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There has not been a lot of positive energy surrounding the Celtics of late, as Boston has lost six of their last seven games (unless we're talking ping pong balls, in which case - WE'RE BACK BABY!!). But one storyline that has flown a bit under the radar as the Celts have floundered has been the emergence of Kris Humphries.

The oft-criticized financial centerpiece of the Nets-Celtics July mega-deal has come alive recently, embracing his role as the bruising big man coming off the Cs bench.

After failing to reach double figures in rebounds in each of the Celtics first 30 games, Hump has grabbed at least 10 boards in each of the past three games.

But in reality, Humphries has been playing fantastic basketball all season, but until recently wasn't receiving enough playing time to put up numbers that popped out at you.

Overall, Humphries has appeared in 26 of the Celtics 33 games, averaging 6.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 16.8 minutes.

While those numbers may not seem that impressive, they are. Per-36 minutes, Hump is averaging 14.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. To put that in perspective, here is the full list of NBA players averaging at least 14 points, 10 boards and 1.5 blocks per-36 this season (minimum 400 minutes played).

- Andre Drummond
- Dwight Howard
- Tim Duncan
- Pau Gasol
- Al Jefferson
- Timofey Mozgov
- Anthony Davis
- Derrick Favors
- John Henson
- Kris Humphries

Of the ten players on this list, five are likely headed for the All-Star game (Drummond, Howard, Duncan, Jefferson, Davis), one is a former All-Star still producing at a high level (Gasol), two are up-and-coming stars (Henson, Favors), one is a talented young big man finally getting playing time (Mozgov), and then there is Humphries.

When Hump plays - he produces. It's as simple as that. Very few players in basketball rebound better than him, and his combination of a reliable mid-range jumper (he's shooting 42% from outside 16-feet, a really good number for a big man) and energy fueled put backs make him a lock for double digit points if he plays 30 minutes a night.

The problem for Brad Stevens had been finding Humphries the amount of playing time necessary for him to make an impact. But lately, that's been easier to do as Vitor Faverani has fallen out of the rotation, allowing Hump to scoop up his minutes. After failing to reach the 20 minutes played mark in each of his first 14 games, Humphries has played 20+ in six of his last 12 appearances. And with that playing time, has come the bump in numbers.

We've also seen the 28-year-old take a big step forward defensively, as his defensive rating is a career best 100, and according to Synergy Sports, Hump is allowing only 0.78 points-per-play against him this season (and opponents are shooting only 38% while he's guarding them).

All of this has made it clear, that on a per-minute basis, Humphries is one of the most valuable players on the Celtics. Which begs the question: is he a legit trade chip?

The answer is a bit complicated.

In a vacuum, nearly every contender would love to add Humpries to their roster. A guy who can change the game off the bench with his energy, rebound at an elite rate and score efficiently, all while being a net positive on the defensive end.

But his contract situation makes things tricky. While his deal expires at season's end, his $12 million salary means that Boston would need to take back at least $8 million or so in money. This means for a deal to happen, one of the following situations would need to transpire.

- A team would need to deal a good player making $8+ million for the next few seasons for Humphries. A player good enough for Boston to want to build around at that salary. No team is giving up a legit building block for Hump, and Boston is not taking back a bad player making big money. Unless..

- A team has an expiring contract of at least $8 million, and then adds a sweetener (young player or a pick) to make things work.

This first option is very unlikely, while the second option is possible, but still difficult. There are only 15 players in the NBA with expiring contracts of at least $8 million. One of those is Humphries himself. Of the other 14:

- One is Dirk Nowitizki. I just have a crazy feeling that a Dirk-Hump swap (with more money being thrown in by the Celtics) isn't realistic.
- One is Paul Pierce, and he cannot be traded back to the Celtics for a year after the last trade.
- One is Luol Deng, and it's hard to imagine Boston giving up the picks necessary to get Deng and then giving him near max money.
- One is Pau Gasol. Just not happening. Gasol doesn't fit Boston's future plans.
- Three of them are valuable contributors to playoff teams (Andrew Bogut, Rodney Stuckey and Shawn Marion), and their teams would be unlikely to deal them for Humphries.
- Three of them play for the Jazz or Bucks (Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Caron Butler), and there is no reason for Utah/Milwaukee and Boston to swap expiring contracts.

That leaves the following four players who could possibly be fits (in order of best to worst fit).

Emeka Okafor - The injured Okafor could be a nice trade chip for the surprising Suns, and Humphries could help make Phoenix's front line a bit tougher as they make a run at a playoff spot. The Suns are 28th in rebounding and Humphries would undoubtedly help there. Phoenix is the proud owner of four 1st round picks this season, but three are protected from other teams, meaning Danny Ainge would need to try and pry the Suns own 1st rounder from old friend Ryan McDonough if he's looking for a 2014 1st rounder. Phoenix may be willing to deal their 2014 pick (protected of course), but would a Humphries/Jordan Crawford combo be enough? I'm not so sure it is.

Ben Gordon - Charlotte has buried Gordon on the bench, and if the Bobcats are serious about making a playoff run, maybe they would give up a future pick for Humphries and Crawford. Problem is, Charlotte owes a protected pick to the Bulls in 2014, and can't trade their own 1st rounder until 2017. Maybe Humphries and Crawford for a 2014 2nd rounder and a protected 2017 1st rounder could work.

Charlie Villanueva - Detroit is another team that doesn't seem to fit Hump's skill-set. The Pistons are loaded with big men who rebound and clog the paint, and while Humphries has more range than Drummond or Greg Monroe, he would not provide much of a change of pace off the bench. Detroit is also without a first round pick, as they owe a protected one to Charlotte. Maybe they would swap Villanueva and a 2nd rounder for Hump, saving Boston about $3.5 million in salary and giving them a semi-valuable 2nd round pick in this years' deep draft.

Danny Granger - The Pacers are still feeling out Granger as he returns from a serious knee injury. He has looked shaky in his first six games, but Indiana is an unlikely trade partner as they need a back-up small forward (what Granger has become) far more than they need another big man. This does not seem to be a fit.

Of course, there are other ways to make a trade. Maybe the Celtics would take back a long term commitment if a 2014 1st rounder is included. Or maybe another team could combine several smaller deals to reach the necessary $8 million. And obviously, Humphries could be included with other assets on Boston's side to make a deal. But don't be surprised that if Humphries is dealt, it involves one of Villanueva, Okafor, or Gordon. The question remains though - are any of these teams desperate enough to give up a protected 1st rounder (or something else valuable) for half a season of Humphries? I'm skeptical, but it's possible.

Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

For more of my articles, click here

Michael Dyer 1/04/2014 02:57:00 PM Edit
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