Let's start by stating that blowing up a team should lead directly into the lottery and that the point is to stay in the lottery for as few years as possible. From that aspect the Celtics have already missed since their first "half" record is far too good to make it into the bottom ten. However if you subscribe to the "not finding the fountain of youth" and turning back the clock then this isn't going to be a championship year. If the malaise is as pervasive as the past month has made it appear, then moving Ray for a younger shooting guard isn't going to "fix" the C's. Hence the question becomes whether starting now gives a substantial advantage over playing out the season and starting in the off season. If so, then is it possible?
Some have opined that the Big Three are untradable, at least until they become expiring contracts. I think that may be overstating the case. A decision to blow up the current aging, perhaps expired, team might offer some real opportunities if the brain trust thinks outside the box. The projected moves below utilize three principles. One, trade solutions to contenders or borderline contenders for injured and/or project-players that cannot contribute to this year’s playoff run. Two, trade expiring contracts to sellers who are trying to reduce salary commitments to avoid the Luxury Tax or just to survive financially. Accumulate picks and potential aiming to grow for the next two years and compete after the new CBA is resolved. Finally, don't worry too much about balance; accrue assets and work on the mix later.
The core of the blowup is the moving of the Big Three plus Rasheed. Some pundits think Garnett and Rasheed are particularly impossible to trade. I think there is a way and one that might bring considerable value while serving other teams well. The crux is finding fits with buyers who have specific needs and surplus (depth at strong positions) or unusable (injured) assets. Ray's market, on the other hand, is probably to the sellers. Paul should probably be the most moveable but there are those who may feel the earth will split and swallow up Danny if he divorces this career-long Celtic. Nonetheless if demolition is the course of action, all must go, and the only question is when and for how much?
The playing field has been shifting rapidly even as I put this piece together. I will illustrate by point out a couple of changes that invalidate points in some of the coming paragraphs. Or perhaps not completely invalidate since the injured players are still injured or just working their way back from injury. Travis Outlaw, once an injured Trailblazer, is now an injured Clipper. Joe Alexander, an injured Buck on rehab assignment to the D-League, may now be a Bull. Caveats in place and trade deadline looming, let's proceed.
First the injury report (or in our case the currently worthless but a potential future asset): Alexis Ajinca Charlotte (Hey, I didn't say they were all valuable) Anthony Randolph GSW Raja Bell Kelenna Azubuike Brandan Wright Troy Hudson Yao Ming Houston Brian Cook Jeff Foster Indiana Tyler Hansbrough Travis Outlaw Clippers Kareem Ruch Blake Griffin Michael Redd Milwaukee Joe Alexander Joe Przybilla Portland Greg Oden
As a buyer example consider that the Portland Trailblazers are poised on the brink of becoming a playoff team again. This is in spite of losing both Pryzbilla and Oden at center and Outlaw at small forward, all for the season or at least much of the year. They are perhaps ready to abandon the idea of building the team around Oden with his succession of injuries. I propose swapping Garnett and/or Wallace and/or Big Baby for players out for the year or backups. This would enable Portland to make a postseason run by shoring up their greatest weakness--the front line. This might work as: Garnett for Oden, Outlaw, and Webster Wallace and Davis for Oden and Outlaw Garnett and Wallace for Oden, Outlaw, Webster, Blake, and another body Wallace for Oden
As seller examples both Chicago and New York are diving for the bottom trying to clear enough cap space to pick up a two-pack at the 2010 summer superstar sale. The Celtics have $30M worth of expiring contracts; the Bulls have Hinrich and Salmons as expensive dead weight while New York is desperate to clear the onerous contracts of Jeffries and Curry. In our demolition project we want talented projects and future stars not current journeymen on bad contracts but what is it worth to the Bulls and Knicks to sit in on the free agent auction this summer. Think of it as a fixed investment (currently $65M for six players next year). Now would you rather pay that for a declining team or a rebuilding one? Can absorbing those poor contracts glean an assortment of young talent and picks as compensation for paying for the Bulls/Knicks past sins? If I were Danny I would be angling for longer-term but unprotected firsts (an unprotected 2012 and 2014 rather than a protected 2011) and second-rounders. If we are blowing it up think of Ray Allen for Jeffries, Hill, and Milicic plus #1's in 2012 and 2014; or Jeffries, Nate, Hill, and Chandler. How about Ray for Hinrich, Salmons, and a 2012?
Give people what they want now, cash in later. Larry Brown loves Sheed? How about Rasheed for Augustine, Gerald Henderson, and Ajinca or Graham? Think Larry would throw in a second or two? Miami is desperate to add a star to hold onto Wade. How about Pierce? Would Miami send Beasley, Richardson, Wright and a first? A second? Add Big Baby and Arroyo?
My point is this, if we can’t get to the Promised Land this year and next year is even less promising, then fill the immediate wishes of other teams for future promises, maybe even promises beyond the CBA turmoil. If you accept the basic, and sad, premises on the near and mid-term outlook, then this job doesn't look any easier to start this summer. Ray is only an aging sign-and-trade. If we are dismantling the Big Three, Paul may opt out and leave for nothing. KG may have had his fill of playing for a sub-par team but may not be willing to retire and may have less and less trade value. It is really hard to say what the new CBA will do to the value of expiring contracts so by the time KG is finishing he may be dead weight in more way than one.
Maybe the demolition question should be, if not now, when?
Lex- Interesting. That leaves $38.5M committed to four players. Go you one better, Paul then opts out telling Danny he wants to retire a Celtic and will play year to year on a MLE contract. Now we enter the summer with five players under contract for $23M. I think Danny can work with that.