6 Biggest Issues Boston Celtics Must Address at the Trade Deadline
Danny Ainge has already been a busy guy in the two months before the NBA's trade deadline. His Boston Celtics have gone through a lot change since finishing the 2012-13 season, but there are still more issues to address.
Boston has ducked beneath the luxury tax level, but not by much. They've also got a fair amount of money tied up next season that will apply pressure Ainge may want to alleviate.
The roster is also nowhere near where it needs to be to truly compete at a high level throughout a season. Next year's rookie class isn't going to change that, so Boston must be constantly looking ahead to tweak their roster.
Shedding Gerald Wallace's Contract
However, the desire to get even further beneath it is still there, and with things like 10-day contracts becoming necessary with injuries to the backcourt, that salary will continue creeping up to the threshold.
The third-largest eater of that salary number is Gerald Wallace. A backup small forward averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game isn't exactly worth $10.3 million a year, which Wallace is slated to receive through 2015-16. He is currently the only player on the roster with guaranteed money through that year.
Issue No. 1 is and has always been finding a way to trade Wallace. Unfortunately, this doubles as probably Ainge's toughest task. Nobody in the league wants to pay him that much money, so incentives must be tossed in, like a draft pick or viable asset.
For his part, Wallace clearly wants to play, but may just be in denial about what his body and abilities are at this point of his career. If he can't accept the smaller role, it makes the situation worse and worse.
"It’s frustrating every night being on the bench, feeling you can contribute, and you’re not out there," Wallace told Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. "I’m not used to sitting at the beginning of games and being on the bench when the game is in crunch time."
Unfortunately for Gerald and the Celtics, there aren't going to be any contenders with the ability to take on his massive contract. He is most likely stuck playing for the Celtics or another bottom team.
Upgrading from Jeff Green
The Boston Celtics really need an 18-20-point scorer to align with Rajon Rondo. Through 43 games as the team's best offensive player, Jeff Green hasn't proved he is that guy.
Green is averaging a respectable 15.7 points and five rebounds per game, but the Celtics need more than that out of their second star next to Rondo. If Danny Ainge can find a way to upgrade the small forward position, he has to make that move.
As great and deep as this upcoming draft reportedly is, there won't be anyone from it scoring 20 points per game. These could be very solid players, but they aren't LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
Like his backup, Gerald Wallace, Green has a significant contract factor weighing on any trade of him. He is scheduled to make $9.2 million next season, with an identical player option for 2015-16. However, there are players with equally tough contracts out there, like Omer Asik, that Boston could entertain in a deal.
In the Celtics' recent loss to the Orlando Magic, Green passed up a game-winning opportunity to drive and kick.
"I thought Jeff had a good shot that he passed up," said head coach Brad Stevens. "We probably didn’t hold our screen long enough on it, but if he decides to drive, then people got to reasonable spacing."
That doesn't sound like much of an offensive leader, and the play live didn't look it either. Paul Pierce wouldn't pass that ball up, and we've seen recently that neither would Rondo. That is the type of scorer Boston needs.
Sell High on Brandon Bass
A player like Brandon Bass is hardly an issue that needs addressing. His situation is more of an opportunity that needs addressing.
Bass is having an excellent bounce-back season after stumbling throughout 2012-13. Despite a recent shrink in minutes, his numbers are back up to 10.8 points and six rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Those numbers and his overall style could help a good team get better. Bass would be an upgrade for many benches across the league, and those are the places Danny Ainge should be targeting to sell high.
Trading Bass now makes a lot of sense. With Jared Sullinger coming into his own as a young player with a bright future, the likelihood of Bass starting at power forward again in Boston is slim. He isn't big enough to be a starting center, so his role with the Celtics is diminishing.
"When you look at the way this roster is put together, Brandon Bass seems the most logical guy to be on his way out," said CSNNE Insider A. Sherrod Blakely. Blakely goes on to detail that it has little to do with Boston not liking Bass' play, but realizing that he brings the best return among tradable assets.
Sell High on Kris Humphries
Like Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries is in a similar situation. Because of his rebounding prowess, he can play better alongside Jared Sullinger as an undersized center, but that isn't a long-term situation the Boston Celtics will want to engage in.
Humphries has upped his stock immensely over the past month or so. Granted, it went from nonexistant to mediocre value on a quality expiring contract. Humphries could potentially bring a team $12 million in freed-up cap space this summer. However, the Celtics would have to be willing to take back salary as well.
That is why his recent play is so valuable. Boston can now entertain a different kind of offer than they could with him riding the bench. Since the calendar turned to 2014, Humphries is averaging 10.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, posting four double-doubles in his last 12 games.
He is proving once again to be the kind of rebounder and opportunist that playoff teams can utilize in short bursts or to clog up any holes that open up due to injury or poor play. Humphries is a guy who will work for his money, even when that money is $12 million this year.
He is playing right now for his next contract though, another factor to weigh into potential trading partners.
“Kris is doing what he always does,” Sullinger told The Boston Globe's Tim Healey. “Hustle, rebounding, defending, knocking down open shots. He’s been doing this all year. That’s what makes him special.”
What contender wouldn't want a taste of that for the rest of 2013-14.
Figuring out the Keith Bogans Situation
Keith Bogans has become somewhat of an elephant in the room for the Boston Celtics.
They are now paying him north of $5 million to not even sit on the bench, but sit at home. By Feb. 20, and hopefully sooner, they have to figure out what to do with him.
"I don’t really want to get into too many specifics," Brad Stevens told ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg. "He’s obviously been excused from the team for now. He’s still under contract here. I personally like Keith and that’s where I’ll leave it."
Obviously, it would be nearly impossible to trade a guy making that much cash who isn't playing basketball. However, with the interesting contract wrinkle of Bogans' next two seasons being non-guaranteed, there is perhaps a way to trade him as an expiring contract.
There is also the option of packaging him in the same way he got to Boston, as a salary equalizer in a bigger trade. If the Celtics were to make a move for someone making around $11 million, packaging Brandon Bass as the real asset, with Bogans, would even out the salary swap.
It truly wouldn't be a great look for the Celtics to go through this entire season paying Bogans so much money to stay home. Danny Ainge is too prone to trades to let that happen, and this is definitely an issue in need of addressing.
Acquire a Legitimate Center
As the season drags on, the Boston Celtics' defense is having a tougher and tougher time playing at a consistently high level.
Almost any time a good team takes the floor against them, they are at a massive disadvantage. That situation starts in the paint and stems out. Teams with quality frontcourts are particularly advantageous against a Celtics team that rarely plays anyone taller than 6'9".
Vitor Faverani has racked up seven DNPs this month, courtesy of Kris Humphries' improved play. However, Humphries isn't a long-term option at center and he and Jared Sullinger get eaten alive by the Dwight Howards of the league.
The major option is Omer Asik, who was nearly a Celtic not too long ago. As the trade deadline grows nearer, both Danny Ainge and the Houston Rockets will become a little more fidgety. A deal may go through smoother than before as the pressure to make a move gets hotter.
According to Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the team is hoping Asik can return from injury in late January. That would give him hopefully a handful of games to showcase to a team like Boston that he can still play.
Of course, this quote from head coach Kevin McHale to Feigen a month ago doesn't scream of optimism: "He seems like he’s another guy that gets 95 yards down the field, you think he’s going to be fine and all of a sudden, he falls back."