The vision inside Danny Ainge’s mind is going to take some time to come to fruition. Until then, he will be following a set of blueprints that will help build, mold and trim the Boston Celtics into a contender again.
Whatever time remains until the 2014 NBA trade deadline will be spent following one of those blueprints.
This particular blueprint likely isn’t the one listing a mammoth move that will bring Boston another Kevin Garnett-level haul. More likely, Ainge is still in the stockpiling and fat-trimming phase of this rebuild.
In order for him to make that franchise-altering move, a lot of stars have to align and he has to do a boatload of leg work and preparation.
This blueprint will hopefully provide the necessary pieces and capabilities for Ainge to mold in the future.
Step 1: Trim the fat
For Danny Ainge to move forward with his rebuild, there must be room to operate and capital to operate with. At the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics have a $70.7 million payroll and are 16 games under .500.
That is a type of situation that is difficult to get out from underneath. Ainge has already manufactured some solutions for this. If things hold steady and no moves are made, the Celtics stand to immediately shed about $24 million from the books this summer, including the non-guaranteed deals of Keith Bogans and Phil Pressey.
That will put them at about $46.6 million guaranteed for next season. However, there are things that will change that pretty quickly. If Avery Bradley gets his desired extension of about $8 million per year, that bumps it to $54.6 million. The Celtics will also have two first-round picks (one likely lottery) to pay, which should total about $4-5 million.
Just like that, the Celtics are right at the 2013-14 NBA salary cap of $58.679 million. That severely straps Ainge's abilities in free agency.
This is when having a player like Gerald Wallace locked in at $30.3 million over three years really hampers a franchise. It is going to force Ainge to make tougher decisions on players he might like to keep otherwise.
A player like Brandon Bass, who provides a lot of good things for the Celtics, may have to be moved because of Wallace. Bass will make $6.95 million next season, and has drawn definite interest around the league.
"He is a good fit in a lot of places," a league executive told Sean Deveney of SportingNews.com. "He can start, he can come off the bench, he can make shots, he can play center against small lineups. A lot of teams need a guy like that."
Earlier this season, Ainge made a move to deal Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless. Lee had a sizable contract guaranteed for next season, while Bayless was signed to less immediate money and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. If there is a similar potential deal out there involving Bass, with a bit more incentive due to the veteran power forward's value, it will be found on Ainge's blueprint.
Other fat-trimming moves could include Vitor Faverani, who is racking up DNPs, but is scheduled to haul in $2.09 million next season. Joel Anthony is another option, with a player option for $3.8 million next season. However, Anthony can only be dealt in a solo trade and not back to the Miami Heat.
Obviously, Wallace would be the best option in terms of fat trimming. Though that would probably require more liposuction than trimming.
Step 2: Upgrade your needs
While it may not quite be time to look for that monster trade, it is always good to upgrade where your biggest needs are.
For the Boston Celtics, that revolves around an efficient scoring guard and a starting-caliber center. Avery Bradley has had a wonderful season and probably proven himself as a starting shooting guard. However, he can still devolve into his defensive specialist role, leaving Boston quite undermanned when it comes time to get a bucket.
The starting center hole is fairly obvious. Boston's roster of players taller than 6'9" includes Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani. To see a player like Jared Sullinger reach his full potential, aligning a quality defensive guide next to him would be key.
This step, like some others, is extremely contingent on the availability of players around the league. Ainge will likely have to poach a player from a team in a similar situation as Boston. However, most of those teams don't have Rajon Rondo, a stable head coaching situation or even Sullinger.
This step isn't about swinging too big, however. The trade deadline isn't Ainge's time to be Adam Dunn. The Celtics should be looking to get on base and move runners along, saving the long-ball swing for later on.
This type of trade would likely not include one of Boston's top assets. The likes of Jeff Green or their own first-round pick this summer should not be parted with in Step 2. Instead, it is up to Ainge to get creative with an upgrade by pulling a player in need of minutes out of a crowded situation and giving them the chance to thrive in Boston.
By using Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries or one of those future picks, Ainge might be able to set the Celtics up better for when the time comes to put it all together. This is the spot that would allow an Omer Asik/Spencer Hawes/Danny Granger deal to happen.
Step 3: Properly value your own players
Where general managers get into the most trouble isn't when they make trades that result poorly, the trouble starts long before any deal is made. The most important thing Danny Ainge can do at this stage is make sure his own roster is properly valued in-house.
If that is the case, then it is much more difficult to get swindled down the line, after a certain player blows up for another team. It also puts him in an advantageous position when making calls and sending out feelers.
The Celtics' biggest advantage with this step is that everyone seems secure in their jobs. A lot of teams are going through head coaches every few seasons. Boston had the same one for about a decade, then traded him for a fist-round pick. Their new guy signed a six-year contract and has all the support in the world.
Ainge has been a top executive with the Celtics since 2003, and doesn't have to worry about making moves to save his job. He and the ownership appear to be on the same page regarding most decisions.
With all this going in Boston's favor, properly rating one's own players gets easier and easier.
Step 4: Don't be afraid to go for it
This caveat should be included in every blueprint for building a basketball team back up. Just because this wouldn't be the typical time for a franchise—like the Celtics are currently—to make the huge move, it doesn't mean they shouldn't bother looking.
If Ainge can find a taker for Jeff Green and bring back a potential star at a position of need, the time of year or 2014 draft position shouldn't force his hand in the opposite direction.
If Greg Monroe or Josh Smith is available from Detroit, this caveat allows Ainge to swing the deal. While neither of those players are of a Kevin Garnett level, they perhaps represent more than a simple upgrade at a position.
The level above this type likely isn't available at the trade deadline, so there should be nothing out there requiring Ainge to sacrifice Boston's first-round pick this summer.
All salary-related items courtesy of BasketballInsiders.com.
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