5 days. 120 hours. 7,200 minutes. Or as Rajon Rondo would put it -- 432,000 seconds.
That's how long until the NBA trade deadline passes at 3pm on Thursday. And that means that all 30 NBA GMs -- Celtics' boss Danny Ainge included -- are currently on the clock to better position their team for either the stretch run this season or the future.
For Ainge, that means he is currently working through NBA All-Star weekend, knowing full well that his time is better spent on the phones with other GMs than it is in New Orleans. The Herald's Steve Bulpett caught up with Ainge, who (not surprisingly) says that everything is still on the table for the Celtics.
“We would do a deal to make our team better and use assets to get better right away,” Ainge, who is remaining back home to work the phones this weekend, said yesterday. “And we would also move veteran players to create flexibility and get draft picks. So we could go either way right now. But right now I think it’s a feeling-out process.”
Don’t misunderstand him when he talks about improvement now. He is not looking to move the Celts a few rungs up the ladder.
“I’m not talking about getting three wins better,” the Celts’ president of basketball operations said. “I’m talking about being able to be significantly better next year.”
But, yes, he is willing to look at opportunities that would jump the C’s out of the lottery picture this year. He will not refuse if an opposing team wants to make him an offer that’s one-sided — in his favor.
“I mean, I have some deals that I would do,” Ainge said with a laugh, “but I don’t have a trading partner as of this moment.”
With the league on break for All-Star weekend, there seems to be a lot of stage-setting talk.
“Right now there’s just a lot of people trying to feel out what everybody’s trying to accomplish,” Ainge said. “A lot of it is teams wanting to find out where everybody is in case there’s a chance to do a three- or four-team, multiple-team deal, in case there isn’t something that will work with just two teams.
“But I think everybody’s still trying to figure out what are the goals of each team going forward. And some teams don’t have as clear goals as other teams have.”
So the Celtics would love to add a superstar (no way!), would be willing to move a veteran player for cap space and/or a pick (wow!), but wouldn't make a deal to make the team marginally better this season (shocking!).
Not trying to criticize Bulpett for asking the questions (that is his job after all) -- just trying to make it clear that nothing that Ainge said is all that surprising.
But with Ainge basically saying "Yea we're willing to consider everything" -- I thought it would be somewhat worthwhile to break down the different types of deals the Celtics could make before the deadline. Not specific deals (I know we've already thrown about 53,000 of those at you, with another batch coming this week), but just the general types that Ainge could pull the trigger on. By my count, there are five different types of deals for Ainge to consider.
1. The megastar - We could call this a "KG deal" but in reality it would be more of a "Deron Williams deal". A bad team giving up a slew of assets mid-season for a superstar (try and remember Williams was a lot better three years ago), with future seasons in mind.
The Celtics certainly have the assets to at least try and make this happen. They have a $17 million in expiring contracts in Kris Humphries and Keith Bogans. They have two cost-controlled starters with long-term value in Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, and they have approximately 78 first round picks between now and 2018 (actual number: nine).
The problem with this type of deal is finding a superstar available. As Ainge notes, the Celts aren't trying to get a few wins better by picking up someone like Josh Smith or Pau Gasol. And true superstars rarely hit the trade market at mid-season. Of course, the name everyone is throwing out there is Kevin Love, but is Love really available? Minnesota has a lot invested in their current roster (would they really have given Nikola Pekovic $60 million if they were planning on starting over from scratch?), and they still have a season and a half to try and build around Love. I'm sure Ainge would offer up Humphries, Sullinger and two first rounders in a heartbeat to bring KLove to Boston -- but it takes two to tango. This is the longest of long shots.
Odds: 50 to 1
2. The complete opposite of the megastar - So we just talked about the Celtics trading for a superstar, but how about them trading one away? Of course we all know I'm talking about Bogans.
Ok so maybe I was talking about Rajon Rondo. Just like with Love in Minnesota, Rondo faces an uncertain future with one-and-a-half seasons left on his current contract and his team currently on the outside of the playoff picture. For Ainge, he would need to get a legitimate haul of assets in return for Rondo's services to justify trading his best player. Something that will not be easy to achieve because of the lack of teams currently in need of a point guard who also have the requisite assets necessary to deal for Rondo. We've heard teams like the Mavs, Knicks and Pistons say they're interested..but none of those teams can trade their 2014 first round pick.
Rondo is also only a month into his return from a serious knee injury, and the Celtics owe it to themselves to see how he and Brad Stevens coexist (not to mention how Rondo and the young talent coexist on the court). There are just too many obstacles in the way of a Rondo trade before the deadline. The summer? Still not likely, but certainly more realistic.
Odds: 30 to 1
3. Trading Bradley for a legit asset/assets - You can also include Sullinger for this one, but I think that's incredibly unlikely so I figured we'd focus on AB.
Bradley has taken huge strides as an offensive player this season, averaging 14.3 PPG and shooting the basketball at a good clip before suffering an ankle injury last month. But he's also only a few months away from hitting restricted free agency, and is about to get pretty expensive. He's also had trouble staying on the court, missing time in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 with a major shoulder injury, and now spraining his ankle twice this season.
If Ainge does not feel like Bradley is worth $7-9 million per season (his likely price tag), than he may be looking to trade him. However, that does not necessarily need to happen by the deadline, as Bradley's rights will still be owned by the Celtics this summer, and RFA are often dangled in sign-and-trades during the off-season (Brandon Jennings last summer being one example). Personally, I'm not too enthralled with giving Bradley more than about $7.5 million per season. He's a great defensive player, and has become solid (albeit inefficient) on the offensive end. But he's not a top three guy on a great team. So if he ends up getting a big money offer, I wouldn't mind moving forward without him. If Ainge feels the same way, he should absolutely be investigating a move right now, as whatever team acquires him will not only acquire him for the rest of the season, but also pick up his RFA rights, giving them the ability to match any offer he gets this summer.
But a Bradley deal remains unlikely, as a team would need to really love him to offer up a fair package (likely a first round pick) and give him $8+ million/season this summer. And Ainge would be foolish to simply give him away, as he could always let him walk come July.
Odds: 9 to 1
4. Dumping a veteran - Ah, now we're talking! Need some wing scoring and have enough talent to overlook an off night (or ten)? Jeff Green is the player for you! Need a power forward who can defend and knock down a mid-range jumper, but is also owed nearly $7 million next season? Brandon Bass just may be the man for the job! Have a ton of expiring contracts and a 2nd round pick lying around and need someone to rebound at an elite clip? Kris Humphries at your service!
The Celtics have three useful players who are overpaid, and would (hopefully) move any of them for expiring contracts (ala the Courtney Lee deal). Humphries would need something else coming back in return as he is already expiring, so the Celtics would need a pick/player/trade exception worked in to make it worth their while.
Bottom line: Overpaid role players are the absolute worst thing for a rebuilding team to have. They clog your books, take playing time from younger guys, and are good enough to help you miss out on a top pick, but not good enough to help you make a legit run. These guys could all help teams with established talent already on board, but can't play major roles on a contender.
But there is some doubt starting to creep in about whether or not any of these guys will be dealt. After all, Lee was dealt a month ago, yet these three guys are still here. Is Ainge driving too hard a bargain? Or is no one willing to take on these players' because of their contracts? I think it's completely possible we still see one of them moved by Thursday, but I'm less confident than I was a month ago.
Odds: 2 to 1
5. No deal - So this one is not technically a trade, but it's certainly a possible outcome. We've already said the deck is stacked against a deal for a superstar, a deal of Rondo, and to a lesser extent, a Bradley trade. And with every passing moment a deal of Bass/Humphries/Green becomes less and less likely to go down. With all that in mind, the deadline passing without the Celtics pulling the trigger on any trade at all is the current leader in the clubhouse. The NBA's trade landscape is incredibly unpredictable, with so many teams looking to shed players and make a run at a top draft pick. And on the flip side, there are a ton of "contenders" (I use that term lightly, as in any team looking to make the playoffs this season) with legit assets that they would offer up in a trade. Teams don't want to make a trade just for the sake of making it, and under the new CBA, draft picks are just too valuable to trade for a player that doesn't make you considerably better.
We saw that weaken the 2013 deadline, and we may see it happen again this year. Bad teams want to shed their overpaid players, but good teams don't want them. Good teams want to add young, useful players, but bad teams don't want to give them up.
The dance continues until Thursday.
Odds: 1 to 1 (aka 50% for those who don't deal in odds)
Bonus trade possibility
6. Gerald Wallace being traded in a non-Rondo deal - No.
Odds: You have a better shot at being killed by a vending machine
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 2/15/2014 02:45:00 PM Tweet