It is crucial for any front office in today’s NBA to find a reliable performer on a reasonable contract. Someone who has a select, but strong, skill set and plays within those limitations on the floor. This player isn’t going to steal the show most nights, but is a capable contributor on both ends.
Right now, the Celtics have that player in Brandon Bass. The 28-year-old veteran has spent his last three seasons in Boston, after being acquired from the Orlando Magic in a sign-and-trade. Bass has come to Beantown as advertised. He can shoot, is a versatile defender, is playoff-tested and won’t rock the boat in the locker room.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Bass has surfaced as a potential trade target for contending teams in the past couple months. First, he was a potential piece of an Omer Asik-to-Boston trade talk that fell apart when Daryl Morey pulled his center off the market. Now, with the trade deadline approaching, Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported earlier this week that the Suns, Warriors and Bobcats all have interest in dealing for the veteran.
Despite the rumors of interest, there is no urgent need for Ainge to deal his starting power forward. Bass is signed through the 2014-15 season at a reasonable salary ($6.9 million) and is only 28 years old. While there is no doubt Ainge will trade the power forward if an offer of great value comes along, there’s no certainty that will occur.
It’s more likely that the Celtics would have to settle for less than full value in return, should they chose to deal Bass. So it’s worth exploring the question: Should the Celtics be committed to moving on from the power forward or does it make sense to hold onto him for the next stage of the team’s rebuild?
The Case For Keeping Bass
Even for a rebuilding team like Boston, you still need veterans and supporting pieces on your roster, so that whenever you do jump back into contention, you have experienced players in those roles.
Bass fits the bill for Boston well in that respect. He’s paid fairly for his job, scoring 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. He’s bounced back and forth between the starting lineup and bench this year without complaint.
Perhaps most importantly, though, he’s enjoyed playing under new head coach Brad Stevens. In a shift from Doc Rivers’ philosophy, Stevens has featured Bass far more in postup situations, unlocking another productive aspect of the veteran’s offensive game beyond his mid-range shooting.
This year, according to MySynergySports.com, Bass has posted up on 30.2 percent of his offensive possession, a tremendous jump from last season when he only did it on 8.7 percent of his plays. Despite his increased usage, Bass has been more efficient in these situations, averaging 0.97 points per possession, good for 23rd in the NBA.
The power forward has enjoyed showcasing other parts of his game under Stevens.
As Bass explained earlier this season to the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn:
This year, it’s just a different way. Everything is different. I’ve been able to show different things by everything being different, different players, different system, and it’s cool that I can succeed in different scenarios. I just want to continue to help my teammates in any way I can, and hopefully lead us to wins.
Bass has also showed great value on the defensive end due to his versatility. His ability to match up with athletic wings like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, as well as more traditional frontcourt players, provides Stevens with plenty of flexibility in his defensive schemes.
Seeing that the road to the Eastern Conference Finals will likely have to go through either Indiana or Miami for the foreseeable future, it makes sense that Boston would want to hold onto a player like Bass that could help neutralize the stars on both teams.
The Case For Trading Bass
The recent productivity of Bass may be one of the biggest reasons why Ainge should consider dealing the power forward. Ainge has openly admitted that making the postseason is not a goal for the team this year, as the focus is on the team’s young players.
With a crowded younger group of big men in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Vitor Faverani on the roster, it’s tough to find minutes for them to develop with a polished veteran like Bass playing 30 minutes per game.
Bass may also help the Celtics win a few too many games over the final two months of the season. With a loaded 2014 NBA Draft on the horizon, there’s no question the Celtics front office would prefer a high lottery pick, rather than a middle-of-the-first-round selection.
Freeing up Bass’ minutes could serve the dual purpose of making the Celtics worse in the short-term and giving more minutes to inexperienced players like Olynyk and Faverani. In turn, those rookies would have a chance to improve more now for the long-term.
Bass is also one of the most attractive trade chips on Boston’s roster right now. Unlike other potential trade chips such as Kris Humphries and Jeff Green, Bass does not have a hefty contract and is signed through next season, so he wouldn’t be just a rental to a playoff contender.
He also has a strong playoff resume, having reached the 2009 NBA Finals with Orlando as well as multiple conference finals. All the reasons why Boston would want to keep him would translate to a new team, making him an ideal trade addition for nearly any team at the deadline.
Ultimately, Boston’s decision on dealing Bass should be come down to value and depth. For as many positives as Bass brings to the franchise, the team still has a youthful and talented frontcourt beyond him. Boston’s current goals and excess depth make him expendable for a fair price. If Ainge gets the offer, he should pull the trigger on a deal.