The Boston Celtics march towards the 3 pm EST Thursday trade deadline with a depleted roster and a string of inconsistent play throughout the season. A team that was assembled to make a return trip to the conference finals and beyond started the season failing to live up to expectations; then losing three key members of their roster to season-ending injuries.
With roster spots available and depleted talent available on a nightly basis, team president Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rovers have mined through development and international leagues looking to supplement their talent base.
To Ainge’s credit, he is a very active general manager who continually seeks to improve his team; and one who does not shy away from potentially unpopular trades. The 2011 trade of Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green was widely bashed in Celtics nation; and it is only now that fans are beginning to see some of the attributes Green can bring to the team.
Ultimately, Ainge will be faced with a defining moment at the 3 pm deadline approaches; if the time now to dismember this perennial championship contender? To that end, here are some of the more prominent players whose names have been rumored to be included in trade talk this season.
To be clear, I find it nearly impossible to believe that this is a recent rumor and not something recycled from weeks ago. The Lakers would be foolish to trade for the injured Rondo until they have greater assurance that he will be healthy and return to his prior form. While this talk would have made sense over a month ago when both teams were struggling, the Lakers obtained Howard to be a centerpiece of their franchise transition from the aging Kobe Bryant to the self-proclaimed “Superman”
It is clear that Howard and Bryant together has been an experiment that has had far less than desired results; with Bryant harping to the media that the less than impressive Howard needs to play through his injuries. That alone is not cause for Los Angeles to want to part with a player who; when healthy, is a dominant rebounding and defensive force.
It is likely that these two historic rivals could revisit this discussion when Rondo is much closer to returning, and the Lakers discover whether their retaining Howard makes sense long term. If the Lakers wish to part with Howard, a sign-and-trade would be a likely avenue to pursue.
Despite being one of the league’s more talented power forwards, Josh Smith has tremendous bouts with inconsistency. Rumors of a trade including Paul Pierce were troubling for me, as moving a future Hall of Famer for a potential attitude problem who feels entitled to a max contract is flirting with disaster. While Smith is a headache for most NBA coaches, he is a very close friend of Rajon Rondo and the duo could be a formidable force in the future; that is of course Smith is willing to prove his worth on a nightly basis.
The fact that Smith is the centerpiece of a playoff team and is speaking more about his future value than what he can bring to the team should be disincentive enough to avoid this trade like the plague. Not to mention the versatile power forward’s shot selection would make former Celtics forward Antoine Walker appear disciplined should be reason enough to walk away. Perhaps a trade that would include Brandon Bass and either Jason Terry or Courtney Lee along with Fab Melo or a draft pick would make more sense; given the Celtics currently have two players vying for power forward minutes (Green, Bass). Since Bass has a manageable contract and a solid work ethic, the Hawks could have been enticed to consider.
Even if a lesser talent exchange is a possibility, I would shy away from a pending free agent with some attitude and commitment issues.
Kris Humphries/ MarShon Brooks
As a Celtics fan, I am hopeful that this trade proposal for Paul Pierce was a momentary symptom of fatigue or a serious lapse in judgment on the part of Danny Ainge. This trade offers little than salary filler that could hamstring the franchise next season and beyond for players of limited skills. Despite Humphries being a good rebounder and Brooks being a versatile perimeter scorer, a trade for these two players involving a franchise player like Pierce makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Perhaps this rumored trade discussion was the Celtics’ way of messing with their recent division rival as payback for the Humphries – Rondo fight earlier in the season.
DeAndre Jordan / Eric Bledsoe
Of all the trade talk this season, the one that had me the most intrigued was the widely speculated trade of Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers for youngsters Jordan and Bledsoe. To me this is the only trade I would have, and would continue to pursue.
As much as I have valued KGs contributions to the Celtics and how he changed the team culture and fan’s perceptions, he is a 37 year old star player who has his minutes managed on a nightly basis to keep him fresh for the duration of the season and playoffs. Even at Garnett’s advanced age, he is still a difference-maker on defense and still capable of shouldering a heavy load on the offensive end; albeit the latter not as often as in years past.
Jordan and Bledsoe would add young athletic talent to a team with an aging core. Bledsoe would immediately address the lack of a point guard on the Celtics in 2013 and would be a solid rotation player once Rondo returns next season. As a reserve, Bledsoe averages just under ten points per game as a fourth guard on a deep Clippers team, including 42 percent from beyond the arch while also contributing 1.6 steals per game; but as a starter, averaged 14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists while filling in for the occasionally injured Chris Paul.
DeAndre Jordan is far from a focal point in the Clippers’ offense, but is capable of scoring if the need arises. What the 24 year old would bring to the Celtics is athleticism at the center position and a defensive presence in the paint from which to build upon in years to come.
If this trade does not go through, it will be because either team president Danny Ainge could not convince Garnett to trade a rare no-trade clause or because the Clippers became more apprehensive about obtaining an aging player who is essentially playing on a year-to-year basis at this stage of his career.
With a 28-26 record, the team as presently constituted has a strong chance of making the playoffs as a low seed without any major personnel moves. But for a team that has championship aspirations since the summer of 2007; is just making the playoffs enough? If the team loses in the first round of the playoffs or even advances to round two, how will this season be ultimately viewed? For many, the team’s more inspired performance of late make a strong case that the team should be allowed to finish this season with their core in tact. For others like me, it appears that the time may be right to re-tool this roster and begin to build for a more sustained playoff future.
As a long-standing Celtics’ fan that bleeds green, I struggle with the team parting ways with star players who will ultimately see their jersey numbers raised to the rafters like so many of their predecessors. The sentimental side of me wants to see Pierce and Garnett finish their career in Boston; but the pragmatic side wants the team to build a team to contend in the new era of basketball with young, athletic and versatile talent.
Regardless of whether there is a major roster overhaul or minor cosmetic alterations, come Friday, I will be standing by my team; cheering them on to victory as I have through the good and bad times of yesteryear.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years; witnessing five of Boston’s 17 championships. He can also be heard as a co-host of “The Jungle” internet sports talk show as well as hosting his own show on “Banner Day Boston Sports”.
Follow Scott on Twitter: @scott_duhaime
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