Many articles here at Celtics Life have examined the positives and negatives of tanking versus standing pat and playing as well as possible with the Celtics' current roster. Well, because it's fun to talk about, what if the Celtics became buyers this season?
With so many horrible teams in the NBA this season, getting a high draft pick is going to be all that much more difficult. For the record, I have been pro-tanking in hopes of landing a talent like Jabari Parker. But to flip the equation around, what if some of these disappointing teams become unexpected sellers and the Celtics try to pounce on the opportunity to rebuild through trading assets?
Could it work? It's probably a long shot, but here are some ideas that have potential. To be clear these are not rumors, just ideas that are fun to throw around.
In order to make this happen, Danny Ainge would not only have to find teams that are off to a disappointing start, but also are in fear of losing their star player in free agency. Although this may change throughout the season, currently two players fit the mold: Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. Told you it's a long shot.
Your first thoughts are probably the same as mine - why would either of those teams trade those players? The best answer: because they are petrified of losing them in free agency and can not afford losing them without getting a return. Both players have made it clear that they are going to test free agency, Love in 2015 and Melo this summer.
Your next question - how the hell can the Celtics get them without trading Rajon Rondo? The NBA is all about assets, and the Celtics have a lot of them. First round picks, young talent and large expiring contracts to be more specific.
The Minnesota Trade:
Celtics receive: Kevin Love
Timberwolves receive: Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Boston's 2014, 2016 and 2018 1st round picks
The New York Trade:
Celtics receive: Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton
Knicks receive: Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Kris Humphries ($12M expiring), Brooklyn/Atlanta's 2014 1st round pick, Brooklyn's 2016 1st round pick and the Clippers' 2015 1st round pick
It works in the trade machine, and if either team gave any pushback the trades allow the room for the Celtics to include Kelly Olynyk to either team to sweeten the deal. The Knicks and Timberwolves are obviously losing top tier talent here, and the Celtics' roster will lack any type of depth. So what does this do for each team?
Minnesota Timberwolves: Obviously these trades do not happen today, they happen close to the trade deadline. The Wolves are 9-10, but also the 13th seed in the West. If the season goes the wrong way, it could be another disappointing year in Minneapolis and provide a reason to move on from Love. The Wolves do not want to have to make a trade like this, but the fear of letting Love walk away for nothing could force them into it.
They would be getting a pretty decent return on him in this scenario too. Jared Sullinger has shown he is going to be a good player, since being inserted into the starting lineup he has been averaging 15.4 PPG and 9.9 RPG. Solid to say the least. Bass and Lee are reliable veterans on nice contracts that can help a team like Minnesota out. The three first round draft picks combine with Sullinger are what makes this deal worth while for them though.
New York Knicks: Same as Love here, the Knicks do not want to do this deal. Melo has already said he wants to be a free agent and there is a pretty good chance he would leave for a place like the Lakers. The Knicks can not afford to let that happen after everything they gave up for him. The Knicks have a horrific 3-13 record so far this season (too bad they don't have their own 1st round pick). But they could potentially make up for that with this deal.
Humphries is obviously here to take some money off the books at the end of the year, but the Knicks would also be getting several rebuilding pieces. Jeff Green is a bit pricey, but has to have some type of value. Crawford and Bradley are young assets that could take over for Felton (and remember, if NYK complains they don't get a Sullinger type player in the deal there is room to include Olynyk). But the best part of this trade for the Knicks is the draft picks. They have made horrible decisions with many of their own, but Ainge would be giving them back the freedom that they traded away. Receiving a 1st round pick in each of the next three seasons is almost impossible to get back in a trade. But because none of them are the Celtics' own pick this is completely legal.
Boston Celtics: Clearly the Celtics come out in great shape here, keeping Rondo and bringing in Love and Anthony. In 2007 type fashion, Boston now has a new big three. What they don't have is any depth. Their roster would look like this:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Felton
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Kevin Love
Bench: Vitor Faverani, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Phil Pressey and Kelly Olynyk (maybe)
Seeing as this trade would happen late in the year, Boston would still probably not have a great season this year. It would be about the new big three getting to know each other while filling out the bench with cheap free agents. The 2014 offseason now becomes crucial to them. With no draft picks, finding affordable free agents that fit around the players they have would be everything to them. But almost all great teams get the building blocks like Rondo, Anthony and Love first, then figure out what to put around them.
The Celtics lose all of their young assets in the deal and most of their 1st round draft picks. But despite all they give away, they still would have their own 2015 1st, their own 2017 1st (with the ability to swap with BKN) and the Nets' 2018 1st.
The trouble for the Celtics? Resigning Love and Anthony. The entire reason Melo and Love would be shipped here is fear of resigning them. Ainge would be taking the risk that both players would enjoy playing together with Rondo in Boston, and more importantly feel they can win here. If they don't, they will just leave Boston after the Celtics invested everything into them. High risk high reward indeed.
Now is this going to happen? Man would I look cool if it did, but the chances are practically zero. This is just an outside the box idea that looks into the type of options the Celtics could examine with so many bad teams this season.
It is also to remind everyone not to forget how many assets the Celtics really do have when you include their draft picks. Although the Timberwolves or Knicks could say no to those trades, neither of them hang up the phone and disregard them. Boston could have the pieces to rebuild now, they just need the right opportunity to present itself, and as always, a little bit of luck.
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Read more of Julian's articles here. Julian Edlow 12/02/2013 07:42:00 PM Tweet