While the Celtics are currently staring down the barrel of a lost season, at least this was part of the plan. Year 1 of a rebuild, where a combination of young guys and spare parts are stuck together. The only on court goals: growth from the young guys, and hopefully enough losses to earn the team a top five pick.
While Celtics fans would no doubt rather be back in the Pierce/KG era — at least the losses aren't taking them by surprise.
It's a different story in Detroit, where the Pistons were picked as a sure fire playoff team after signing Josh Smith and trading for Brandon Jennings, adding them to the young big man duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
But the mix has not worked. Smith has been playing out of position at small forward, and has spent most of his time roaming the perimeter and launching threes. Smith is on pace to attempt 292 treys, and is hitting only 23.6% of them. To put that in perspective, no one in the history of the NBA has attempted 250+ threes in a season and hit less than 25% of them.
While Smith is a terrible shooter, this is not all his fault. Detroit is playing him out of position, and with Monroe and Drummond both paint cloggers (talented paint cloggers, but paint cloggers nonetheless), he has been somewhat forced to try and stay towards the perimeter to help with spacing. It's not that Smith became a much worse player overnight, but simply that he's a square peg in a round hole in his current role with the Pistons.
So what's the solution? Well, one possibility is dealing one of the young big men. Drummond is considered untouchable by just about everyone across the league, leaving Monroe (a restricted free agent at year's end) as the major trading piece. But the 23-year-old is having his third straight 14+ PPG, 9+ RPG season, and Detroit would likely rather build around him than trade him for a small forward and shift Smith back to his natural power forward position (If Detroit changes their mind, Jeff Green for Monroe could still work! C'mon Joe Dumars!!).
The other solution is cutting the cord on the Smith experiment only halfway through his first season. And apparently, Detroit is heavily towards this option. This is from Chris Broussard's article from Thursday.
The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there's strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could -- and "could'' is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.
"One of the most untradable players in the league" seems like a bit of a stretch. After all, Smith is only 28, and much of his perceived decline is tied to him playing out of position. He's suddenly guarding 3's instead of 4's, neutralizing his speed advantage on defense. And on offense, he's playing a "stretch 3" position that he just does not fit.
But, 4 years and $54 million remaining on his deal does make Smith overpaid. Meaning that Detroit's haul for him will likely be a similarly bad contract that expires sooner, and if they're super lucky, a pick.
With that in mind, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports came up with some trade possibilities that he ranked "from least appealing to most" for the Pistons. Included in his possibilities, a deal with the Celtics for Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans.
Smith to the Celtics for Gerald Wallace (three years remaining on his contract) – with Keith Bogans (zero remaining guaranteed years) included to make salaries match
- Smith to the Knicks for Andrea Bargnani (two years remaining)
- Smith to the Bobcats for Ben Gordon (expiring contract)
- Smith to the Suns for Emeka Okafor (expiring contract whose salary is partially covered by insurance)
Some of those players would make the Pistons a little better, some a little worse. But that’s not the point here. These deals are totally about the contracts.
As poor a fit as Smith has been, the Celtics deal seems completely unrealistic. Smith is owed $40.5 million over the next three years, while Wallace is owed $20.2 million over the next two seasons (after this season). So Detroit's savings would be $3.4 million in each of 2014-15 and 2015-16 before they got major cap relief in 2016-17 (when Wallace's deal expires and Smith has a $13.5 million cap hit).
It would seem that any team that could play Smith at the four would find him a worthwhile gamble, especially if the price was just an expiring contract.
While the Pistons would likely say no, my question is, would the Celtics agree to it? Let's say Dumars was that desperate, and that Wallace's deal was the best cap relief offer (again, this seems completely unrealistic to me). Should Ainge say yes?
On the one hand, the Celtics get the far more talented player, and a guy who is best friends with Rondo. On the other, the Celts have Jared Sullinger at the four, and it's clear that he's more of a power forward than a center. Boston would also get significantly better down the stretch this season, which would serve absolutely no purpose at this point besides hurting their lottery position. They'd also add $3.4 million in salary in each of the next two seasons, and that big $13.5 million price tag in 2016-17.
If the Celtics were a starting power forward away from contending, I'd absolutely take the risk that Smith would bounce back to his old self once paired with Rondo. But for the Celtics, taking on a good player making star money is just about the worst thing they can do right now. A Rondo-Bradley-Green-Smith-Sullinger starting five with no cap room seems like a one way ticket to mediocrity unless the Celtics were to get lucky with a few draft picks (which would be harder to do because Boston would be better this year/next year).
But if the deal were ever to ever get to the level where the Pistons wanted it to happen, Ainge would have to at least consider it. Wallace is dead money, Smith is not. I'm just not convinced it would do anything besides set the Celts up for an extended run of 5-seeds in the East. I'm not completely against it, but I just feel that the rebuild is worth seeing through unless you can trade for a legit star. Smith is not that guy. Then again, Wallace is horrific, and a price this low is an intriguing buy low offer.
So I'm saying no, but I'm clearly a bit on the fence, and I want to know what you guys think. If presented with the chance to deal Wallace/Bogans for Smith..would you do it? I'm guessing the majority would.
P.S. Devonte/Dejuan is basically a crystal ball.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 2/01/2014 02:08:00 PM Tweet Edit