Weeding out Celtics' interest in Bucks' Sanders

Weeding out Celtics' interest in Bucks' Sanders
May 28, 2014, 11:30 am
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BOSTON — With the No. 6 pick in next month's NBA draft, the Boston Celtics are not going to get a rim-protecting big man.

With so few available by way of free agency, swinging a trade for one seems to be the most likely route for Boston.

But if there are so few and they are so in demand, why would anyone trade 'em?

Usually it's due to a lack of production on the court, too much time in the court of law or someone who has run afoul of the NBA's rules.

Which brings us to Milwaukee center Larry Sanders, a rim-protecting big man who is expected to generate some trade interest this summer from a number of teams.

Just two years ago, Sanders was one of the most improved players in the NBA. He was a near double-double (9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds in 2012-2013) without having a lot of plays called for him.

But just as important, he swatted away 2.8 shots per game, the kind of production that's rewarded sooner rather than later.

Milwaukee jumped at the chance to lock him up long-term as both sides quickly came to an agreement on a four-year, $44 million deal that kicks in this fall.

"That was my main focus, my family and make sure they are taken care of," Sanders told CSNNE.com shortly after signing his new deal. "What they offered me was more money than I thought I would ever see in my life. So I'm just grateful for it and that I was able to get the extension, not knowing what the summer was going to entail."

Good call on Sanders' part to jump at that deal, because there's no telling if he would be able to land a comparable offer this summer after what soon became a tumultuous 2013-2014 season.

On Nov. 3, Sanders got into a bar fight which ended with him suffering a right thumb injury that required surgery. He was sidelined for eight weeks.

And on Feb. 8, an inadvertent elbow by Houston's James Harden to Sanders' right eye, resulting in yet another surgical procedure that ended his season after just 23 games, a career low.

Oh, did we mention the five-game suspension he served at the end of last season for a third positive test for marijuana?

So as much as the Celtics could use a player with his talent, the burning question for Celtics' brass is a simple one.

Is he worth it?

The Celtics have been rumored to be among the teams interested in trading for Houston's Omer Asik.

Acquiring Asik would likely involve Boston having to give up more assets than they would in a deal for Sanders, plus Asik comes with a $15 million salary this year.

But when you look at how each performed defensively during the 2012-2013 season, the last year when both played significant minutes, it's clear that either player would be an upgrade defensively for the Celtics at the center position which was manned by committee this past season.

In 2012-2013, Asik started all 82 games and established himself as one of the best rim-protectors in the game in addition to averaging a double-double of 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds - all better than Sanders' numbers that season.

But let's be mindful that this call will be made by Danny Ainge who is no stranger to taking a chance on a player who has had issues in other stops along the NBA circuit.

But Sanders' issues are much deeper than player-coach or player-team dynamics.

Having tested positive for marijuana for a third time (that's what triggered the five-game suspension in April) would obviously require a certain level of care and sensitivity by any team to try and ensure that Sanders gets whatever help he needs off the court as well as on it.

But the concern with Sanders is even with all the services one could want, there's a pretty good chance that he'll be suspended again for using marijuana.

And considering he's just at the start of his new, long-term deal, making a play for Sanders would be a huge, huge gamble on Boston's part.

While the 6-foot-11 center apologized to the Bucks for his five-game suspension, Sanders defended his use of the banned substance.

"I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I'm going to use it," Sanders said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and nba.com. "I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we've been deprived. You can't really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing. The stigma is that it's illegal. I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it's a banned substance. I will deal with the consequences and I apologize again to my fans for that."

So Celtics Nation, is he worth it? Should the Celtics try and make a play for the talented big man, warts and all?