have value next year as a mid-level expiring contract as well. Although Boston will likely just let him expire, he could be used to match salaries in a trade.
Even if Anthony is just dead money, absorbing that deal and trading Crawford for a long shot at a first-round pick (which, again, will likely become two second-rounders) and an additional second-round pick in 2016 isn't a bad haul for a rebuilding team. All it takes is one great pick in the second round, and this is a steal of a deal.
That's essentially what this amounts to: another bet by Celtics general manager Danny Ainge that he can find a gem in the draft.
It's hard to argue that increasing the odds of that happening is a bad strategy for Boston at this point, even if it comes at a cost.