With the trade deadline just ten days away and pieces of the C’s roster dropping like flies, the time of year has come to take an honest and realistic assessment of the trade market as it relates to the Boston Celtics. On the surface, Danny Ainge has insisted he likes his 15-man roster from top to bottom, making any theoretical trade tough to consider. However, the latest string of injuries may force Ainge to have a change of heart in this department.
The main problem is obviously all the injuries, but the injury bug is particularly daunting at the small forward spot, where the C’s were low on depth in the first place. Paul Pierce is scheduled for an MRI today on his injured left foot, and he’s also battling a sprained right hand he suffered Saturday at practice.
Combine that with this not so encouraging update from Doc Rivers on Marquis Daniels yesterday, and it’s clear we have a problem.
“I know they’re doing the test next week. I don’t even know what day and I know they haven’t even found the doctors yet — which doctors are going to do it. i would tell you this: I wouldn’t anticipate Marquis coming back any time soon.”
That sounds like a guy who likely is done for the year. Whether Marquis is planning a return this season or not, it’s safe the say the team should assume that it can’t and shouldn’t count on getting much out of him if he does manage to return from such a serious injury.
There’s no doubt Daniels wants to help the team here, but you have to take into account his situation. He’s on a one-year deal for 2.3 million. If you’re advising Daniels though, can you honestly tell him to rush himself back from such a serious injury, at the risk of further damage that could keep him sidelined into next season, while costing him his next contract? It’s a risky scenario for Daniels, and while his value will go up if he returns and plays well, that’s a lot to expect out of the guy.
In lieu of Daniels’ absence, Paul Pierce’s playing time has picked up, with the captain spending 40 plus minutes on the floor during five of the past seven games. And on the heels of his 0-for-10 stinker and the revelation of injury woes looming for the The Truth, those minutes can’t continue either.
Von Wafer has played well, but he’s more of a two than a three. Delonte West will also be back Wednesday and is capable of guarding three’s, but the C’s clearly could use more size and depth at the position, which brings us to the trade market, one of the options the C’s have moving forward to upgrade this team.
Before we discuss the names though, it’s important to keep in mind all the factors in play regarding the team’s finances, cap situation and future contracts. To start then, we’ll take a look at the team’s salary situation for this and next year.
2010-11 Celtics Salaries: 77.7 million.
With that number, the C’s are currently paying 14.9 million dollars in luxury tax, which is the fourth highest number in the league.
Ironically, the Cavs are just ahead of the C’s in this department, paying over 15 million in luxury tax this year. No wonder Dan Gilbert was so bitter when LeBron left. Now let’s take a look at next year’s salary picture.
2011-12 Celtics Salaries: 71.8 million to 10 players (Assuming Ray Allen and Shaquille O’Neal pick up their player options which is likely)
Here’s a look at how the C’s depth chart breaks down:
C: Shaq (1.4 million-player option), Jermaine O’Neal (6.2 mil) Semih Erden (800k)
PF: KG (21.2 million), Luke Harangody (800k)
SF: Pierce (15.3 million),
SG: Ray Allen (10 million-player option) Nate Robinson (4.5 million)
PG: Rajon Rondo (10 million), Avery Bradley (1.5 million)
Why Does This Matter?
It matters for a lot of reasons. First off, that 71 million dollar figure for next year is a lot of money committed for just ten guys. Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis are also awaiting big raises as unrestricted free agents in search of their first big days.
You also will probably have noticed that several other crucial parts of the team’s bench rotation (Delonte West, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels) are also free agents.Then when you factor in an uncertain future regarding a salary cap rules and the CBA, and you have a bit of problem on your hands if you’re Ainge. So having ten players signed is nice, but there will be plenty of important holes to fill entering this year, with limited money to fill in the gaps.
So how does this relate to any potential trades for this year? It’s quite simple really. You can’t expect Ainge to take on any more money for next year, unless he is dumping some salary of his own. Wyc Grousbeck and company have spent plenty of dough on this team, but they are also not the Yankees, with endless amounts of money coming out of their pockets. There is a budget here and Ainge has to work within those limitations.
So are there guys that may be available that the C’s would love to pick up without having to give up anything of significance in return? Absolutely. Is it reasonable to think the Celtics can take on any more money for next year, and expect to re-sign key players like Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby to long-term deals while also filling in rest of the rotation adequately enough to remain a contender? No, no it’s not.
Mortgaging the future to enhance the chance to win now won’t happen. If we’ve learned anything from Ainge in his seven years on the job, it’s that he always has an eye looking ahead and likes to keep his options flexible. Taking on a bad contract can’t and won’t happen.
So then, what we are left with? In an all too familiar scenario, the C’s looking at expiring contracts in the trade market. And yet again, Ainge has very limited assets to acquire any potential candidates if he wants to keep his core intact, something Boston fans should count on if this team wants to win a championship.
It’s something they’ve done the past three years, in varying degrees of significance. In 2008 and 2009, it was buyout signings with Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury, and P.J. Brown. Last year, it was a trade for Nate Robinson in exchange for Eddie House, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens.
This year, the need is clear. A body capable of taking minutes at the two/three spots, playing solid defense and spacing the floor. We’ll be taking a closer look at the C’s options in this department moving forward this week, along with the C’s assets but for now we know what kind of tricky situation Ainge is dealing with and why making any trade isn’t as easy as it looks.