Selling their soul: 5 reasons the Celtics trading Pierce and KG was the right move in the long run
Emotions are a funny thing. You think you've got them figured out, that you know yourself pretty well after years of going through every type of situation that life throws at you. But you're wrong.
Take me for example. I've said time and time and time again that if the right offer came along, it was time to deal Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics championship window was closed, they were too old, and had no cap room to bring in additional talent to complement the core of Pierce, KG and Rajon Rondo. Time to see what we can get for the old guys, I thought.
All of a sudden, Pierce, a Celtic since 1998, was gone. The longest tenured active athlete in Boston was heading to a division rival, and the Celtics were out a captain. And KG, the man who single handedly changed the culture of the Celtics from "losing" to "winning" was heading with him. When the Celtics acquired Garnett in 2007, I was working as a camp counselor, and when the news broke I jumped into the pool with all my clothes in a moment of pure, sports induced happiness.
I'll admit, it was tougher on me than I expected. When you become attached to athletes, they become synonymous with your memories. It doesn't just feel like Pierce and KG are leaving, it feels like they're taking Gino time, Ubuntu, the 2008 title run, and the 2010 miracle run to Game 7 with them. That's the toughest part; trying to separate the players from the memories. And I'll be the first to admit..it isn't fun.
But still, while Celtics fans are deservedly both angry and heartbroken, this was absolutely the right move. While I don't expect all (or even most) folks to see it this way, the C's did quite well in this deal. Here are five reasons why.
1. The Celtics are suddenly flush with draft picks - Over the next five seasons, the Celtics have nine first round draft picks. They have two picks in the loaded 2014 draft, and two more in 2015, 2016 and 2018. They also have the right to swap 2017 picks with Brooklyn, a potentially valuable asset as the Nets will be at the end of the road with their current core. Draft picks might not do much to dull the pain of losing Pierce and KG right now, but they are an incredibly valuable chip in today's NBA. Under the new CBA, teams now value first round picks more than ever because of the ability to get useful (and sometimes better than useful) players at dirt cheap prices. Keep in mind that the Hawks were simply looking for two first round picks at the deadline for Josh Smith..and no one in the NBA would reach their asking price. So while the Celtics holding all these selections may not excite us at the moment, other teams in the league would pay a significant price to get their hands on them.
Contract status: Sucky, but not ultra sucky
2. Yes the Gerald Wallace contract sucks, but this deal isn't that bad financially - I keep hearing that this deal is "terrible" because of the Wallace contract..but I absolutely disagree, for a few reasons.
First off, let's just take a look at the numbers. In 2013-14, the Celtics have no cap space. They had no cap space before this deal, they have no cap space after this deal. Wash.
In 2014-15, the Celtics shipped out KG's $11.5 million price tag and Jason Terry's $5.3 million, that's $16.8 million leaving town (Pierce's deal expires). Coming back to Boston is Wallace at $10.1 million, and that's it. Humphries, Bogans, Joseph all have expiring deals, and Brooks has a $2.3 million option that the Celtics can decline if they want. That means in the summer of 2014, the Celtics save $6.7 million. That savings brings them down to $45.5 million in contractual guarantees for the 2014-15 season, leaving them $15 million under the cap. They will undoubtedly give Avery Bradley a qualifying offer and pick up Jared Sullinger's option, but they still figure to enter next summer with between $6-8 million in cap space, almost entirely because of this deal.
In 2015-16 the Celtics do take a hit, losing out on $10.1 million in cap space. That's obviously unfortunate, but by that point Wallace will be in the final year of his deal, and will take on value as an expiring contract. So I guess the bottom line financially over the next three years is: Wash (2013-14), Good (2014-15), Bad (2015-16). Not nearly as crushing as some have said.
3. The Celtics now have the necessary assets to acquire a superstar - In the NBA, superstars win, and in a city like Boston that has trouble attracting major free agents, it's all about acquiring enough assets to make a deal for one. Example: 2007, when the Celtics traded a total of three first round picks, one very good young player (Al Jefferson), a few other young "prospects" of varying skill sets (Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes) and two big money contracts (Wally Szczerbiak and Theo Ratliff) for both Garnett and Ray Allen.
Flash forward to now, and the Celtics suddenly have nine first rounders over the next five seasons, a group of young, cost controlled players of varying skill levels (Brooks, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Fab Melo) one major expiring deal this year (Humphries) and a cost controlled superstar in Rondo. This deal opens up a ton of possibilities for Ainge, allowing him to package multiple first round picks and Humphries expiring deal for any number of superstars. He also has Bradley, Sullinger and Olynyck as potential trading chips to package with picks to make another deal. I'm not saying that the next KG and Ray are walking through that door, but suddenly the C's have assets. At this years trade deadline the Celts had to sit on there hands while other teams made offers for guys like Josh Smith and Al Jefferson..next year that will not be the case.
It ain't tanking if you're trying
4. Positioning for the 2014 draft - The Celtics will not be good next year. With all of the variables it's impossible to tell whether they'll win 24 games or 40..but the current roster just isn't very good.
Thankfully, that isn't the worst thing in the world. For those who don't know, the 2014 draft is the best since the legendary 2003 draft that gave us LeBron, Carmelo and Wade. Between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, James Young, Andrew Harrison and Marcus Smart there are a slew of potential NBA stars ready to join the league. In my opinion there are seven guys in next years draft that profile better than anyone in this years.
I'm not saying the Celtics tank, that never works out well. But even playing hard this team figures to be in for a long season, so loading up on ping-pong balls isn't a terrible idea. Especially when you consider a Pierce-Garnett led Celtics team had no shot at making any significant noise in the playoffs.
5. Pierce and Garnett are staying together - Bringing this full circle, there is one positive that came out of this deal on the emotional side of things, and that's that Pierce and KG get to continue their love affair in Brooklyn. Those rumorsabout sending Pierce to Cleveland or Milwaukee to spend a lost season just didn't seem right, not after 15 seasons of loyalty. And you know that KG wasn't accepting a deal without Pierce coming with him. Now the duo get to play the next season or two side-by-side, taking their best shot at the Heat in a an effort to capture a second ring. Surrounded by a rehabbing Rondo, Green and Bradley..there just wasn't enough help. To be honest I don't think Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez is enough either, but the combination of a true center and franchise point guard at least gives them a punchers chance.
I'll miss these dudes.
When an era ends, it's never fun. And I'm sure on July 10th, when Garnett and Pierce are introduced as Nets, those emotions will come rushing back. But you can't just keep running the status quo out there forever. KG is 37, and will be 38 during next years playoffs. Pierce turns 36 this summer. Rebuilding was never going to begin until they were gone, and while you may have been able to squeeze one more season/playoff appearance out of them, the value on dealing them would have expired once Pierce's deal ended and KG refused to waive his no trade without Pierce in the picture.
The time was now, and Danny acted. Did he get enough? That depends entirely on what he does next. Time to cash those assets in. Stay tuned.