The Celtics are flying high right now, but the larger story beyond this season remains one of rebuilding in order to remain competitive as the core ages. And that won’t be easy. The Celtics don’t have a lot of assets other teams will want this off-season or even during the season next year.
Try and think of a realistic trade the C’s could make this off-season—a trade that would make some sense for all sides—and it’s tough to come up with too many appealing deals.
But there are a few decent names that could fit if everything falls right and the key people are interested. One name I kept coming back to as the regular season dragged on: Michael Beasley.
The Heat have just over $12 million in salary on the books for next season once you remove Dwyane Wade’s player option, per ShamSports.com. The salary cap is now projected to be about $56 million. Every player in the league wants to play in Miami. Let’s assume, for fun, that Miami signs both Wade and Chris Bosh to max deals. After that, the Heat will still have almost $10 million to spend before they hit the cap.
Miami’s goal is to build an instant title contender. Miami is also tired of Michael Beasley, who is averaging 9.5 points per game on 9-of-22 shooting—with zero free throw attempts—in two playoff games against Boston. On Tuesday, Wade said the following about Beasley (via Marc Spears at Yahoo!):
”I’m tired of answering questions about Beas not doing it,” Wade said. ”He has to continue to play. It’s going to click one day. Hopefully, it’s Game 3. He has the ability to really make us a tough team to play. It’s on Michael.”
Without reading too much into that quote, I’m pretty comfortable assuming Wade would not be devastated were Beasley on another team next season. Beas is scheduled to earn about $4.96 million next season, and Miami has a $6.2 million team option for 2012. Beasley’s not expensive, but he’s not super cheap, either.
The Celtics need young players with potential to grow. This is indisputable. They have very few tools with which to get such players, but one they do have is a possible sign-and-trade involving Ray Allen. So if you’re Danny Ainge, wouldn’t you consider signing Allen and dealing him to Miami for Beasley and cap filler? And if you’re Pat Riley, suddenly flush with a young-ish left-handed power forward with a penchant for the perimeter, wouldn’t you consider dealing your disappointing #2 overall pick in exchange for a dead-eye shooter who gives you one ingredient your instant title contender lacks? And wouldn’t you be especially interested if the shooter in question is a veteran with championship experience willing to be the 4th or 5th option on a championship-level team?
Which side says no to that deal?
I know what you’re saying: How could the Celtics deal a dependable veteran with something left in the tank for an enigmatic second-year guy who was in rehab less than a year ago for reasons that remain unclear? But here’s the thing: How are the Celtics going to get decent young players? Through the draft? That’s unlikely for the next two seasons, considering where they’ll be picking.
With the mid-level exception? There aren’t many young players with a 15-7 season on their resume in the mid-level market. Through a trade of someone other than Ray Allen? Ok, who are you trading? Kevin Garnett? Rasheed Wallace? Do you think any team really wants to take on those deals—both of which run through 2012—with the prospect of a new collective bargaining agreement looming after next season?
In theory, a Beasley-Allen deal has something to offer both teams.
But you know what? Michael Beasley has to show me something in a game that matters. And he’ll rarely play in a game that so clearly screams for him to put his imprint upon it as did Game 2. The C’s were throwing two or three defenders at Wade on every screen/roll, forcing Wade to give the ball up. Meanwhile, they were content with using Glen Davis to defend Beasley one-on-one, even on the perimeter. And when Davis jumped out to help on Wade? The C’s often didn’t bother rotating a help defender over to Beasley, content instead to wait until Davis recovered back to Beas. Trust me, I watched the tape.
And still: Beasley was invisible, aside from a first quarter drive-and-dunk that made you think, “Oh crap, maybe Beas is ready to take over.” Nope. Never demanded the ball, never isolated and told his teammates to get out of the way. Totally passive.
If he keeps playing like this, the Heat won’t mind giving him up.
And if he keeps playing like this, I’m not sure the C’s would ever be that interested in acquiring him. (Unless, of course, Miami wants Rasheed Wallace!).