In electing to let Tony Allen walk, Danny Ainge sent a clear signal that he has a plan for filling the wing spots behind Paul Pierce and Ray Allen—spots that are empty right now. That plan could be unglamorous. Ainge could try to re-sign Marquis Daniels using the so-called non-Bird exception and lure someone like Antoine Wright or Damien Wilkins with a minimum contract.
The bolder and more difficult move would be to deal Rasheed Wallace’s $6.3 million contract to a team that could send Boston a wing player, buy Sheed out and save some cash. Every team likes saving money if it doesn’t cost much in talent, but the teams most motivated to make a money-saving deal are those over the luxury tax line or approaching it. Teams will do just about anything to get under the line (set at $70.3 million next season) or limit their dollar-for-dollar tax penalty.
The bad news: The tax line came in about $2 million higher than the league had anticipated, meaning a couple of potential trade partners—New Orleans and Philly, for instance—have a bit more room than they might have expected.
Still: Teams close to that line might want to shed some cash. Who are they? And do they have any wing players Boston might want?
• Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks will likely squeak past the tax line if they use their full mid-level exception. They are not going to give up Marvin Williams just to save money, but a combination of Mo Evans and Zaza Pachulia would work and fulfill a couple of needs for Boston. It’s unlikely for all the obvious reasons: It would leave Atlanta thin up front; the Hawks would prefer not to help another upper echelon Eastern team; and Evans’ contract expires after 2011, meaning the Hawks aren’t dying to get rid of it.
• Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are going for it all again in 2011, which means they’re probably not interested in dumping Caron Butler’s $10.6 million expiring contract for Rasheed Wallace and filler. They might be willing to send the C’s DeShawn Stevenson and Eddie Najera in exchange for Sheed, but those are end-of-the-rotation players who won’t be much help checking Dwyane Wade and LeBron in the playoffs.
There’s always Matt Carroll, right?
• Denver Nuggets. I have an irrational love for J.R. Smith, but Denver isn’t dealing Smith—their second-most explosive scorer—for nothing. No one else on Denver’s roster fits.
• Houston Rockets. The Rockets will tip-toe right to the edge of the tax line once they take care of Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson, and on the surface, Houston has wing players who would fit nicely in Boston were the Rockets motivated to deal them for Sheed.
Shane Battier’s getting old and the Rockets are stacked at the wing, but they value Battier’s leadership, and his expiring $7.1 million might be able to fetch more than Sheed and a draft pick.
Trevor Ariza? Houston’s not giving up on him now, not when the return of Yao and the acquisition of Kevin Martin push Ariza back into a more limited offensive role for which he is well-suited.
Jared Jeffries? No, thanks.
• Indiana Pacers. Another team that might look to cut costs even if they are on pace to come in (slightly) under the tax line. A combination of Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush and Solomon Jones works and actually makes sense for both teams. The Pacers may still have hope for Rush, but they may not have minutes for him if their rookies (Paul George, Lance Stephenson) emerge quickly. And if we are to judge from a half-dozen meaningless summer league games, Lance Stephenson IS THE STEAL OF THE DRAFT OMG!!!!!!
Would the Pacers be willing to deal Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s $10.5 million expiring contract for Sheed and filler such as Daniels or Nate Robinson? No? What if you threw in a first-round pick in the mid-20s? Still a pipedream?
• Los Angeles Lakers. Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton both work straight-up for Sheed. Ha.
• New Orleans Hornets. New Orleans is set to squeeze just under the tax line after dealing Mo Peterson (and the 11th pick in the draft) to the Thunder in exchange for two lower picks. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Hornets won’t look to save money, if only to give themselves a bit of flexibility should they perform better than expected and seek to make a trade at the deadline.
And guess who works straight-up in a deal for Sheed? This guy:
Perhaps that photograph will inspire the sort of nostalgia that leads fans to overlook things like the fact that Posey looked awful last season.
A combination of Julian Wright and Darius Songaila would also work, but the Hornets aren’t likely to deal an expiring contract (Songaila) and a young player with something still resembling potential for nothing.
• Orlando Magic. Mickael Pietrus would be the perfect trade candidate in every way, except for the fact that Orlando is a championship contender and would rather light $5 million on fire than help Boston.
• Philadelphia 76ers. Another team that will sneak under the higher-than-expected tax line, but they’ll look to save some cash if they can. The team has said all the right things about valuing Andres Nocioni’s toughness, but that sort of toughness attached to an overpaid, mediocre player doesn’t look quite as good when you’ve got an opportunity to save $10 million over the next two seasons. A Sheed-for-Noc deal works straight up.
Jason Kapono also works, but he’s an expiring deal, so Philly doesn’t feel the same urgency to get rid of him as it might with Nocioni.
• San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs just signed Tiago Splitter away from Europe (terms undisclosed) and inked Matt Bonner to a deal that reportedly approaches $4 million per season. If they re-sign Richard Jefferson to a reasonable deal, they’ll be bumping up against the tax line.
So what about a money-saving sign-and-trade that would send Jefferson to Boston for Wallace and a second-round pick? The Spurs have Alonzo Gee on their summer league team, and the organization is watching to see if Gee or Malik Hairston might be able to give them Jefferson-level production at a fraction of the cost.
That’s it for the tax teams. There are of course potential trade partners outside of this group, and Ainge could arrange a three- or four-team deal for players not mentioned here. But if your target is a wing player on a team looking to shed salary now, these are the guys you’d be looking at.
See anyone you like?