The trade deadline is February 20. The Boston Celtics are one of several teams that will be extremely active leading up to February 20. Jeff Green—the guy who scored
two bajillion 36 points last night in Philadelphia—is one reason why.
Before we dive into the really fun trade-related stuff everyone loves talking about, this article isn’t about whether the Celtics “should” trade Green—he’s a good player on a reasonable contract, and the team would be perfectly fine either way. This is more about a team trying to find value anywhere it can. Value can come in many different forms: cap space, draft picks, rookie scale contracts, expiring deals, a turbo-boost into the lottery. For a rebuilding team, all potentially cede paths to a strong foundation and long-term flexibility. Green is none of those things, and if the Celtics can brighten their future by trading him they’ll do it.
Here are a few trades, some more realistic than others. They’re placed in four different categories that help define what type of value Boston would be obtaining in the deal.
Tanking and Saving
These deals will save the Celtics money and make them worse at basketball, two friends for any rebuilding team. Each sheds Green’s contract in exchange for an expiring deal—the same thought process behind the Courtney Lee/Jerryd Bayless trade earlier this season.
At first glance this deal looks like something the Celtics would not do. Okay, now look at the numbers. Ariza can’t take over a quarter like Green, but he’s scored at least 20 points in 11 games this season. Green’s scored at least 20 points in 10 games, and has appeared in seven more.
Ariza is 28 years old on an expiring contract. Green’s contract runs through 2016, when he has a $9.2 million player option that he’ll probably opt out of. He went to Georgetown and grew up in Maryland. From Washington’s perspective, building around a John Wall, Bradley Beal, Jeff Green, Nene, Marcin Gortat (if they re-sign him) starting five isn’t that bad. Green would almost certainly be more effective as a third option playing off of Wall and Beal, especially creating mismatches in the post. (Worth considering: Green could stunt Otto Porter’s development, but also alleviate any pressure he might be feeling as a struggling third overall pick.)
Ben Gordon has played in 17 games this season. He’s shooting under 40% from the floor and 30% from the three-point line for the first time in his once proud career. His PER is 6.7. He’s making $13.2 million.
Not that it has any bearing in a multi-million dollar business, but trading Jeff Green for this player would be an all-time tank job; a complete slap in the face to fundamental competition. The Charlotte Bobcats are also rebuilding, but they’re a tad less patient (understandably) about it than the Celtics, and qualifying for the playoffs is a priority. Green is an undeniable upgrade there.
This trade ultimately won’t happen because Green’s too good a player to be abandoned solely for a financial cause. His contract isn’t that bad. (At least with Ariza you’re getting someone who can crack an NBA rotation.)
Huntin’ for Blue Chips
A few weeks ago I wrote about Harrison Barnes’ various struggles in Golden State. Barnes is shooting 40.6% from the floor right now. He’s also 21 years old with incredible potential and a rookie scale contract that doesn’t end until 2017. Thanks to Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors won’t want to foot the bill on Barnes’ next contract, but he’s a perfect fit in Boston.
The 2015 1st round pick is a necessary casualty here, because there’s no way Golden State takes Green’s contract without a helpful incentive.
Interesting Straight Up Swaps That Will Never Happen
Two weeks ago Danilo Gallinari had his second ACL surgery in nine months. That’s no good. He’s sidelined for the foreseeable future, and isn’t helping a .500 Denver Nuggets team that somehow trails Dallas by only two games for the last playoff spot out West.
Jeff Green’s knee isn’t destroyed. He can run fast and jump high. He can help. The Nuggets would most likely be open to this deal. On the other hand, Boston would be swapping its leading scorer for someone who can’t run.
Gallinari is also 25 years old, and it’s not like the Celtics are going anywhere in a hurry. So what’s the problem? He’s guaranteed approximately $22 million over the next two seasons, a significant sum for a seriously injured player. There’s risk here, but it’d still make for an interesting trade.
The Celtics had interest in Omer Asik earlier this year, but it’s next to impossible the Rockets would move him for Jeff Green tomorrow. They already have an answer at power forward. Terrence Jones is a 22-year-old athletic freak who’s getting better by the day; he’s been excellent beside Dwight Howard, is incredibly efficient and already rebounds it better than Green.
Basketball is a game of fit. Successful teams are made up of players with complimentary skill-sets. Josh Smith is having a miserable season in Detroit, but the previous seven seasons illustrate how good he can be (which is much better than a 14.4 PER). Smith’s playing out of position, in a claustrophobic frontcourt that lacks shooting. He’s a really good player who can rebound, pass, play defense, run the floor, and finish, and imagining what Brad Stevens would do with him and Rajon Rondo is exhilarating. The contract is an issue (he’s guaranteed $40.5 million over the next three seasons), and if the Pistons are interested in building around a Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond frontline (not a bad idea), Smith can’t be on the team.
That contract isn’t as foul on the Celtics. If they can acquire Smith without giving up any draft picks, it’s something they should seriously consider.
Michael Pina has written for Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.