It’s that time of year again. Trade season unofficially opened today and the Celtics look positioned to be one of the league’s prime movers. We talk Danny, Doc, and fake trades with Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, with additional comments from our readers.
1. It’s March 1st. You’re Danny Ainge. What are you thinking?
Brian Robb: I’m getting antsy because I love to make deals and there’s plenty to explore, but I’m willing to wait. The opportunities out there for any of the C’s core pieces are likely not that appealing in the way of young talent on good contracts, which is what I’m looking for if I’m going to deal. I have cap space already, so trading for expiring deals makes no sense, unless there’s something out there that can improve the foundation going forward. My team has started to look better, so I watch and wait until someone knocks me over with an offer.
Ryan DeGama: “Is it possible to dump my entire roster in a fourteen team trade? Because that would be awesome.” I’m convinced Ainge (he of the championship-or-bust mentality) is done with this core and will offload anyone and everyone if he can get a decent return. So, I suspect he’s contemplating moves that would utterly horrify Celtics fans. I also suspect he’s wondering how long he can pretend he’s not seriously shopping Rajon Rondo when rumors pop up every couple of months.
Brendan Jackson: How can I improve this team? It’s increasingly apparent that the guys on this team just don’t have the trade value to net a serious return so it’s probably in my best interest to keep the Big Three intact. But then again, I’m Danny “Freaking” Ainge! I’ll trade Paul Pierce to anyone willing to give up a protected first round pick? Anyone?
Chris Forsberg: I’m thinking I still don’t have a firm grasp on what my team’s potential is when healthy, so I’m gauging the trade market with every asset I have. In about 10 days, I’ve got to decide if I’m a buyer (is it worth taking a flyer on Michael Beasley?), if I’m a seller (what can I fetch from a contender for Ray Allen?) or if I’m just going to strap TNT to this thing (everyone’s available, whose got a package that helps us start the turnover process). In the end, the easiest option is just keeping the band together and seeing what happens because financial flexibility still looms in the offseason.
CelticsHub Reader Scott Selfridge: I am thinking about whether or not I want to try and make it work with the Big Three, or make it work with Rondo. For some reason this season, they have been unable to work together on a consistent basis. Whether that’s because they are relying on Rondo too much, or Rondo is totally checked out – I don’t know. But it’s obvious that Rondo needs more athletic bigs and wings and the Big Three needs easier buckets. In my opinion, Rondo isn’t the future – that was made very clear this summer, during the Chris Paul saga and with the Pau Gasol rumors. Rondo needs a change of scenery, so I’d move him.
2. It’s March 1st. You’re Doc Rivers. What are you thinking?
Robb: I’m cautiously optimistic and throwing caution to the wind with my guys. My Big Four know that to a degree, over the next couple of weeks they are playing for their careers in Boston. My guys are finally starting to win the games they should, are looking healthy and beginning to show some promise on the offensive end. I will continue to leave my foot on the gas pedal with these guys, since it makes no sense to ease off things, but I’m urging Danny to remain patient.
DeGama: Doc will be dialed in on Danny’s plans so I assume he’s just biding his time for the next two weeks, until he can start to work with his new roster. Whatever it looks like.
Jackson: I wonder how Austin’s doing? I wonder if it’s worth it to forfeit games in order to rest up and get some much needed practice. These guys just aren’t jelling and who knows who’ll be on the team three weeks from now.
Forsberg: How the hell am I going to see Duke play in the NCAA tourney with this schedule?! No, I’m thinking I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen from this team in spurts, I like the mental toughness of battling back even in losses, and I’m just praying to stay healthy for the next two-plus months so that at least missing all of Austin’s tourney games was worth the hassle.
CelticsHub Reader Andrew Nelson: If I’m Doc, I’m thinking ‘what did I get myself into?’ I thought my Big Four would have one last run in them. They are treading very thin on the tires. I need help Danny! HELP!!!
3. Is there something disquieting about breaking up the Big Three in midseason?
Robb: Yes, especially after the way last season went down with Perk. Listen, I know Ainge isn’t about loyalty like Red was, but it’s incredibly disheartening to a fanbase to rip apart this trio when you don’t have to. The cap space is there at the end of the season, so unless there’s a no-brainer deal on the table, waiting and watching a (potential) finals run is the best option for everyone involved.
DeGama: I’m completely in favor of scattering them all to the winds by March 15 but it would still be excruciating watching Pierce in another uniform or Garnett laboring through his final two months in Boston with his former Big Three mates elsewhere. Of course, the pain in watching this team fall apart should only make us further appreciate what we’ve had the last few years.
Jackson: Yes. The Big Three were brought together in a perfect matrimony. Three basketball greats that only cared about winning, were totally willing to put aside egos in order to achieve that Championship goal. Breaking that up midseason goes against everything they stood for when they came to Boston in the first place. In the end, this IS a business, but that doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable with it.
Forsberg: Absolutely. The end is rarely pretty, but there’s something to be said for letting this group have its last rodeo instead of blowing it up in midseason frustration. If you’re not going to win, you certainly want to start looking to the future. But unless your bowled over by an offer for one of your core players, it might just be more prudent to simply hope this team finds some bottled up magic in the postseason.
CelticsHub Reader Lantrell Walker: There most certainly is. Anybody remember the 09-10 season? Ray Allen’s touch seemed off at times, but after the trade deadline, he caught fire. Paul Pierce’s season was decent, but he really brought his game towards the postseason. The C’s were .500 (27-27) after Christmas, the 4th seed in the East and people had written them off before the first round started. Anybody remember what they did in the playoffs?
4. Is it too early to think about tanking?
Robb: Yes. This team is too talented to tank and to be honest, I’m not sure what tanking does. Danny does his due diligence on draft picks with his staff as well as any team in the league, and is just as capable of picking out a gem 5-10 picks later in this incredibly deep draft.
DeGama: It’s two weeks too early. But Ainge leads a tank-friendly regime (see 2007, when a couple of Celtics players were willing to discuss the tanking agenda in public) so if the core is broken up, expect some ugliness down the stretch as the team positions itself for the draft.
Jackson: Yes. The Celtics still have a chance to improve their team for this year. Ask me again after the trade deadline…
Forsberg: What good does tanking do this team? Would it be better to be an eighth seed with the No. 15 pick in the draft, or miss the playoffs by a few games and have the No. 12 pick? At least give yourself a chance, right? It’s not like you’re going to sink down to the top 10 given this abysmal Eastern Conference. You’re going to have an extra first-round pick from the Clippers and not sure moving up a few spots is worth the hassle of folding your cards.
CelticsHub Reader Crosby Tencher: It’s not even close to time to start tanking. While the Celtics are fringe contenders at best, they could still make some noise with luck and health. I think it may be worth tanking in April once a playoff berth is secured — I’d rather be the 8th seed with full health and fresh legs than exhaust every player to try and make a run at the 5th or 6th seed. Look, they have to go through Miami and Chicago at some point. Why not in the first round at full health?
5. Fake Trade Time! Use the Trade Machine to deal off one (or more) of the Big Four.
Robb: Rajon Rondo for Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward. C’s get rebounding and scoring help, while trying to get by with Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling. Jazz get the point guard they desperately need.
DeGama: Rondo/JO’s Corpse for Nash/Gortat. If I’m Ainge, I’d even add a late first rounder to get this trade done. It’s well past noon on March 1st. It makes a ton of sense for both teams. Why hasn’t this happened already?
Jackson: Uggh – this trade is ugly. I was trying to use some of the rumors we’ve been hearing about as my guide and I’m not sure if this will make the Celtics better. Maybe if they a get a few guys in buyouts? Eeeesshh. This amounts to trading Rondo for Scola and Beasley and that ain’t equal value.
Forsberg: Call it the Peter May Ponderation. If the Nets realize there’s just no chance of landing Dwight Howard and facing the possibility of losing Williams after the season, why not flip him for Rondo, JO’s expiring contract, and a draft pick or two. In Williams, the C’s get the sort of player they coveted with Paul and become key players for another marquee start in the offseason if they can retain him. Plus you still give yourself a chance with the Big Three this season. Only way you do this deal, however, is if you’re convinced you cannot build around Rondo.
CelticsHub Reader Alex Renshaw: If the Celtics are to make a trade, the goal is to 1) win now, 2) win later and 3) attract Dwight. One realistic trade the Celtics could make would be trading Paul Pierce and a draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith. Celtics get a cheaper, younger and more athletic forward that fits with Rondo and Bass now, and Rondo and Johnson in the future. The Hawks get a star, better scorer and a player that can give them the boost they need to win in the playoffs. Dwight has said he wants to play with Smith so this move could also attract him.