WEEI’s Paul Flannery makes a few good points about Danny Ainge’s positioning as we approach the trade deadline:
Ainge doesn’t have to blow up the Celtics because he already did. He’s dragged as much as he can out of this run while timing almost everything to end when the extension Garnett signed upon his arrival is completed. He will have ample cap space, two All-Stars including a 25-year-old point guard, a respected coach locked up on a long-term contract and at least two picks in what will be a loaded draft.
This is all true. The Celtics will be well-positioned this summer even if they just let existing contracts expire. However, if Ainge is convinced the Celtics aren’t a legitimate contender, it would make sense to accelerate the rebuilding process by acquiring a combination of young players and picks in return for some of the Big Four, even if those players and picks are low level assets.
Why transition to your next era with anything less than the maximum number of assets you can acquire? Or rather — if Ray Allen isn’t going to bring you a title this season, why not spin him off for someone who might help you do so in the future? His value can be something beyond just the cap space he creates, if you can find a deal for him.
This leads us to another of Flannery’s points:
Ainge isn’t going to make a move just because this current team is barely staying afloat. He’s not going to repeat the mistakes of colleagues like Detroit’s Joe Dumars who turned his cap space into Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in a doomed attempt to stay competitive.
It’s safe to say Ainge won’t take on multi-year salary in return for any of his current players, unless the player is an absolute home run. And save for dealing Rajon Rondo, none of the current Celtics are likely to return that kind of asset.
Kevin Garnett is probably too expensive to move, but if Ainge can deal Allen for an expiring contract and a late first round pick, that makes sense. Is Allen worth more? Probably. But that’s irrelevant. The March 1st to March 15th window is the only opportunity to return value for Allen beyond just his contract. Do you want x or do you want x+1?
Brandon Bass can opt out of his contract this summer. Given his play, he likely will. He’s exactly the kind of reasonably-priced scorer who could help a contender (I type that with the appropriate irony). What could he fetch on the trade market?
I’d argue Ainge should sell off parts, which would come with the added benefit of improving Boston’s draft position, as the team would then presumably struggle through the second half of the season. In fact, if Ainge no longer believes he’s in on Deron Williams (who Doc Rivers loves) or Dwight Howard, you could even make an argument that returning a stronger young asset might be worth taking on a single additional year of salary, which keeps Boston in the market for 2013 free agents, but still makes an assertive move towards the future.
A final glorious ride into the sunset for this core is a romantic notion, but they’re under .500 and heading for a brutal second half schedule which will likely pin them to the bottom of the eastern conference bracket where they’ll be wiped out of the playoffs in the early rounds. I’m not sure that’s my idea of romance.