Post-game Reactions

We are into the new year, which means we’re a month and a half away from the trade deadline. Over the next six weeks, you’re going to hear and read all sorts of trade rumors ranging from the plausible to the ridiculous. We’ve already addressed the possibility that the Celtics could acquire Nate Robinson, and Sixer fans are dealing with reports that the team has discussed a possible deal with the Rockets involving Tracy McGrady.

Let’s just get this out of the way now: You’re going to hear a lot of people (ranging from Tommy in the car to actual plugged-in NBA reporters) wondering what the Celtics could get if they decided to deal Ray Allen and his expiring $19 million contract. The only scenario in which this happens is if injuries decimate the team so badly by mid-February that the C’s give up on the season. And the chances of that happening are slim to none.

That said, there are deals out there to be done. Teams struggling with revenue (and there are many of them—this CBS Sports story is a handy reference) are dying to shed salary both this season and next. Teams that feel they have a chance to make the playoffs may be unwilling to deal their undesirable contracts in exchange for expiring deals (of which the C’s have plenty) if such a deal would cost them a chance to make a couple of million in revenue from playoff home games.

But if a few borderline teams (say, the Bulls, Hornets, Knicks or Pistons) collapse in the next six weeks, they could waive the white flag and make some decent guys available for nothing (in terms of basketball talent).

Let’s start simple for now and look at three possible general paths the Celtics could take:

1) Try to work a deal on the margins with the C’s bench-warmers. ¬†

The C’s have about $13.5 million in expiring deals linked to the following seven players: Marquis Daniels ($1.99M), Brian Scalabrine ($3.4M), Tony Allen ($2.5M), Eddie House ($2.8M), J.R.Giddens ($1.03M), Shelden Williams ($857K) and Bill Walker ($736K).

Path number one involves using expiring deals linked only to players of little or no use to this team. I think we could all agree that House, Daniels and Tony Allen (for now) would not fall into that category, thus eliminating about $7.3 million of expiring deals.

That leaves a little more than $6 million tied up in four players (Scal, Shelden, Giddens, Walker). Over the next six weeks you will hear all sorts of trade ideas involving players the C’s could nab for that amount. And it’s natural for fans to speculate in this way—trading a package of these guys for a player with a matching salary who could contribute (Nate Robinson! Rudy Gay! Maybe John Salmons if the Bulls fall apart! Ditto for James Posey and the Hornets!) feels comfortable, since it would spare the C’s from giving up a player who helps the current team.

Two problems:

1) Teams must have 13 players on their roster at all times. The C’s have 15 (the max) right now, but you can’t just trade four guys for one without adding someone else to the roster.

2) There aren’t any good players earning somewhere around $4-$5 million per season over the next few years, and if there were, teams wouldn’t readily give them up.

The chances of making a deal using only players the C’s don’t need are low. Which brings us to scenario #2:

#2: Get ballsy/creative and add players of value or draft picks to a trade package.

This is the realization that teams aren’t just going to give the Celtics someone who could help now (like, say, Andres Nocioni and his $7.5 million deal) for the flotsam and jetsam of the C’s bench. Toss in Glen Davis and a draft pick, and you might get someone to bite. Combine Baby’s salary with those of Scal and one or two of the flotsam, and you’re approaching¬†the point at which you could grab someone more expensive, such as Corey Maggette (Golden would love to be rid of him), Stephen Jackson (unlikely with the Cats playing well and Larry Brown’s win-now obsession), Tayshaun Prince or Rip Hamilton (Detroit could be ready to dump one as long as they get a useful piece in return). (Note: The Pistons scenario is certainly not my original idea; Bill Simmons mentioned this scenario in his column late last month. I’m just parroting it here because I think it reflected an accurate understanding of Boston’s place in the trade landscape).

Unfortunately, Davis is really the only deal-able piece the C’s have to add to any package. Eddie House is valuable to the Celtics, but I don’t think many teams view him as a long-term piece of the puzzle. Same with Marquis Daniels.

And I doubt the Celtics would be willing to part with Davis, considering KG’s precarious right knee. Which brings us to scenario #3:

#3: The C’s are willing to deal Ray Allen

Again, I’d say the chances of this happening are roughly 1 percent. As long as this team has championship aspirations, they are not going to shake the foundation. They are not going to part with Ray Allen, who remains an ultra-valuable offensive player with unique skills, including an ability to raise the bench players to a higher level (an ability other C’s stars, including Paul Pierce, do not seem to have for whatever reason).

Some commenters are already suggesting a Ray Allen for Andre Iguodala/cap filler deal, which is interesting, but there is no way Boston is dealing Ray Allen for a second banana earning first banana money (nearly $15 million per) through 2014.

Still, in the 1 percent of scenarios in which the C’s actually dangle Ray’s expiring deal, almost anything is possible.

Barring a complicated deal with a third (or fourth) team acting as facilitator, these are Boston’s three basic options for improving via trade.

If Ainge can pull something useful together out of this, he’s an even better GM than I thought (and I think he’s one of the best in the league).

But my guess is the C’s go into the playoffs with the roster you see now.

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Zach Lowe

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  • John V

    Make a deal with the Nets. The Nets already have lots of money to spend for 2010, but they could always use more. And they just so happen to have players that I think would fit in well on the Cs.

    Keyon Dooling has one year left at a reasonable salary. Eduardo Najera has two years left at an outrageous salary. I would think the Nets would love to get rid of them.

    Their salaries add up to just over $6.5 million. So the Cs could get them for the five nearly-useless expiring contracts Zach lists.

    Of course, taking on Najera’s contract is not something anyone wants to do. He’s no longer a good player. But he’s the KIND of player that would fit in on the Cs. I think he’s a better Scalabrine. Still, we’re done with Scalabrine this year, right?

    The Nets would have to sweeten the deal. Maybe a top-3-protected first round draft pick.

    I think Dooling would be a good fit because he’s a bigger, ball-handling guard. We tried that with Cassell with some success, and Marbury with less success, but I still don’t want to give up on the formula. House is not a point guard, and Marquis really is not a guard at all. He’s much better at the 3. I think Dooling and House would pair nicely.

    I think it would make the Cs a just slightly better team this year, and the draft pick could be huge going forward.

    Yeah, it’d be a 5-for-2 trade. The Cs would need to sign another player or two afterwards. So what? There are plenty of D-leaguers out there who can learn the Cs sets in practice and waive a towel during games.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Nice breakdown in terms of the 3 buckets. The Ray deal is the elephant in the room, but it would take major cojones for ainge to do this. Any scenario other than a title would be put on him personally.

    But…..straight up, I think the Cs window as an elite team as this year only….there are just too many vets to expect them all to stay healthy enough. Ray for another star might extend that window significantly. The biggest variable is how much is ray willing to re-sign for this summer? IF its more than Ainge will pay, or more than a comparable player, Danny might be convinced to pull the trigger now….or risk dropping back next year.

    And….I love the thought of iggy in the 2 spot on this team!! He always gets the rap of a star making superstar money, but I would love to see him on a good team. He’s been playing with scrubs his whole career and his D is undervalued (look no further than what he did to Pierce last game). His contract is overpriced but he will never be an albatross (ex. brand, kirilenko, marbury, etc), and the team has cash so i don’t see that as the showstopper.

    All eyez on Ainge….

  • nowayout

    Nice post, good job Zach!

    Other than the Cs trade scenarios, it might be interesting to see what other contenders might do too, especially Cavs with their Big Z contract.

    I agree that Ray will most probably be here (and I like that…this year and next with an acceptable pay cut), you don’t want to give away arguably the best 3 point shooter in the game when you’re trying to get a title.

    The best scenario is to get somebody for Scal + TA + Youngsters…Salmons would be nice but why would Bulls do it? Cap space for Wade/Bosh maybe?

    If nothing happens, I still feel like Cs can beat anybody when healthy. Starting five + Sheed + Marquis + House + Baby (+ TA occasionally) can do it.

  • Jeff

    I may be wrong, but I think that Marquis and Shelden would each need to consent to a trade because of their one-year contracts. If I understand correctly, it is the same situation as Devean George was in when Dallas tried to include him in the Jason Kidd trade and he refused.

  • @nowwayout: If the Bulls collapse, I bet they’d make Salmons available for expirings.

    @Jeff: Here’s what I think/thought is the answer from Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ. Let me know if you think I’m off:

    81. When can a team trade a free agent it signs? Do they have to keep him forever?

    Generally, a player cannot be traded until three months after signing a contract or December 15th of that season, whichever is later. This does not apply to draft picks, who can be traded 30 days after signing their contract. In addition, if the player is playing under a one-year contract and will have Larry Bird or Early Bird rights at the end of the contract, he can’t be traded without his consent.

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  • Idaho

    A lot of what happens will probably depend on how some of these guys perform in the next 3-4 weeks. I imagine management just sees Scal, House, etc. going through their valleys. baby hasn’t had a valley and there is no reason to mix up what has been working even though as of late things have been a little messy.

    My prediction is things will get back on track and in 3-4 weeks ppl will think it is crazy to touch anyone on the C’s with the exception of Walker, Giddens, Williams, Lester, or Scal.

  • John V

    The Nets played Dooling and Najera big (unproductive) minutes yesterday, and obtained Chris Quinn to back up Devin Harris. I think they’re showcasing Dooling and Najera. They may be getting desperate.

  • Filipe

    I actually think we can get some upgrades without throwing Big Baby. One has to remember some teams really need to free cap. Pistons need to trade Prince or Hamilton if they don’t want to stay stuck with their current crappy team another year and they certainly need an extra big guy, but unless Dumars really likes Big Baby I’d say he’d rather gets Prince contract completly of the books then add just another big guy. The same way if the Bulls really want to add something like Joe Johnson-Carlos Boozer next off season they need to move either Salmons or Hinrich and they would want to get just ECs back, so throw House in to sweeten the deal and we might get Hinrich for expirings.

    I also think we could get Barbosa for House + Scal (Phoenix is cheap and given how smaller Barbosa minutes now that they have Richardson I’d bet they d like to get ride of his 7m contract for next season). I don’t know if adding another get that has being plagued by injuries this year is a good idea, but playing on occassion a Rondo-Barbosa backcourt would be fun and he handles the ball much better than House.

  • larryp

    A possible win/win Ray Allen trade scenario. Trade Ray with the understadning that the aquiring team cuts him and he rejoins the Celtics after a two week break. Naturally, this is all under the table and the acquiring team is just doing it for a salary dump.

  • I think the Knicks would take a Daniels & T. Allen + $ for Nate. He would fit in perfectly what with Allen getting up there in age.

  • jason

    Bill Simmons wrote about a fake trade that he did on the trade machine, and came up with something involving Big Baby for Kirk Hinrich. Sounds OK, right?