The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder swapped young, talented players on Thursday, seeing center Kendrick Perkins move to the Thunder and forward Jeff Green coming back the other way. Guard Nate Robinson and Center Nenad Krstic were also involved in the deal, but this is honestly nothing more than a swap of spare parts.
While immediate reaction in Boston is that the Celtics made a panic move and they got hosed in the deal, it is in fact quite the opposite. While I seem to be in the minority, it seems as if Boston got a great haul out of this trade.
While there is no doubt that Perkins brought size, defense, and toughness to the paint in Boston, he is simply a mediocre offensive center. During his eight year stay in Boston, he has averaged just under 6.5 PPG while seeing an average of 22 minutes of action per game during this span. It is true that offense is not what Perkins is being paid for with Rondo, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett in the fold, but his (at times) black hole on the scoring sheet will not fly when the "Big Three" decide on retirement in the upcoming one or two years.
Perkins was offered a lucrative and very reasonable four year, $22 million deal under the current CBA earlier this season, which he promptly rejected. There was also common thought in Boston that Perkins was going to test the free agent market after his current contract expired after 2011, and there was a good possibility of him taking his defense elsewhere. The bottom line is that if Perkins was going to demand anything more than the offer he was made, he and the Celtics were going to part ways. $7.25 million per season is too much to pay for a mediocre offensive center.
Shaquille O'Neal is being given all the time he needs to recover from his ailments so that he will be 100 percent rested and in shape for the playoffs. There is no need to rush him back. A healthy Shaq can be just as effective as a healthy Perkins, who Boston was 33-10 this season without. Many argue that had Perkins not been injured, the Celtics would have won Game 7 in last year's Championship.
Not only is this argument unfounded (there is no proof that the outcome would have changed), there was also no Shaq in the picture. O'Neal provides great size and rebounding, as does new arrival Krstic, and also provides good physicality for his age.
In Jeff Green, the Celtics get an extremely talented young offensive talent who they drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2008. Coming off the bench in OKC, Green is averaging 15.2 PPG in over 37 MPG. He gives Boston another dynamic scorer at the three position, an area where the Celts are not particularly deep and had no prominent young talent. With Marquis Daniels having been dealt to Sacramento, Green will pair up with Paul Pierce at the position to give Boston arguably the best 1-2 scoring punch at Small Forward in the NBA.
Green also solidifies the Celtics second line as one of the best in the league. He will join Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Delonte West in a group that can hold their own, both defensively and offensively, to give the Celtics' aging superstars plenty of rest every night. Add in the fact that the Celtics have been linked to such names as Richard Hamilton and Troy Murphy to further strengthen the second line, and Boston will have one of the deeper benches in the NBA.
But the most important aspect of this deal is that it solidifies Boston's future with talent and youth. The Big Three are in the final years of their careers, and in two years, each of them may be retired. With a year or two in Boston's defensive system, Green will pair with Rajon Rondo to build a solid core. Many fans want to look on the effects of the team for this season, but if Danny Ainge felt that way, he wouldn't be doing his job. It is equally, if not more important, that the Celtics build a team that can win for the next five years, not only in 2011.
While Perkins does give the Celtics a great chance to win now with the Big Three around, his poor offensive numbers, recurring knee injuries, and uncertain contract do not bode well as a building block of a franchise.
If Dwight Howard hits the open market after this season and the Celtics flurry of moves give them ample contract space to make a move and bring him in, nobody will be talking about the loss of Perkins. While this move is, of course, hypothetical, the third asset acquired by Boston in the deal is not.
Nobody seems to be talking about the Clippers 2012 first round pick that the Celtics also received from OKC. This pick offers tremendous potential, as LAC is a perennial bottom five team in the league and, despite Blake Griffin's tremendous talent, don't seem to be making a jump out of mediocrity before 2012.
So while many fans are feeling hurt at the loss of Perkins and are making this deal out to the end all of Boston's championship hopes, it is quite the opposite. The Celtics got more talented, younger, and will see more sustained success over a longer period of time through this trade because they received the best player in the deal.