Another trade coming? Investigating ways the Celtics can get their roster to 15 players
With less than two weeks until opening night, the Celtics have 20 players in camp, five more than the 15 player maximum that they need to cut down to before their first game.
However, four of those cuts are relatively easy to project, as Christian Watford, Erik Murphy, Rodney McGruder and Tim Frazier are all working under non-gauranteed contracts/camp invitations. Whenever the Cs want to release them, they can do so without paying them a dime.
So that gets us to 16, but what about the final move?
The Celtics are one of only two teams in the NBA with 16 players under guaranteed contracts (weirdly enough, the other is Detroit, the team the Celtics just traded Joel Anthony to in exchange for Will Bynum, which solved neither team's roster crunch), and they're going to either need to cut or trade someone before they take the floor on the 29th against the Nets.
Here are some thoughts about how the Cs could do just that.
Barring something truly shocking, here are the players I consider "un-cuttable":
Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, James Young, Tyler Zeller, Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton, Evan Turner, Phil Pressey, and yes, Gerald Wallace (just too much money to eat).
That leaves us with three guys who could possibly get their walking papers.
1. Vitor Faverani
- If Vitor was healthy, I would probably put him in the above list, but he's not. He underwent another knee surgery last week, and it appears that a December return is a best case scenario for the Brazilian big man. Also consider that he hasn't played a game since January, is fifth in the big man rotation, and is in the final year of his contract (he has a team option for 2015-16). By the time December rolls around, Vitor will be 11 months removed from his last basketball game, and if the Celtics don't view him as a reasonable bet to be on the team in 2015-16 and beyond, they may just release him, paying him his full $2 million and allowing him to finish his rehab on the team's dime.
2. Dwight Powell
- By all accounts, Brad Stevens and company have been "impressed" with Powell in camp. That's super nice and all, but let's not forget Stevens going on and on about how much he loved Chris Johnson and Chris Babb as recently as a month ago. The coach is saying all the right things, and may actually mean them, but when it comes time to make a move, none of those comments really matter.
I do believe that the Celtics wouldn't have traded for Powell and his $507,336 salary if they didn't expect to at least give him a shot at making the team, but the bottom-line is that he's a second round pick that is averaging a meager 9.9 minutes, 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in the preseason. Considering his youth, potential upside, the Anthony trade, and Faverani's injury, Powell may survive as the fifth big man, likely shuttling back and forth from Boston to the Red Claws. But don't be surprised if the team ends up cutting him either.
3. Will Bynum
- Bynum is a decent back-up point guard/spark plug, but he'll also turn 32 years old this season, and is absolutely buried on the Celtics depth chart. The Cs look ready to start the season with Evan Turner and Avery Bradley as the starters, and Marcus Smart, Marcus Thornton and Phil Pressey ready to back them up. That already leaves Bynum as the 6th guard, and that's BEFORE Rajon Rondo returns from injury, likely two or three weeks into the regular season. There's just no room for a veteran who has no future with the organization. And for anyone who says "they just traded for this guy, why would they release him?" -- the trade with the Pistons was a lot less about Bynum, and a lot more about saving $900,000, and dumping Anthony in the process.
Obviously, it goes without saying that any Celtic could be traded at any time. Sure, the young guys on rookie deals would be surprising, but anybody else, including Rondo, could be dealt, freeing up at least one, and possibly multiple roster spots.
But simply trading one player for another does not solve the Cs roster crunch. And it's going to be tough for the Celtics to trade one of their bigger money guys without receiving a player back, because the money will not work unless the other team is way under the cap.
That means that the Celtics will be exploring 2-for-1 and 3-for-2 deals. Here are a few combinations that could work:
Brandon Bass and Will Bynum
- Two veterans who could absolutely be rotation guys for a playoff team, neither of whom have any future in Boston. All the Celtics would ask for back is an expiring contract that is the same amount (or a little less) as both players combined ($9.8 million), plus a little sweetener, maybe a second round pick or a player stashed in Europe. This way the Celtics get their roster to 15, maybe save a little money, and pick up some kind of asset, and whatever contending team picks up these two guys snags two solid bench pieces.
Potential trade targets: Steve Nash, Lakers ($9.7 million expiring deal), Kendrick Perkins, Thunder ($9.7 million expiring)
Jeff Green and Bynum (or Phil Pressey)
- Same type of thing as Bass/Bynum, but in this case the Cs would hopefully ask for a little extra back in return as Green has more value than Bass. While dealing Green would likely make the Celtics worse for this season, it's pretty clear he's not a long-term piece for the organization, and dealing him opens up more playing time for James Young and Evan Turner, two guys the Celtics will want to see play quite a bit this year.
Potential trade targets: Nash (Lakers), Perkins (Thunder), Tayshaun Prince, Grizzlies ($7.7 million expiring), Andrea Bargnani, Knicks ($11.5 million expiring)
Marcus Thornton and Vitor Faverani
- Once again we pair a mid-sized contract with a small contract, hoping to acquire an expiring deal in the range of $10 million in return. Considering Thornton's red hot preseason, it would be nice to grab some kind of asset back in return for him, especially since he's an expiring contract himself.
Potential trade targets: Nash (Lakers), Prince (Grizzlies)
The Mega roster clearing deal:
Green/Thornton/Bass for Amar'e Stoudemire
In all of the above deals the Cs would be dumping one of their three mid-sized contracts. In this deal, it would be all three.
By dealing all three players for Amar'e, the Celtics would save about $1.2 million. But the Celtics would definitely need to get something back in return in exchange for giving the Knicks three valuable role players, all of whom will be free agents after this season (thus making the Knicks better in 2014-15 without harming their books long term). A few possibilities: Iman Shumpert (who is a free agent next summer), Tim Hardaway Jr, or a future first round pick.
Any of those three possibilities see the Celtics trim their roster to 15 (or even 14 if there's not another player coming back), and pick up a little something nice for the future.
While the most likely possibility is cutting one of Faverani, Bynum, or Powell, I definitely expect Ainge to push hard to see if he can make a deal. After all, if he can pick up an asset for a few guys without futures in Boston, why not do that instead of cutting somebody when you still have to pay them?