The Celtics Plan Without Rajon Rondo

This isn’t the kind of injury that you can replace with a game-manager or fill in/expiring contract to replace a starter. This is Rajon Rondo we are talking about. Rondo probably means more to his team than a lot of other stars mean to theirs. Knowing this, it’s going to take someone special to replace Rondo in the short term, and even then the replacement probably won’t be up to Rondo’s par.

Not many players even have the potential to be on Rondo’s level. This trade I’m going to throw out there might fix the Celtics’ problems short term and long term. Let me explain.

(It’s a four-team trade, so you’re excused if it’s confusing. It’s making my head hurt,and I haven’t even written it yet.)

 

Boston acquires Tyreke Evans from Sacramento and Steve Blake from the Lakers.

Sacramento acquires Courtney Lee and Fab Melo from Boston. Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks from LA and Omri Casspi from Cleveland.

Los Angeles acquires Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox from Boston and Tyler Honeycutt from Sacramento.

Cleveland acquires Francisco Garcia from Sacramento and a future second-round pick from Boston and LA.

 

Now we get to the explaining part.

First off is Boston. The Celtics get two point guards to at least do a half-decent job of filling in for Rondo. Obviously no one is going to replace Rondo, but Evans has the potential to be very good. Blake is one of the more consistent backup point guards in the league.

Boston also gets help long term. Not only would Boston have the option to re-sign Evans before anyone else does in free agency (that’s a huge stretch, but the Celtics would have the option,) but if they feel Evans doesn’t work, then they can let him walk and save the money that they owe long term to Lee. Blake gives them value this year, but also next year as a more-than-appealing expiring contract in a trade.

Sacramento. I have a little trouble with this if I’m the Kings Sonics. And the only problem I have is with Lee, more specifically, Lee’s contract. That is a lot of money long term for a starter-on-a-bad-team-bench-guy-on-a-good-team player. Sacramento Seattle gets another look at Casspi, plus Melo, a high upside big. Meeks’ contract is very team friendly in terms of what he can do. Ebanks is another guy on an expiring deal who could pan out given the chance. Sacramento gets rid of Garcia’s and Honeycutt’s contracts going forward.

The Lakers would love this trade if they made it. The one upside of Blake’s recent injury is the emergence of Duhon as more than just a trade throw in. That and the ever looming Darius Morris make Blake expendable. He’s even more expendable due to the fact that LA wants to save money. Dealing Blake would do that. LA also gets a Barbosa-Nash-D’Antoni reunion. (Side note, how many Phoenix fans envisioned that within five years of each leaving the Suns? The answer is one. That one guy who wants to rebuild and trade away anyone who isn’t 22 with big potential. We’ve all met them.) LA also gets more big-man insurance with Wilcox. Plus the fact that (and I’m no salary cap aficionado) Honeycutt’s contract might be non-guaranteed. Thus the team waves him, or buys him out, keeps a roster spot and saves enough money to buy the whole team lunch for a month or two.

Cleveland gets picks going forward, but also gets an interesting piece in Garcia. Yes, he costs them an extra four million, but has the potential to, like Blake, be a very appealing option as an expiring contract next year in terms of trade value.

I think the smartest thing for Boston to do is to go get Evans. You obviously aren’t going to finish with the best record in the conference, but maybe Evans finally figures it out under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, KG, Paul Pierce and a hobbling Rondo. Maybe Evans stays long term and plays well alongside Rondo in the future. Those “maybes” might turn into something better than a regular season conference title.

Trade Rajon Rondo?

Rajon Rondo has evolved from a spare part to key cog in Boston. Rajon Rondo might also be the key to any success the Celtics wish to have in the future.

The question now shifts to, “Do you trade Rondo or keep Rondo and Build around him?”

This branches off into multiple questions. One being, “If they do trade Rondo, what would they get back?”

And another being, “Should we trade the Big 3 for younger pieces to build around Rondo?”

If the Celtics do in fact choose to trade Rondo, then the return has to be substantial, if not an offer that blows them out of the water. The Celtics need a torch bearer, a star or center piece to lead them into the next phase of Celtics basketball. Rondo could be that player, and currently is that player at the present time. If he is traded, then the return has to be a player almost exactly like him. Not so much in a playing sense, but one who can be the center of a team, but also one who is young.

Because if the Celtics do trade Rondo for lesser pieces, so to speak, then they will be left with those supporting players in three to five years and will be nowhere near the level they were a couple years ago.

It’s a long road back to a championship level. The Pistons are on that long road, the Lakers where making that trek before some guy named Gasol showed up.

But probably the one constant is that it’s hard to blow everything up and compete at the same level the next season. If the Celtics are going to move Rondo it needs to be a player on the same level as Rondo coming back. The problem with that is that players of the stature in the league are entrenched in playoff runs. These would be guys like Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. There isn’t a chance any of those teams makes those moves with the exception of maybe Orlando with Howard, but then the reoccurring question comes up for Orlando, can you build around Rondo? (This is assuming Rondo goes to Orlando in a Howard deal.)

The answer is … to be determined. If the Celtics jettison their vets for youth and keep Rondo, then we will see if you can build around him.

If the Celtics chose to build around their young point guard they need to, as stated, move their vets.

I’ve run through some potential situations and it makes the most sense to move KG and Ray Allen. Paul Pierce’s contract is probably one that the Celtics wouldn’t mind paying at a reduced rate, but Pierce retiring wearing another team’s jersey? Come on. Allen, Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal lead a horde of expiring contracts that dot the roster. The C’s will have a lot of cap room in the offseason. What they might choose to do with it is their decision. On the flipside, the expiring deals could be a draw for contenders and cellar dwellers alike to clear money. O’Neal’s contract is particularly interesting seeing as it is upwards of six million. Meaning the Celtics could move it for a sizable return and not be limited by the restrictions of a high-ish dollar value returning. Names like Michael Beasley, Tyrus Thomas and JJ Hickson are all potential targets for Boston. All three are young and have upside, and wouldn’t be a bad paring with Rondo.

Another thing that the Celtics should consider is Jeff Green, who they retain the rights to seeing as he is missing the year due to injury. Green paired with Rondo down the road suddenly doesn’t seem as bad as just Rondo. Still it’s nowhere near an elite nucleus the Celtics would like. Now if they get Thomas and pair him with Green, Rondo and maybe Avery Bradley, then maybe you get somewhere, but to be clear, Boston needs to make something happen.

One last name to consider is Josh Smith of the Hawks. His salary certainly isn’t obnoxious given his play, but it isn’t necessarily a bargain either. I’m not completely sure that Atlanta would move him to Boston for Ray Allen just to clear cap space.

Kevin Garnett could help a lot of squads. Squads who feel they are on the cusp of being legitimate contenders. Squads who feel they are that one veteran guy away from doing big things. If team X is out there, then they better have some monetary assets to move because KG makes north of 21 million this year. It’s not going to be a straight up swap to get him, and it might allow Boston to do something like this-

Boston offers KG to Dallas for Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. Then makes Dallas throw in Dominique Jones and Rodrique Beabois, because the Celtics are taking Marion’s contract off of Boston’s hands, hence allowing Dallas to pursue the inevitable Deron Williams and Dwight Howard paring in free agency.

All of a sudden you have a team of Rondo, Pierce, Marion, Green, Beabois, Bradley, Brandon Bass, JaJuan Johnson, E’twaun Moore, potentially Odom and free agent signings X and Y. That’s not too terrible, seeing as X and Y are probably big guys because that team would be a bit back court/wing heavy.

That scenario isn’t too bad. It actually seems a bit desirable. I would certainly take it over their current roster.

Here is another involving former Sonics great Ray Allen.

First off, Ray Allen would be an obvious fit in a lot of places, some of those being Oklahoma City and the Clippers. There is no way the Thunder can finagle Allen from the Celtics. Yes Allen is a great, if not perfect acquisition for Clay Bennett’s Raiders. But the return for Boston would probably be some mix up of Cole Aldrich, Nazr Mohammed, Thabo Sefalosha, Royal Ivey and Daequan Cook. There is no shot the Celtics take that. It also deprives the Thunder of most of their bench.

Back to trades- Minnesota has been linked to players like Jamal Crawford. Allen certainly isn’t the same player, but would give the Timberwolves a nice shooting touch at the two. The Celtics would get forwards Michael Beasley and Anthony Tolliver in return. Allen is probably a little difficult to replace for Boston, but the potential that Beasley provides for the future probably out-weighs the Celtics need of Allen this season. Tolliver provides the Celtics with another body up front seeing as their current bigs are KG, Bass, O’Neal and Wilcox, not exactly an elite front line. Not a bad one either, but still not elite. There is more upside to this than just Beasley. If he doesn’t work out then the Celtics can let him walk in free agency after the season. No skin off their teeth, same with Tolliver. Point is that they maintain their free agency flexibility.

Now back to trading Rondo. They aren’t going to get a full return on him. If the previous situations play out, the Celtics might look like an athletic, wing-dominated team a la the 76ers. You could have that or you could trade Rondo to say Utah for Paul Millsap (makes a lot of sense now that I think about it, at least from a Utah standpoint) and let’s also say that KG and Allen walk via free agency. So would you lose the Big 3 not named Pierce as well as Rondo, have Millsap to show for it and a ton of cap space? So there’s Pierce, Millsap (or frankly anyone like that that the Celtics would get in return) and cap space and even more cap space. Or the sure thing in a potentially dangerous team for an extended amount of time. Just something to ponder.

 

 

Should You Break up the Big 3?

The Boston Celtics won a ring with the “Big 3” that consisted of and still somewhat consists of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

Now the team is a little different. Ok, maybe a lot different. Now the team is in the hands of 26 year-old point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was on their championship team, but was looked at as more of a fourth option.

Gone are role players like Tony Allen, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe. Arrived are their current place holders such as Chris Wilcox, Sasha Pavlovic, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus. Gone also is defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins, only to be replaced with somewhat offensive center (at this point of his career) Jermaine O’Neal.

This team is going to look like the Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green Show in a couple years, with a hint of Avery Bradley, if the Celtics don’t do anything.

This isn’t a bad young core, but let’s face it, the NBA landscape will probably change in a couple of years and will continue to change with time.

Underlying theme spoiler alert: the Celtics need to make changes.

Not necessarily at this juncture, but depending on their play towards the trade deadline, a couple trades should be made.

If the Celtics are sitting at 10th or 11th in the East towards the trade deadline, they should make a move or two. If they’re somewhere in the 5th to 7th range, then maybe they pick up a bought out contract guy (i.e. Antawn Jamison) to boost the team. If the latter happens, then they should aim for turning over the roster to some extent in the offseason.

To get back to the title, yes you should break up the Big 3. Paul Pierce is probably the last to go, but then again is the most marketable to some extent. Kevin Garnett is probably a keeper for now due to Boston’s problems in the post. Ray Allen could be the most useful to other teams due to the fact that his shooting ability would help anyone.

Obviously at this stage in their careers the C’s aren’t exactly going to get what they gave up for players like Allen and Garnett.

(Ray Allen is the exception, because the Celtics really did trade Jeff Green ,at that time the pick, to the Sonics for Allen.)

Nor are the Celtics going to have Al Jefferson fall into their laps in exchange for KG.

Obviously the Celtics would like a return like the previously listed two, to move them into the next couple of years at a competitive rate.

If you look at veteran players who were still productive on the down spin of their careers and were traded, the return isn’t huge, but it isn’t too bad either.

The Wizards got a first round pick, the chance to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s contract (which they did) and a low risk, high reward Al Thornton for Antawn Jamison.

In a three-team deal the Rockets got Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, the chance to buy out Jared Jeffries’s contract (they did) and Hilton Armstrong for Tracey McGrady, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey. This wasn’t a straight up swap, but it was a good acquisition for Houston.

New Jersey got Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie out of Vince Carter via the Orlando Magic. Lee isn’t with the team, but the Nets got Troy Murphy’s expiring contract for him to help them toward Darren Williams and potentially Dwight Howard.

Miami got Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for a declining Shaq. The two were later flipped for Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon. These contracts expired right before the offseason in which they brought in LeBron and Chris Bosh.

Denver got Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. You look at that trade, there is no youth involved whatsoever, but Billups played well in Denver and was certainly a better fit than AI. He was then moved to the Big Apple with Melo for a plethora of young pieces and picks that included Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a first-round pick of the Warriors (potential gold mine!) in 2014.

These are probably easier targets to achieve for Boston. Maybe the trade doesn’t work out at first, but down the road they will gain something out of the pieces or cap space picked up in the trade.

Another underlying theme spoiler alert: Celtics need to build for the future soon.

Chris Paul Possible Trades

Chris Paul, along with Dwight Howard, is the topic of a number of trade speculations and predictions (and even a vetoed trade!). If you haven’t been over stimulated with others, here’s some more.

  1. Chris Paul to the New York Knicks for whatever picks the Knicks have left in this century plus Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, Andy Rautins, Josh Harrellson, Bill Walker, even Renaldo Balkman plus Chauncey Billups contract. Basically anyone not named Amare or Carmelo or Landry Fields. This could be Miami all over again in terms of cap space and things of that nature. But don’t count against it, seeing as Paul wants to play for the Knicks. Remember the last guy who wanted to come to the Knicks with that much star power was a guy named Carmelo…
  2. Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers along with David Anderson for Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton and picks, picks and more picks. Here the Lakers get the point guard they need in Paul. No disrespect to Derek Fisher, but at this point his best days are behind him. They also automatically get a backcourt that is the best in the West and might start the All-Star Game. Plus there’s the fact that they need a torch bearer after Kobe retires at some point.
  3. Chris Paul to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris, Mehmet Okur’s contract and picks. Another situation where Devin Harris is the secondary point guard in the trade. Do Jason Kidd and Deron Williams sound familiar? Anyway, it’s not a slam dunk of a deal, but the Hornets get salary cap and an underrated point guard in Harris. It could happen if New Orleans waits too long to deal him. Or Utah might just turn around and give the Hornets exactly what they got for Deron Williams in Harris and Derek Favors now that they drafted Enes Kanter  (pick they used on him also from Deron Williams trade).
  4. Chris Paul to the Boston Celtics for Rajon Rondo and two first round picks. At this point the trades are becoming less likely, but let’s run with this one for a bit. Paul would give the Celtics a superstar that they already have in Rondo, but Paul would give them a more dynamic scoring threat than Rondo. Other than Rondo and the Big 3 the only other Celtics with a contract are the expiring deal of Jermanie O’Neal, Avery Bradley and the rookies E’twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson.
  5. Chris Paul to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith and Marvin Williams. Unlikely I know, but look at it more closely. Yes, you’d probably have to move Joe Johnson to the 3 and Kirk Hinrich to the 2, but Paul and Johnson would form quite a tandem for the Hawks. That coupled with Dwight Howard likely leaving Orlando could bump them up in the playoff pecking order in the East.