The Nuclear Option: Recycling

What Am I Offered For?

The bad part about breaking up (NBA style) is while the dollar values must match (at least nearly if you are dealing with contenders), the on-court values are wildly unbalanced. You are filling needs for the receiving team and taking back potential plus dead (or on life support) weight in return. The good news is that you don’t need to worry about duplication or missing pieces in the young talent taken in return—you are rebuilding and you just look for talent and sort it out in the next phase. Often the first year or two you can be just as cavalier about the draft picks, gather talent and mesh, pare, substitute, and supplement later.

So what might we get for our bevy of thirty-something players? ...
First up on the auction block, Ray Allen. Ray is the oldest of our fossilization crew but probably in the best shape. Certainly his picture-perfect jumper has aged like fine wine and he remains the deadliest of long range bombers. Also his salary is the most reasonable and there are several teams for whom a Ray Allen upgrade would be just the ticket.

For Chicago, Allen might be the piece that puts them over the top. Certainly at $10M he would be a huge improvement over last season’s pu-pu platter of Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and Janero Pargo for which they shelled out $11,560,000. Allen could likely play for two or three more years and Chicago would be a strong contender to win it all over that period with a starting lineup of Rose, Allen, Deng, Boozer, and Noah. The question is what would they be willing to give up to field that group of starters? If the Celtics could cherry pick, they might ask for Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, and the Charlotte #1. Probably the very best they could get would be Gibson, Asik, Kyle Korver, and the Charlotte #1.

New York fought to hold on to Landry Fields in the Melo acquisition and then he proved to be the weak link in the playoffs. Ray Allen would give them another high powered piece to go with Melo and Amare. His one year contract and Chauncey Billups’ expiring deal would still fit into the Chris Paul pursuit. The New York gotcha is that they have no bargaining chips—few young talents and no picks, not even their own.

Phoenix dropped out of the contender status last season and is notoriously tight-fisted but if they want to make the tail-end of Nash’s career a run for the roses, an upgrade at SG with Allen makes some sense. If you buy that they have soured on Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez then their addition of the taller Morris brother might offer the other two as trade bait. It would take another small contract to salary-qualify and they have no additional draft picks. This would be an out-of-character move for Phoenix and is unlikely.

I think most people consider Paul Pierce unmovable. I would argue that if you are blowing it up, both he and the Celtics would be best served by moving him to a team not rebuilding. My prime candidate is the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling has been the poster boy for poor management but with an upgrade at small forward that team looks almost serviceable. They have a huge chip in Minny’s unprotected 2012 #1. Unfortunately they have no surplus young talent but the Celtics might take the pick along with Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kamen; and then flip Kamen to another contender like Portland (or Denver if they don’t retain Nene). LA is Pierce’s hometown and would be a huge attendance draw to compete with the “other” LA team. Speaking of the Lakers, would you take Andrew Bynum and a pick for PP? Goes against the grain to help the Fakers to another title or two but it might jump start the return of Boston to contender.

Kevin Garnett also will in all likelihood retire a Celtic. Once again if the implosion begins, he would be a real boon to a contender if he wants another title. Orlando would certainly benefit although they lack both talented youth and surplus picks. Perhaps J.J. Redick, Daniel Orton, the rights to Fran Vasquez, their own pick, Ryan Anderson, and Jameer Nelson to balance the salary.

Denver is another team Kevin might push to the top. They have some interesting picks to offer in exchange and a smorgasbord of young players in Smith, Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, and Kosta Koufos. Also they have two draftees that might be of interest in Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. Perhaps the question is just how valuable would the presence of Garnett be both to upgrade K. Martin at PF and to set the tone for the slew of youngsters.

Finally Jermaine O’Neal’s contribution at center is wasted if rebuilding. He might make a real difference for Portland, Denver, New York, or San Antonio. His salary won’t be hard to match and no one is going to break the bank to get him, but he could be the difference in the 2012 playoffs. Would Portland give up Batum, Elliot Williams, and filler? Denver give up a pick plus a sign and trade of Smith, Chandler, or Afflalo? New York Landry Fields, Shawne Williams, and a 2017 (next available) second round pick? San Antoni Tiago Splitter and George Hill or Corey Joseph?

By midseason there may be other options as key players fall to injury and teams see their playoff hopes evaporating. The good news is that if it comes to a sell-off, the Celtics can go for the value of the individual deal and sort out the duplications and empty spaces later. The 2011-12 season might look like a discombobulated pick-up squad but the trial run could separate the wheat from the chaff of the incoming lot and accrue the chips to round out a contender with the next couple of drafts.

Just cherry picking the potential deals but imagine going into the 2012 draft with the roster made over.  Instead of Rajon and the All-Star fossils supported by Avery, the rookies, and more fossils; think of the interest in a remaining roster of:
Guards--Rondo, Bradley, E'twuan Moore, J.J. Redick, Elliot Williams
Forwards--Jeff Green, J. Johnson, Gilbert Brown, Al-Farouq Aminu, N. Batum, Taj Gibson, Ryan Anderson
Centers--Omer Asik, Daniel Orton, Tiago Splitter
the rights to Fran Vasquez and five or six picks in both the 2012 and 2013 drafts.