One of the best parts about Zach Lowe’s analysis on Grantland is how chock-full every single piece is with little nuggets of information that most of us would write entire 600-word posts on. Like this nugget, for example, which I’m about to write 600 words on:
The Celtics have tried like hell, but they can’t get anything of value on the trade market for Brandon Bass and his $6.9 million expiring contract.
Lowe just casually drops this into his bigger story on bigs in the NBA, who are finding their job security a little more complicated if they can’t stretch the floor or protect the rim. Bass is a bit player in this drama — the leading roles go to young, still-developing players like Greg Monroe, Tristan Thompson and Kenneth Faried — but he’s a fascinating case study in part because his game is sooooo close to being ideal for today’s NBA.
Bass is absolutely money from mid-range; according to the splits on NBA.com’s shot charts, Bass is more than 10 percent better than league average from six of the eight mid-range regions. He’s great at pick-and-pops, he’s acceptable around the rim, and he gets a sufficient number of rebounds for a somewhat-undersized power forward. What’s more, he’s such a good locker room guy he won this year’s Red Auerbach award largely because he didn’t complain publicly about spending one of his prime seasons on a team that had no interest in winning after mid-December.
So why are teams so uninterested in Bass’ services?
There are a few easy answers here. For one thing, Bass has absolutely no upside whatsoever. What you see from him on a nightly basis is exactly what you are going to get: Absolutely no whelming whatsoever, neither over nor under. You will get mid-range jumpers, and roughly half of them will go in, as predictably as the tide.
The biggest reason teams are likely balking, however, is Bass’s range. The issue likely floor-spacing; having a reliable mid-range jump-shooter is a useful asset. On a team like the Pistons, for example, having Bass lurking around 15 feet will Andre Drummond works high screen-and-roll action might be considerably more helpful than having Josh Smith try to space the floor to the 3-point line. In other words, teams with talented bigs who need to be involved in the offense would do well with a player like Bass.
Rather, the biggest problem is simply that every shot Brandon Bass takes is worth two points. If he shoots close to 50 percent from the floor entirely from two-point range, the team will be doing little more than treading water. You can bet that teams like Houston have done a ton of math to prove that Bass’ production wouldn’t quite benefit them enough to be worth what Boston is likely asking for him.
What’s most interesting is that Danny Ainge feels that he hasn’t found “anything of value” on the market for Bass. You may recall that Jordan Crawford won Eastern Conference Player of the Week last season before being traded for essentially nothing (Joel Anthony and what will almost certainly turn into two second-round picks, unless the Sixers make the playoffs this year). Bass is demonstrably more reliable than Crawford, so it’s understandable that Ainge would like a little bit more for him, but he also has so little place on this team it’s almost surprising Ainge hasn’t given him away for five cents on the dollar yet.
Bass will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so if Boston keeps him for the season, they’ll gain nearly $7 million in cap space assuming he walks (and he should walk). The Celtics aren’t worried about losing him for nothing, but it’s pretty clear that they are trying to get him into a better situation this season if they can find something that would benefit their own roster. If a playoff contender seems like it’s missing some production early on, don’t be surprised if trade talks for Bass start to heat up.
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