The Nuclear Option: Groundwork

If A Wheel Comes Off

With the Big Three cruising through the 2010-11 season with little drop off and the healthiest players on the team, Danny Ainge decided to lace ‘em up and make another run at a title. We’re well past the expected expiration date for the window for these thirty-something All-Stars but like fine wine they have maintained their quality. Still, you know Danny goes to sleep nights laying out contingencies should the balloon collapse.

Realistically I think you have to look at the Big Three as part time players next season. If Doc had to play them forty minutes a night it would be fruitless as they would have nothing left for the playoffs. The Celtics have tried to limit their minutes for the past two seasons, not always successfully. To be truly competitive this year the aging stars will have to be held to thirty-two minutes or fewer and also to take the occasional game off. That means that the five through nine guys are going to have to provide significant, and effective, minutes. Since the older guys will have to take some games off and because no team goes through the season injury free, even the ten through twelve guys are going to have to contribute. With so much expected of so many, there are a lot of things that need to go right. If you have to be that deep, then you are effectively thin; meaning that you can ill afford any missteps.

That means there are a lot of ways that this hopeful journey can be derailed. If that happens, I think that Danny is about fifty-fifty between shoring up the bulwarks versus cutting his losses by starting the rebuild early. If the decision is to blow it up and start reloading, then the first order of business is moving every player over thirty for something(s) that help the season in 2014. It is not that I think this will absolutely happen, or something I want to happen, but if the course is rebuilding then everything will, and should be, in play. And yes by that I mean Paul Pierce also. I think he will retire a Celtic but if we are in full rebuilding mode he may prefer to spend his final seasons someplace where they are trying to win while he is still playing.

This treatise has grown so long that I will present it in two parts. First
I will set the table and lay out the working parts. Next time I will give my “better” options.

I have tried to fathom just how this might work. Recently the value of aging stars has been their short/expiring contracts as much as their actual on-court contributions. This is really a cap phenomenon and whether this will still the case depends on the new, and unknown, CBA. They might even be more valueable, if there is an “amnesty” it might almost disappear, we just don’t know. At any rate this type of value really depends on exchanging those contracts for longer/worse contracts combined with better assets (incoming player talent, picks, other young players with potential). The other type of movement of aging stars typically provides the final piece of the puzzle for a contender. Again the value received is assets for the future—youth with potential, picks, or current “stars” at a position of strength and duplication (if you have two decent centers and your only good shooting guard just went down for the season, if may be worthwhile to salvage the playoff run by sacrificing a center for a half-season of an aging star). One more consideration might be the marketing potential for a player, particularly a home town player, to a club, especially one in a highly competitive market. These are the factors I explored and weighed as I contemplated how a reversal of direction might come down.

With these factors in consideration I have looked at the needs/assets of potential candidates. Note that this scenario is unlikely until well into the season although if Rondo reinjured his elbow in the first practice all bets are off. By mid-season the needs of contenders may have changed with injuries/acquisitions altering the landscape. But looking at the current situations gives some insight. First up the draft picks owed to contenders or teams that might be hungry for some leadership or marketing.

Draft picks owed

Due Charlotte’s 1st round
(protections top14 in 2012, 12 in 2013, 10 in 2014, 8 in 2015, unprotected in 2016)

Due Golden State’s 2nd round in 2012
Due New York’s 1st in 2014

LA Clippers
Due Minnesota’s 1st in 2012

Due Minnesota’s 2nd in 2014

Due Golden State’s 1st in 2012
(protections top 7 in 2012, 7 in 2013, 6 in 2014, otherwise GS 2nd’s in 2014 and 2016)

Most contenders, well except for Miami and New York, also have their own picks but contender equals late picks and are of limited value as Boston well knows. I was a bit dismayed at how slim the pickings are for milking picks from a contender in need of a “final piece.”

As for young talent (either duplicated or being upgraded), options are somewhat limited there also (depending upon your valuation of developing players). Again the contenders and marketing opportunities/needs:

C Omer Asik
PF Taj Gibson

SG Roddy Beaubois
SF Corey Brewer

SG J.R. Smith
PF Kenneth Faried
SF Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton
C Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos

LA Clippers
SG Eric Gordon
PF Trey Thompkins
SF Al-Farouq Aminu
C DeAndre Jordan

New York
SG Landry Fields
SF Shawne Williams

PG Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson
C Cole Aldrich

SG J.J. Redick
C Daniel Orton, draft rights to Fran Vasquez

PF Marreese Speights
SF Thaddeus Young
C Nikola Vucevic

PF Hakim Warrick, Markieff Morris
C Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez

SG Wesley Matthews
SF Nicolas Batum, Like Babbitt

San Antonio
PF Cory Joseph
SF Kawhi Leonard, James Anderson
C Tiago Splitter

SG Marcus Thornton
SF Donte Greene, Tyler Honeycutt
PF Jason Thompson, Hassan Whiteside
C DeMarcus Cousins

SG Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks
PF Derrick Favors
SF C.J. Miles
C Enes Kanter, Kyrlo Fesenko

Thirty-something Celtics:

SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jermaine O’Neal
You might want to include any veterans added to the roster, certainly any you don’t see playing for a contender in 2014. Of possible Celtics’ free agents that might be resigned, I would include Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, maybe Delonte West (31 in 2014), definitely Troy Murphy.

Needs—while the most desperate needs will likely be those created suddenly by injury, going in to the season the contenders will almost certainly be trying to address their existing ones. If unsuccessful then their motivation will increase week by week.

Shooting guard, unless you believe second round draftee Malcom Lee is the answer, this might be the most glaring need of any contender.

Power forward

LA Clippers
Small forward

New York
Shooting guard, center

Everything but center

Shooting guard

Shooting guard


San Antonio
Small forward, center

Small forward

If you are a summer GM then the above gives you a lot of food for thought.
One from column A + one from column b + filler = one from column D to satisfy one from column C
If you are a real glutton for punishment, try including a third or fourth team.