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Zach Lowe: Celtics Have “Tried Like Hell” To Move Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass

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.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • hax

    I like 6.9 million off the books compared to a 2nd round pick or some horrible player.

    • check12check

      truth. I’m a pretty big fan of bass. He’s an ok player, and he is a professional. In an NBA landscape full of players who cry and piss and moan about things, it’s so great to see a guy who just does his damn job. that said, he just doesn’t have a place on our team, and 6.9 million in cap space would be very nice for a team that needs to bring in some impact players.

  • dontevertreadonme

    bass sucks. my least favorite celtic. we got rid of big baby davis and replaced him with his twin. a trigger happy no rebounding azz bum. please somebody take him off our hands

  • hax

    Love to Cavs for Wiggins, Bennett, 1st rounder. I don’t think the money adds up but whatever. Official after the 23rd this month. Third wheel talks with 76’ers still happening.

    That’s a pretty bad haul for a superstar.
    The 1st rounder will be Cavs junk.
    Bennett may be a bust.
    Wiggins is still an unknown, even if his ceiling is superstar.

    Wiggins-Bennett-Budinger-Brewer-Shabazz all on the same team at SF? Good job, Flip ‘Khan’ Saunders.

    • Richard Jensen

      Woj says it’s Miami’s protected 2015.

      Which means Cleveland paid too much. They just traded almost their entire future for one player who will be overpaid for his production, thus creating (eventually) the same problem that LeBron ran into in Miami. And what’s LeBron going to do when he finds himself at age 34, with a team that has zero cap flexibility, a bunch of has-beens on taxpayer mids and veterans minimums, and almost no roster flexibility? Is he going to leave a second time?

      • Ping

        Before you go condemning the Cavs’ future, you need to actually look at their roster situation. You’re talking about LeBron’s age 34 season? Kevin Love will be just 29. Seems unlikely that Cleveland would let him walk next summer, as you alluded to with the “overpaid” comment. Next to Love will be the newly signed Kyrie Irving, who may not be the best PG in the league but is a phenomenal scorer that’s just 23. In addition to both those stars, Cleveland also has control over Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters for at least the next two seasons (2014-15 for both, RFA rights on Thompson in ’15-16 and TO on Waiters).

        Those four make for so much more than anything Miami ever had in terms of the future. Two young stars and young role players > Aging Wade and Bosh.

        If you want to argue Wiggins vs. Love, that’s a slightly different argument. I’m on the side of Love because he’s good enough now to make Cleveland contend, which is a goal Wiggins make take years to achieve. Still, a 20ish draft pick and Anthony Bennett’s amorphous repetitiveness are a reasonable throw-in cost for a top 10 guy.

        • Richard Jensen

          Cleveland doesn’t *need* 100% of Kevin Love’s output, but they’ll have to pay for 100% of it. That’s what I mean by overpaid. And with the cap structured the way it is now, it is, IMO, the height of folly to overpay for output.

          Further, it doesn’t matter if Cleveland has RFA rights to Thompson and Waiters if their salary cap situation makes it foolish to pay both of them.

          I might also add that Miami’s future looked pretty good back in 2010, but the same things that bit Miami will bite Cleveland. They’re overly reliant on three players, with a steep, steep drop off to bench players backing them up. You can’t build a long-term contender by playing three guys 40 or more minutes a night for over 100 games a season.

          And there’s another factor: Cleveland isn’t trading *their* pick, they’re trading Miami’s protected pick, which is going to be a much better pick than Cleveland’s and, probably, the highest pick Cleveland’s going to have for the next four years or so.

          What you’re left with is a team that’s going to look really sharp and might win a championship or two, but it’s going to get old in a hurry and when it does, there’s not going to be much of a future.

          That’s my main beef with Cleveand’s actions here. LeBron says that he wants to retire in Cleveland, but for some dumb reason or another, they’re jumping straight into “win now” mode. Bennett, Wiggins, and a decent mid first rounder (ideally, a defensive-minded center) next year, plus Irving and LeBron is the foundation for a dynasty–six-plus years of contention, not four years and an empty cupboard. And I can guarantee you, given the number of minutes LeBron has already played, you don’t want to bank on him being dominant at 34.

          • hax

            They win at least one ring and it’s worth it, though.

          • Richard Jensen

            Though we’ll never know for sure, I’m confident that they could’ve won at least one w/Wiggins and Bennett, and I think it likely that they would’ve set themselves up for Spurs-like ongoing relevance, even if they wouldn’t be good enough to make 4 consecutive trips to the Finals.

          • BlowfishAndTheHootie

            Its a hard one to call, but I think trying to cash in on the tail end of Lebron’s prime is the better move.

            Part of it depends on how much faith you have in Bennett to become much more than an average NBA player. I don’t have much, so don’t think a whole lot of bench depth is being sacrificed.

            Chasing a Spurs model isn’t much different from the trendy Thunder model of old is it? Both require so much luck.

          • Richard Jensen

            I think Bennett will be above average–with a competent coach. Time will tell.

            Also, here’s what I like about the Spurs model, vs. the Thunder model: The Spurs model requires something that anyone can acquire, given enough time and diligence–knowledge. The Thunder model requires luck.

            Did the Spurs get lucky with Duncan? Yes. Did they stay this good for this long because of Duncan? No.

          • BlowfishAndTheHootie

            So hard to find anyone who likes Mike Brown :)

            Absolutely agree, the Spurs have done a fantastic job in the Duncan era. But part of it has been key pieces signing for less than market value which I don’t think is easily replicated – its very dependent on the unselfish culture stemming from Duncan. Would be a fascinating alternate universe where the superstar the Spurs lucked into was Shaq rather than Duncan.

            I think for the Cavs the big 3 route is a safer bet providing they can get some low cost role players through the draft (unlike Miami) along with the Lebron-drawn vets.

          • Richard Jensen

            Mike Brown is the Billy Martin of the NBA.

            I agree the “Big Three” route is a safer short term bet, but it seems to end abruptly–leaving a big hole behind. People talking up Miami ’cause they signed Luol Deng? C’mon! It’s Deng, Bosh, and a bunch of guys that would be bulging at the sidewalls if they were tires. Ainge at least got picks for Pierce and KG, but we’re all still wondering what happens next.

            I was just hoping that Griffin would do something unconventional in Cleveland.

          • Ping

            Well, yes and no. Obviously Duncan isn’t the sole reason they won in his 80th year, but he’s a top 10 all-timer. Not to mention the luck involved in picking Parker and Ginobili.

            Knowledge in the likes of Popovich is paramount, but the Spurs have benefitted from plenty of luck.

          • dasein

            The Spurs model is organisational class and stability. Cleveland has none of that. They got LeBron as player/GM. We’ll see how that works out.

          • Ping

            That’s just it, though. Even if you’re confident, there’s no way to definitively say Wiggins is a top 5 or 10 player. Love is at that level NOW and it’s not like he’s 30. The guy is a 25 year old stud.

          • Richard Jensen

            Going to keep this short and sweet and address the three weakest points of your argument:

            1 – in reference to the above statement, who on the Spurs was, over the past two years, a “Top five or top 10 player”–not all time, last year and last year alone–and they were 28 seconds away from winning back to back titles.

            2 – In my calculus, Mario Chalmers and Tristan Thompson are equivalent, and Dion Waiters is not drastically different from any off-the-shelf, slightly above average nut-job 2-guard available by the dozen for about $9M/year.

            3 – I doubt that Cleveland invested much in evaluating Wiggins, as they knew they were going to have to part with Wiggins to get Love.
            There are other conclusions of yours I disagree with, but I want to keep this short.

          • dontevertreadonme

            exactly. clevenland getting a ring, let’s all face the inevitable. Stern and the NBA cronies gift wrap this one for the sob story aka craphole that is the city of Cleveland.

          • dasein

            I think Cleveland would be over the moon with a chip or two. Dynasties are for the Celtics and Spurs. The Cavs would take 1 and like it.

            Maybe LeBron doesn’t match Jordan’s 6, but who really cares.

          • Ping

            Just got to read this response, so I may repeat some of what you or other have said since, but here goes nothing:

            I understand the sentiment that using the vast majority of one’s cap space on three guys is daunting, but it’s not folly. Miami won two titles doing it, and now the cap is only going to rise. Why would they be paying for less than 100% of Love’s output? Why shouldn’t he go for 26/14 with the Cavs as opposed to Minny?

            As for Miami’s future in 2010, it was nothing like Cleveland’s now. You’re right, Miami never had the likes of Waiters or Thompson. They had aging types like Battier and Andersen. Those two may fit under the cap, and if not, should prove to be more valuable in trade than anything Miami ever had.

            *Miami’s 2015 protected pick should be just that: a 20ish pick. They are being projected as a playoff team, meaning the lowest it can get is 15. So maybe Minny gets the #18? That’s not exactly a home run.

            Really, aside from all that, my real point differs from yours in Wiggins’s future. If your scouting and analysis (CLE’s in this case) tells you Wiggins is a sure-fire star who will carry on for 10+ years, I can absolutely get on board with him over Love. Keeping Wiggins at a well-below market value contract would be the ultimate asset. They could have him and oodles of cap space for 4-5 years. Even after LeBron ages to the point of no longer being LeBron, CLE would have Wiggins and Irving to carry on. Sounds great, for sure.

            However, therein lies the catch: CLE had to evaluate Wiggins that way. They liked him enough to take him over Embiid and Parker (casting aside a conspiracy that they took him because that’s who Minny would have taken), but that doesn’t mean he’s bullet proof. Love is great now. CLE knows that. Pairing him on the PnR and In-and-Out game with LeBron should be insane. Love makes CLE a legit threat now and wastes exactly zero of LeBron’s remaining prime.

            The alternative could have (*could* because this side isn’t a definite either) been LeBron waiting years for Wiggins to become Pippen, all while falling into decline. After LeBron, CLE could have Irving and a disappointing #1 pick.

            Take the sure thing who will also happen to be less than 30 when LeBron starts to crash.

          • Ping

            I rarely agree with him, but Bill Simmons’s most recent article on Love nails my opinion on KL almost perfectly.

            He’s a star who has spent a career with arguably the NBA’s worst franchise. Pair him with LeBron and CLE might have a once-in-a-lifetime tandem.

          • BlowfishAndTheHootie

            Yeah, imagine if the Grizz had kept him. A Gasol/Love front court would have been fun. Also, if he’d been drafted into the East the whole no playoffs knock wouldn’t be a thing.

  • Jimmy

    I have no idea how anyone could think this is a bad move for the cavs, they arent giving up their future at all, in 5 years Love and Kyrie will be 30 and 28…..THATS 5 YEARS!!!!! they will still be in their prime, then throw in waiters and thompson who are good young role players its pretty insane on how the future looks for them. The only thing that will hurt them is the same thing in Miami….a Center, Verejao is perfect right now but cant stay healthy so we’ll see, after that they’ll proly have to just sign a cheap replacement in free agency. But the next few years of Irving, waiters, lbj, love, verejao with thompson off the bench and fill ins is quite brutal for the league. Then I’d only expect the center to really change here and there after. I cant wait to watch them as Irving and Love are my 2 favorite nonceltic players in the league. Now I just hope smart can turn into a stud along with sully and hopefully we can get a big time C next offseaon like Marc Gasol or someone so we can be legit.

  • hax

    Am I the only one who thinks Zeller will be a Top 15 C this season?

    • dontevertreadonme

      umm considering there’s like 10 actual centers in the game then yeah the odds are in his favor