Here’s a sampling of some of the reactions to the trade with Oklahoma City:
Green and Murphy, if he comes, could also give Boston the option of playing smaller (with Kevin Garnett or Davis at 5) and spacing the floor more, something the Celtics haven’t done much of since James Posey left after their 2008 championship run.
One other point, since everyone is attacking the Celtics over this trade: Perkins has played only 12 games this season and Boston still has the best record in the East; the Celtics also nearly won Game 7 of the Finals in Los Angeles last year without him. Generally speaking, they’ll get by. Additionally, the Celtics needed somebody on the wings to replace the injured Daniels (who was dealt to Sacramento today), meaning that somebody with value had to depart — Perkins was the most logical candidate.
Nonetheless, one suspects if the Celtics still saw the Lakers and Magic as their two prime playoff threats, they wouldn’t have made this deal. The fact the Heat and Spurs have played so well, one suspects, has altered their thinking.
Beyond this season, these moves could clear ample cap space for the future. Krstic will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and Green will be restricted. With only Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley under contract beyond the 2012 season, the Celtics could be prime players in the next great free agent class that is likely to include Dwight Howard, among others.
The present is cloudy at best. First and foremost will be restoring calm to a locker room that is among the tightest in the league. Perkins was a major force in that both on the court, and off. Second, is how Rivers intends to use Green who is a versatile forward. With Green and Glen Davis, the Celtics could use a variety of lineups to counter teams like Miami and the new-look Knicks.
Perkins appeared destined for long-term security in Boston until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year. Since then, Ainge has had to ask himself whether it would be economically sound to invest about $10 million per season in a center coming off major knee surgery.
But that’s the market, and that’s what Perkins was going to ask for. He watched Brendan Haywood sign a six-year, $52 million contract with the Mavericks and wondered, why not me? The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum signed a four-year, $57 million extension. Joa kim Noah re-signed in Chicago for five years and $60 million. And Chris Kaman signed a five-year, $52 million contract with the Clippers in 2006.
The Celtics offered Perkins four years and $22 million, but he was looking for about double that. So there was going to be an impasse in the summer, and it’s apparent that Ainge chose to focus on impending free agent Glen Davis and perhaps using the team’s mid-level exception — if it still exists under the new collective bargaining agreement — to attract a new big man.
Let’s begin with the article of faith that the team that gets the best player usually makes out the best in the trade. Green is the best player among the four. I can’t imagine any general manager, including Presti, disputing that. Green is 24 years old. He was averaging 15.2 points a game, third on the Thunder behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He started all 49 games he played, averaging 37 minutes per contest.
He’s 6-foot-9 — a long 6-foot-9, which means he easily fills the role as a backup to Paul Pierce. He has 3-point range. He can play the power forward spot, as well, in a smallish lineup. There are reports that he may have fallen out of favor a bit in Oklahoma City, but there was some concern as to whether the Thunder were going to be able to re-sign him, having already committed big-time to Durant and with Westbrook coming up next.
They broke up their championship frontcourt for a variety of reasons — contractual, the perimeter threat of LeBron James and a looming future of rebuilding in the absence of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
By packaging Kendrick Perkins (along with Nate Robinson) for hybrid forward Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic at the deadline Thursday, Boston was retrieving value for Perkins. Their 26-year-old center was going to be an expensive free agent this summer — probably too expensive for the Celtics, who face obligations next season totaling $57 million for Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
On an open roster, we don’t know where Jeff Green plays. He’s a poor rebounder, an awful defender at the power-forward slot, and he doesn’t do enough offensively to warrant a look at small forward. And yet, this doesn’t stop him from shooting nearly four 3-pointers a game, despite making only 30 percent of his looks from out there. His shot selection has been an issue since his rookie year, and it’s still hard to tell, exactly, where he fits in this league. Other than a guy that seems to luck into getting big minutes and plenty of shot opportunities.
It’s truly hard to see what Danny Ainge sees in these moves. Perkins has missed most of the year after recovering from surgery on his right knee, and he was going to be out for a spell with a sprained knee, but all indications had him at full strength for the playoffs. In his absence, they’ll have Krstic, almost completely the anti-Kendrick. And then shipping out Robinson just for the chance to lose both Robinson’s and Perkins’ contracts? Losing Harangody (who can play) and Erden (who, uh, has played) for nothing in a win-now year?
Maybe Jeff Green is a terrific addition. Maybe Nenad Krstic can score, but Garnett, as historically great a defender as he is, is not as effective without Perkins.
No one is. Perkins is exactly what Oklahoma City needs, one of the strongest interior defenders in the league. It’s the piece general manager Sam Presti has been attempting to add since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook emerged as one of the best young cores in the NBA.
And we’ll see how this works for the Celts when it’s time for a man-up defender on Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum.
The original idea of bringing in the O’Neals was to add interior depth, not replace it. But Ainge apparently decided that Perkins’ price will be too high.
A risk? Absolutely, but one the Celtics had to take. What happens in a new labor agreement is anybody’s guess, but one possibility league general managers were considering Thursday as they wrestled with the risks and rewards of the trade market was an outright contractual bloodbath, sources said. Four months from now, or whenever the lockout ends, the league could be littered with free agents who were key components of playoff or even championship-contending teams. The Celtics got out in front of that risk with Perkins and got some capable pieces in return. They also made themselves a factor in the potentially massive free-agent summer of 2012, when they’ll have only three players under contract — Pierce, Rondo and potentially Avery Bradley.
Green, who Oklahoma City was not going to retain as a restricted free agent — if such a thing still exists — next summer after being unable to negotiate an extension with the 2007 first-round pick, gives Boston some much needed wing help off the bench. Krstic gives Rivers both another body to work into his frontcourt rotation and insurance against the uncertain health of the two O’Neals, Shaq and Jermaine. The first-round pick of 2012 has more value in the eyes of most GMs because of the strong possibility that underclassmen will stay away from the 2011 draft as the league faces a lockout.
But to trade a core player in the middle of a championship window? That’s a ballsy move. A big risk. If Boston wins it all, Ainge looks genius. He has kept winning and started a transition to the future.
But if they don’t, if the Celtics lose somewhere along the line — especially to a team with great play up front — Ainge is going to hear it. Because most people want to ride that wave all the way into shore.
The addition of Green is a very intriguing move, especially with eyes toward a Boston bench that has struggled with offensive consistency for much of the past two seasons. Boston gets the much-needed backup that will allow them to ease up on minutes for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce moving forward, while also developing a player that can slide into the starting lineup when Allen’s time in Boston is over.