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Asset Management: Ainge Positioned For Big Move

 


Since the start of free agency, Danny Ainge has built up the deepest Boston team of the Kevin Garnett era. Even with a few roster spots still in flux, the Celtics are younger and more athletic, and more capable of matching up with the NBA Champion Heat should they meet in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

With Courtney Lee now formally inbound, it’s easy to get all flushed thinking of the lineups Doc Rivers can put together. In particular, the suddenly youthful Celtics can go small, they can go uptempo and for the first time in years, they can do both credibly.

Ainge has had a dynamite offseason.

But this is not about that.

This is about how Ainge has sneakily positioned the Celtics to be a player to acquire another top-of-the-rotation talent somewhere before the trading deadline in 2013.

For the last half-decade, Ainge has had few options to upgrade his team in-season, because his roster was stocked with expensive core players (the former Big Four) and a largely unimpressive assortment of ne’er do well rookies, marginal veterans and old, fat big men. He couldn’t move his best assets for fear of undoing the very thing that made the team successful, and nobody wanted to trade for the Eddie Houses and Nate Robinsons of the world. At least, nobody wanted to give up anything good for them. This is why Ray Allen kept appearing in trade rumors. He was appealing to other teams, but, as his Boston tenure wore on, increasingly inessential. Nobody else on the roster fit both those bills.

Look what Ainge (reportedly) just did to acquire Lee. He turned quantity into quality. He morphed JaJuan Johnson (a tweener with a limited NBA future), E’Twaun Moore (the definition of a garbage time all-star), Sean Williams (an enigma) and Sasha Pavlovic (a non-entity) into a quality seventh man. Lee is no all-star but he’s miles above any of the four guys it cost to get him. He’s also the only one likely to see playing time when the games count.

The Rockets were going to lose Lee no matter what, but Ainge basically repeated the same move he pulled on Kevin McHale in 2007, when he turned Al Jefferson and a bunch of NBA marginalia into one of the greatest defensive players to ever headbutt a stanchion.

These moves are notable because the Celtics still wouldn’t be favored against Miami in the spring of 2013, given their current rosters. Miami still has too much marquee talent capable of playing 40+ minutes per game without dropping off in efficiency. Boston’s best guys, save Rondo, are still Garnett and Paul Pierce, both of whom will continue to wear down over a game and a series.

But this may only be the first stage of the reload. Boston now has attractive, reasonably priced, young assets that could be packaged for a star, should one become available.

Would it be lunacy for the Celtics to consider moving some combination of Lee, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley?

Maybe it would. Maybe the best strategy in pursuit of banner #18 is a deep roster of mid-level talents to support PP, KG and RR.

But maybe the Celtics are still a star player away from re-emerging as a frontrunner for the 2013 title.

If you’re open to that line of thinking, try looking at the current guys on the roster as nothing more than assets stacked on the table in front of gambler Danny. If there’s one thing we know about that guy, it’s that he’s always looking for that next big score.

  • Phil

    I like the idea, but even this far in the future, I think any trade will be tough. The value of some of those assets are questionable; its hard to see Terry really being more valuable to another team than he is to Boston, and Green needs to massively improve to justify the contract (or at least seduce another GM, which I guess isn't impossible.) Bradley seems most likely to move to me, as he already has a valuable role, but also has the potential to get better that GMs of bad teams will love. That's something the other assets (except maybe Sullinger,) can't really say.

    What can the Celtics get with a deal centered around Avery? I don't know, but it has to be pretty good to justify losing his growing role on this team.

    The other problem with making a trade is that this team really depends on its culture and chemistry. I don't see it surviving another trade like the Perk one that (justified or not,) is viewed as lowering current winning odds for the future. If the Celtics do make a move, it will have to improve them both in the present and future, and that makes me skeptical that one will get done.

    It'll definitely make the trade deadline more fun though. I hope Avery's got his blinders on or has a real tough skin, because his name will be flying around like crazy.

  • dslack

    Interesting thought, Ryan.

    I wonder what stars might be on the block though. Looking at the All-NBA teams from last season:
    I don't think the Celtics are in the DHoward sweepstakes. LeBron, Durant, Kobe, and CPaul also aren't going anywhere. 2nd team: Love, Griffin, and Westbrook aren't on the move, and the Celtics don't need Parker and probably have nothing to entire the Lakers to part with Bynum. 3rd team: I doubt the Knicks move Carmelo or Chandler, Wade definitely isn't going anywhere, and I'd be shocked if Cuban parts with Nowitzki.

    And DRose, Nash, and Duncan aren't going anywhere.

    * * *
    Targets would probably have to come from the next tier down:
    Marc/Pau (maybe?) Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson, Deng, Granger, Bosh (maybe?), Harden (doubtful), Gay, Iguodala (possibly), Gortat.

    Out of everyone I've listed (below the * * *) I'd be most excited about a Gasol, Aldridge, Bosh, or Gortat, but I don't think any of them are going anywhere.. The most realistic possible target is probably Iguodala, and he'd give this team a huge boost.

    Other thoughts?

    • dslack

      should say "to entice the Lakers…"

    • Phil

      Nice breakdown, kind of answered my question perfectly about options.

      In my opinion, Bosh and Aldridge aren't moving. The Heat aren't breaking up a championship big 3 a year or two removed, and Aldridge is the key piece to Portland's rebuild. Iggy's always on the block, but the main question there is if Pierce and him can play together. They're both set at the 3 IMO, and playing them together doesn't seem like a good idea. Gortat could probably be had since that Suns team is going nowhere, but I doubt the price makes it cost effective since they have no motivation to move him. Gasol is the one that really interests me.

      He fits both requirements in that he'd help the team (huge upgrade over Bass,) and the Lakers could be convinced to move him. I don't think they're looking at the full firesale they were a couple weeks ago with him, but if they don't get Dwight, Pau's the first piece that's being moved. Its not a great combination with him, Bynum and Kobe, and Pau's the odd man out. Buss loves Bynum, and Kobe can do no wrong in LA.

      I hate the idea of losing Avery, but a KG/Pau front court would absolutely be worth him and some other pieces. That's shooters everywhere for Rondo to hit, and a great defensive line up. It hurts the future outlook, but if the goal is to go all in with KG, I don't think you'll do better than Pau. Miami would have a hard time with that team.

      • dslack

        I agree — getting either Gasol — and particularly Pau — would be fantastic. It would be tough to match his $19M salary though. I guess a Bass/Green/Avery combo provides enough salary.

        Even if the Lakers do get Dwight, they might still want to move Gasol. They've had success with twin towers before, but I'm still not positive that Gasol/Howard is an ideal fit, and he does cost them $19M this coming year.

        • James Patrick

          KG would make Gasol cry. Just like Big Baby. Not the right kind of guy for a Celtic uniform.

    • robert liscio

      id say josh smith would be the best pickup and best fit for the celtics trading a combination of bass, lee, fab melo, and a couple of first round picks

      • Robert Liscio

        Imagine Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Josh Smith, and Kevin Garnett starting, with terry, green, sullinger, dionte christmas, kris joseph, mikael pietrus, keyon dooling, and another big man with the biannual acception! Not sure how much Josh Smith would make per year but bass, lee and melo would free up around 13 million in cap space so if they give green 7.5 mil this year instead of 9 and back load his deal that frees up around 14.5 mil give smith 13 and pietrus and dooling the vet minimum and use the bi annual exeption for another center. Even though smith can fill in at center and power foward and so can sullinger if they go small! That starting 5 is dangerous maybe the best in the league, with a pretty damn good supporting cast! Pietrus should be better, remember he was fighting knee problems since the middle of last season, dooling is a decent backup point, terry is a great backup 2 and christmas gives some size at the 2 at 6' 5"

  • NZNICK33

    I'd really like to see this team given a chance to gel as it seems the C's are on the verge of something special. Heady veterans, skilled-role players, rookies with significant chips-on-their-shoulders, tinmen with new hearts (figuratively) and the best pure PG in the game.
    If the mini-MLE is used wisely (could Carl Landry be convinced to take a pay cut for the chance to win big? Could we make a play for Jordan Hill? Bring in Louis Amundsen to grab some offensive rebounds? See if the Spurs would part with DeJaun Blair?) then the C's are going to beyond formidable.

    • Lantrell Walker

      I'd love to have Jordan Hill, came along a bit from being just a side dish thrown in with the D-Fish trade to a hard-working, productive big.

  • Lantrell Walker

    The reason why this offseason was awesome in everyway: Danny found a way to get YOUNGER and BETTER at the same time, something that's hard to do because it's been proven through time that you don't win anything going young. Kudos to DA for finding the right balance.

    #WeBelieveIn18
    #IAmACeltic

  • Kafel

    I doubt Spurs will let go Blair but Amundson would be a nice fit. AND Danny can check what Chris Andersen thinks about earning less money but getting ring in exchange. If not I also like Aaron Gray as a backup center. One thing is sure – Celtics are better right now ( younger and more athletic ) but They still need improvement in rebounding.

    • NZNICK33

      I agree. Just for once I want the Celtics to have one of those irritating, get under your skin, rebounding forwards like Amundson, Reggie Evans, Jeff Foster or Varajeo (I know that only Amundson is available). We always seem to be getting our lips busted by these kind of players and I'd love for the C's to have one for a change.

  • lakershater13

    I like the idea of being able to make a big move but dont see the need at the moment. Now that Green, Bass, Terry and Lee are signed they cannot be traded until after the December 15th deadline. I want to see what happens til then. I dont see any teams that the Celtics dont match up well against. The Lakers front court it a problem but the Lakers will have serious problems with the Cs back court. That would only be an issue in the finals. In the eastern conference? Miami got Ray and Lewis. Celtics if healthy add Lee, Bradley, Wilcox, Green, Sully, Melo, and Terry. Advantage Celtics. New York teams will fight for a bottom seed in the playoffs. Atlanta in my opinion actually got better but not good enough. Philly got rid of a huge salary and let lou williams walk while adding nick young. I dont see them any better. Indiana I dont see any better. Indiana has a nice young team but no go to guy. So I like the Celtics chances this season. Huge upgrades on offense and honestly they will be better defensively as well. Green is a good defender and so is Lee.

    I really like the Celtics team and Danny is not done. Still has the biannual exception to add more depth to an already deep team. The only move that would make sense to me is trading Green to Atlanta for Josh Smith if the hawks are worries they will lose him that could be a good gamble around the trade deadline. Green would also have to be playing decent to make that deal work. I just dont see the need to shake up a roster that on paper looks like it could win the title. I guess we will find out how well these players mesh together and if there will be a need to make a change.

  • CG12

    Everyone is justifiably juiced about this roster. I would request at this time that people remember this feeling during this coming season and following years. Danny Ainge has been periodically ripped by many fans over the years for various personnel management sins. I have always been impressed with his ability to construct a strong team, while maintaining flexibility for the future. This team should be successful, but we can also shop to look for acquiring a star. No pressure to do so, but why not keep all of your options open? Ainge has proved a master at that, and he deserves some serious kudos for putting together such a run of good and likeable teams, with no immediate end in sight.

  • S_Pr1nc3

    Banner #18!!!

  • bigblack1954

    Now since Boston has acquired Courtney Lee do you think Danny Ainge will go after another center with experience? Maybe someone like Joel Przybilla? I feel like we are going to win the championship next year – Banner #18.

    • keith

      I agree. I think we do need one more big. Fab mello isnt enough yet.

  • zach

    we are on Miami injury away from being the EC favorite. The Bulls have dropped off with Rose's injury. No need to make a trade unless something is not working, but I LOVE this combination of players. Bass, Green, Avery, should all improve a bit this year (one could even be a surprise all star) with time in the sytem, and I don't think Rondo is finished improving either. My fear is that PP and KG will drop-off so we will need the other guys to improve.

  • T.J.

    A trade during mid season could help but look what happened last time. Sure we got the best player from the trade at the time but it takes time to get the new guys acclimated. Also look how trade seemed to ruin the whole team chemistry. Chemistry is somethings that is easily overlooked and it definitely showed. If it would get us another great big that would be great but I would be very weary of it. (Also I really like the team as it is now.)

  • rupaulpierce

    i like winning, but i like looking at pau gasol less

  • zach

    couldn't take the Pau pout, I would much rather have Marc, who is stronger and thougher (and much younger) than Pau, but there is no way Memphis moves him

  • RollinWithPierce

    I am a lifelong Celtics fan dating back to '82 when I was 8, but you all are HIGH if you think we can we win the Championship this year. The GLARING reason we failed epically in '10 was rebounding. Nothing we have done since '08 has changed that. Doc's system sucks for rebounding. We NEED low post scoring and rebounding!!! Ainge has fallen in love with shooters to our detriment. Remember: no rebounds, no rings.

    • JR99

      Huh? The reason we lost GAME 7 of the Finals in 2010 was the loss of Perkins in Game 6. Note that we made it to Game 7 with that team. And wait… what about KG, Sully, Wilcox, Green, even Melo (if he sees the floor)… what are those guys, chopped liver?

      This team, right now, is a major contender. It's all about health… always is.

  • JR99

    There's only 1 guy on this team that absolutely CANNOT be moved (by any sane person): KG. One notch below KG there are a couple of guys that we MUST NOT move for anything less that an offer that can't be refused. That's Rondo and Bradley. So all this talk of moving Bradley… you better think again. It would have to be an absolute home run… and I doubt that's gonna happen, because Avery doesn't have the resume to bring that kind of offer to the table. WE know how great and important he's become, but I doubt other GMs could justify making us a gigantic offer just to get AB.

    Trade Rondo? Maybe, but I doubt it. I'm also thinking that with Ray's departure Rondo has also been relieved of one major irritant, which may just lead to RR reaching new heights this coming season.

    But there is one name so far conspicuously absent from the conversation: Paul Pierce. I would have NO PROBLEM moving Paul for the right deal. Heck, I'd move him for any decent deal. Problem is, I doubt there's another team out there that would offer a worthwhile trade for PP…. not at his age, and not given his position on the downward slope of his bell curve.

    So that leaves only the rest of the guys, and yeah, something could happen with some combination from that pool. Who, what, when…. nobody knows, not even Danny. I think he keeps his ears to the ground, and plays the cards as they come in.

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