There is an argument that no team in the Eastern Conference entered the all-star break playing better than the Boston Celtics, who are now the 3-seed and only 4.5 games back of the Raptors and the 2-seed. For all the talk about how, given their recent play, they may be too good to make an upgrade: I point you to the month of January. Although the Celtics ended that month on a high note, they played fairly poorly for a majority of it. That was only a few weeks ago, so it is imperative that Danny Ainge and the front office do not get blinded by the roster's recent winning ways.
There are many ways for the team to upgrade this roster, with some being long-term focused and others short-term. One of the short-term options is Ryan Anderson, who may be available by trade and becomes a free agent at the end of the season. He would therefore be a summer rental, acquired to help the Celtics chase the Raptors and win the Eastern Conference. He is quite capable of doing that. I spoke about him in a recent trade deadline preview, as well as what it may take to get him:
Who: Ryan Anderson. The 6-10 PF is having a great season so far, averaging 17.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG. He is shooting 40% from three, making over two per game, which is something the Celtics could really use in their lineup. He would be perfect to pair with Smart, Thomas and Crowder down the stretch of games. Plus, he is only 27-years-old and could be someone Boston is interested in keeping long-term, which is important considering he is set to become a free agent. Having him here for the rest of the year will give them a leg up on their summer competition.
Why: The 27-year-old stretch forward has been involved in trade rumors ever since the Pelicans fell so far back in the standings. Although they have improved as of late, even going 7-3 in their last 10, they remain 11 games under 500 and four games back of the eighth-seeded Blazers. Not to mention, their prize for playing great ball and catching Portland? Playing the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. This is clearly not their year and it would be smart for them to start the process of building for next season. Trading Anderson is the perfect place for them to start due to the fact he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
How: Ryan Anderson for Avery Bradley.
The 'why' has changed since writing that piece, with the Pelicans situation has grown much worse as they learned Tyreke Evans would be undergoing season-ending surgery. They are also 2.5 more games back in the standings of the eighth seed, sitting 6.5 back overall of the Blazers and Jazz, who are tied for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Given where they are in the standings, how many teams they would need to jump over to make the playoffs, and the loss of Evans, it is going to be in their best interest to start selling off parts and there no better place to start than free agent to be, Ryan Anderson.
The 'how' has changed too. Avery Bradley's recent play, combined with his bargain of a contract, make him way too expensive for a summer rental in return. The Pelicans know that and would not insist on his inclusion. More likely than not, Anderson can be had for assets. Therefore, how about Jonas Jerebko and Dallas' 2016 first-round pick for Anderson?
By trading for Anderson, the Celtics will have no minutes left for Jerebko, who remains a productive player and could immediately step in at PF for the Pelicans. On top of helping to make the money in the trade work (the Celtics would need to come up with another player to add to the deal), Jerebko, who has a $5 million team option next year, provides New Orleans with either an expiring contract this summer or a cheap option to start in place of Anderson next season.
On the other side, the Celtics get Anderson, who is having one of the best seasons of his career, for their potentially deep playoff run. He would be the team's best outside shooter the day he walked in the locker room and would give Brad Stevens a lot more lineup flexibility as a result of his size and shooting ability. Some may shrug this move off, but I really do believe an end-of-game lineup of Smart, Thomas, Bradley, Crowder and Anderson would give the older Cavaliers roster fits.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle of USA Today Sports
Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz Max Sandgrund 2/13/2016 01:08:00 PM Tweet Edit