The recent news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season is not as big a deal as it may seem in the greater playoff picture this year. With Rondo, the Celtics were a borderline playoff team at best. Without him, they’re almost certain to miss the playoffs despite what my intellectually challenged Celtics fanboy mate Martin (@MartinShark11) reads into one emotional victory against the Heat. (Is “intellectually challenged Celtics fan” a redundancy? IDK).
The bigger question is what this means for the future of this Celtics team.
In my opinion, Danny Ainge made a tactical error this off-season. Instead of using the departure of Ray Allen as an opportunity to start a rebuild, he chose to re-sign KG and try to reload for one last championship run. Nothing new – the Celtics have been doing the same since the title year of 2008. As we’ve seen with the post-2011 Mavericks, it may be better to hold on a bit longer than try to blow things up as soon as you win a title with a particular nucleus.
However, Ainge held on for probably a bit too long. Let’s face it – Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are not the same players they once were. Father Time catches up to every baller and he’s got both of them in a vice grip right now. Garnett is essentially a spot up shooter. Pierce no longer has the ability to get his shot off whenever he wants. On top of that, the guys he brought in as part of the reloaded Celtics – Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, re-signing Brandon Bass and Jeff Green – have failed to make any significant impact.
The good thing for the Celtics is that unlike, say, Dallas, they aren’t completely up shit creek when it comes to starting a rebuild. Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger both have their limitations (for Bradley, inconsistent J; for Sullinger, height and athleticism) but they’re solid young guys on rookie deals who give Boston a couple of chips to begin with. (I’m a huge Sullinger fan – I love seeing guys in the NBA who I could probably out-jump but still get by on skill, smarts and toughness).
Obviously, the question to be asked now is where to start the rebuild. The internet has been buzzing with Paul Pierce trade rumours lately so I’ll take him on first. Pierce is an interesting case. On one hand, he’s a better trade chip than people realize. He may not be the player he once was, but he can still contribute consistently and turn back the clock when it matters. Plus, I learnt from a recent B.S. Report that he has a $4 million buyout clause for next year so he is essentially an expiring contract right now.
On the other hand…I know this is professional sports, but it’s Paul Pierce. He’s been a Celtic his entire career. Along with Kobe and Dirk, there’s no one in the league who’s more closely linked with one team. He’s been in Boston for the highs and lows. Celtics fans revere him. Ainge of course can trade him, but even if he doesn’t give Pierce the choice…does anyone think he’ll really be that motivated to play anywhere else?
The only Pierce trade situation I can see working is if he goes to a team who are championship contenders right now and just need one more piece. I thought about Memphis for a while but ultimately the only thing I could come up with was Pierce for Rudy Gay – and I don’t know how that makes them better or puts them past OKC/Clippers/San Antonio.
Finally, I came up with these two options.
Celtics get: Danny Granger, Miles Plumlee and IND 2013 No.1
Pacers get: Paul Pierce
This makes sense. Indiana have coped well with the loss of Granger and have put together one of the best defenses in the league. The one thing they don’t have is a go-to scorer in crunch time. Pierce is still capable of being that guy.
The one question mark isn’t on the Pacers – it’s that team in south Florida. Even with Pierce, are the Pacers good enough to beat Miami in a seven game series? Probably not. The Pacers would make this deal anyway – they’ve been trying to get out of Granger’s deal forever – and it’s not a bad deal from the Celtics POV, but for Pierce…which is why I concocted the next deal.
Celtics get: Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, DeAndre Jordan and LAC 2013 No.1
Clippers get: Paul Pierce
Of all destinations, the Clippers make the most sense. Pierce is from LA originally – while I can’t ever see him playing for the other Staples Center inhabitants, going back to his hometown can’t be the worst deal. The Clippers don’t really need him, but they do have a question mark looming over Eric Bledsoe and whether they’ll pay him. Donnie Turkowitz isn’t going to pay big money to a backup. This allows them to be proactive on Bledsoe and get something of real value for him – Pierce instantly makes LAC the second best team in the West and gives them a real puncher’s chance against OKC.
DeAndre is another nice piece for Boston – while his game has nosedived the last couple of seasons and you can’t play him in crunch time, he’s still a very athletic seven footer. Those guys aren’t exactly everywhere. Playing with KG (more on him later) can only be good for his development also, so long as he doesn’t pick up too many insults from him.
I would have run with this, but I ran it by the Clippers Trade Committee (my boy Ramez and my Uncle G) and neither of them like it. Even though they’re both pissed off at DeAndre’s regression neither like having to start Turiaf at centre. Me, I don’t see why it matters – everyone knows their crunch time frontcourt is Blake and Mr Kardashian. Still, the fact that they dislike it so meant I came up with the final monstrosity.
Celtics get: Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, Evan Fournier, 2013 DEN No.1 (lottery protected) and 2014 LAC No.1
Nuggets get: Paul Pierce, Grant Hill, future BOS No.1 (heavily protected)
Clippers get: Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov.
When it comes to Trade Machine play, my favourite “third teams” are always the Nuggets and the Clippers because they have so many assets. In this case, I got to include them both.
My reasoning for this trade was simple. Denver get the one thing they still need – a legit crunch time scorer to go with Ty Lawson. They also solve the Gallinari/Chandler question. The Clippers upgrade at SF from Butler/Hill – Gallo will get plenty of good shots with Chris Paul and he’s a good fit for the fast-paced Clippers offense. Boston take back Butler’s bad contract but also get Bledsoe and a swingman prospect in Fournier. Ramez (follow him also – @djhabibremix) liked it a lot more than the original Clippers/Celtics trade.
So that’s Pierce. What about KG? He’s a much harder guy to move because of his no-trade clause – odds are he’ll only waive it if it’s to a contender. I don’t think the Celtics will move him – not this year at least. Honestly, I don’t see why they need to either. As much as basketball nerds like the idea of a total rebuild, it’s always handy to keep a veteran guy or two around to teach your youngsters the ropes. If moving KG is more trouble than it’s worth, who better to be that veteran presence than the master of rookie tough love and a future Hall of Famer?
I’d have a nice little closing statement here, but boxing tonight. I boxed in my teens and I enjoy watching Mundine work, but he’s such a knob…I don’t care who wins. I want to see a good bout.