The NBA Trade Deadline and Beyond

The NBA Trade Deadline and Beyond
February 21, 2014, 1:00 pm
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Speculation over what the Celtics might do at the 2014 Trade Deadline began on Draft Night 2013, and those are eight months that we’ll never get back. As “The Who” once said in a completely different context: “They’re all wasted!”
 
But you know what? That’s OK. It would have been nice to see the Celtics make a move but there’s no tragedy in their failure to do so. I wouldn’t even call it a failure. The only failure would have been if Danny Ainge had overreacted to the weak trade market and shipped out an asset for less than he truly believed that it was worth.
 
A lot of people have compared (or more, contrasted) the Celtics inactivity to the liquidation sale in Philly, where Sixers GM Sam Hinkie traded two of his best three players (and another key role player) for a bunch of second round picks. With their new look rotation (which will reportedly feature one mannequin, two wax figures and half a cadaver) Philadelphia is now in full-on tank mode. They’re about to give Milwaukee a serious run for its money.
 
As a result, it’s only natural to look at what Philly did and wonder why the Celtics didn’t do the same thing. In this case, trade Brandon Bass and/or Jeff Green, and commence Tanking: Stage 2. (Stage 3 would have been when they shut down Rondo. Stage 4, when Brad Stevens started dropping roofies before games).
 
But ultimately, you can’t just say, “The Celtics should be where the Sixers are” because the Celtics simply AREN’T where the Sixers are. They may share a similar place in the standings, but in reality, Danny Ainge and Sam Hinkie are in two different boats.
 
Hinkie just inherited his team last summer, and they weren’t in great shape. The Sixers were a mess. Eight months later, and Hinkie’s still scrambling to erase other people’s mistakes. He’s a lot like Ainge with the Celtics back in 2003. It’s chaotic. The natives are restless. He can’t afford to play it slow.
 
Meanwhile, here in Boston, Ainge is in rhythm. He’s working in a world he created all himself, and carrying out a plan that’s been discussed in detail for years with the confidence of knowing that he’s done it before. He has a great young coach, an All-Star point, at least two or three quality young players and NINE FIRST ROUND PICKS over the next five years. There are obviously no guarantees, but the Celtics are in the ultimate position of power among the NBA’s current rebuilders. There’s no need to panic. All they need to do is keep their options open, wait patiently in the wings for the next great star to become available, and then swoop in and knock some GM off his feet.
 
Of course, you can also argue that of the nine upcoming first-rounders, none is more important than this summer’s. So again, maybe they should have ditched Bass and/or Green. But I don’t know. I mean, there are 27 games left. How many more games would this team have lost without one or both of those guys? Maybe three or four? Either way, the Celtics still wouldn’t be as bad as the Sixers and Bucks. They still wouldn’t finish with anything “better” than the third worst record in the league.
 
That’s nice, but then again, if the Celtics lose in L.A. tonight, they’ll have the FOURTH worst record in the league! Even with Green and Bass, they’re still pretty damn bad. And the schedule over these next few weeks is tough. They’re going to struggle. So basically, by ditching those guys in a deal he wasn’t entirely happy with, Ainge would have been losing one or two valuable assets in exchange for a wild swing at a few more ping-pong balls. That’s not worth it. Not for an executive in Ainge’s position. Not when he can just hold on to them until the summer, a time when the league goes a little crazy and bigger, more impactful deals will be on the table.
 
Ah, yes. The summer. Look out your window and it feels about two million years away. But it can’t come soon enough – in real life or for the Celtics.
 
In the meantime, here are Banner 18 things to keep an eye on as the C’s play out the final 27 games of the season:
 
 
1. Just to recap: The Celtics are currently 19-36, and have the sixth worst record in the NBA. If the season ended today, they’d have a 21.5 percent chance of landing a Top 3 pick and a 6.3 percent chance at No. 1.
 
They’re a half game “behind” the Lakers and Kings in the lottery standings and one game “up” on the Jazz.
 
2. This can change with time, but for now, the Celtics are one of seven teams that have abandoned any hope of making the playoffs and would rather lose than win from here on out. It’s them, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, LA Lakers, Sacramento and Utah.
 
The other five lottery teams — Detroit, Cleveland, New York, Minnesota and Memphis — do not want to be there, and will spend the next two months fighting like hell for a playoff spot. Cleveland is the team most likely to drop out of that class, but for now the fight for lottery gold is a seven-team war.
 
3. This will obviously go down as the worst Celtics season in the last seven years, but where will it rank among the worst in franchise history?
 
Well, we know it won’t be the worst, because these Celtics already have more wins than the 1996-97 crew. They need six more wins to pass the 2006-07 Celtics, and should be able to get that, too. However, Boston needs to go 13-14 down the stretch to avoid finishing with one of the five worst records in Celtics history.
 
In other words, they’re going to finish with one of the five worst records in Celtics history.
 
4. Of the 27 games, 13 are at home, and if you’re in the market for some tickets, here are your five best options:
 
March 3: Last chance to see the Indiana Pacers before their run to the title. Also, I can’t shake the feeling that Larry Bird might pay a visit to the Garden for this one. If that’s not his plan, it should be. The Celtics should have been on the phone yesterday with an invitation.
 
March 5: The Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry and, more importantly, BRIAN SCALABRINE
 
March 7: Pierce and KG come back again, AKA a great opportunity for the Celtics to re-run those tribute videos. At the very least they should do it at halftime. Would be a lot more entertaining than a scrimmage between Wellesley’s 7th grade girls travel team.
 
March 12: Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks are in town, and if they’re smart they’ll cut a deal with Rondo before the game: “We’ll let you get the single-game assist record if you agree to sign with New York.”
 
March 19: The Heat make their first and only trip to Boston, and there will be only one question on anyone’s mind:
 
SHOULD CELTICS FANS BOO RAY ALLEN?!?!?!?
 
5. So, if they have 13 home games left, the Celtics have 14 road games left, and the road through these road games doesn’t look pretty.
 
First, the Celtics have the last three games of this west coast swing, and then they’ll play six road games in March: at Indiana, at Dallas, At New Orleans, at Brooklyn, at Toronto, at Chicago.
 
Yikes.
 
But they’ll find salvation the next month with an April 14 visit to Philly, where they’ll take on the Sixers and starting point guard Sam Hinkie.
 
6. One thing you can’t accuse the Celtics of this season is playing up to the competition: So far, they’re 2-20 against teams with an above .500 record. That’s the second worst record in the league in that category, and another reminder of why it makes no sense for them to make the playoffs.
 
7. The Celtics rank 13th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and this continues to be one of the most promising storylines of the entire season. How does Brad Stevens possibly have these guys playing league average defense without a center? More importantly, what’s he going to be capable of once they actually do have center? And more importantly, can the Celtics just trade all nine of their draft picks for Joel Embiid?
 
Would the league let them do that?
 
8. Jeff Green is currently the Celtics leading scorer with 16.5 points a game, and if he’s stays on that pace his average will be the lowest of any Celtics leading scorer since the 1993-94 season, when 25-year-old Dee Brown led the team at 15.5.
 
But forget Green’s scoring for a second and please look at his rebounds: 4.8 a game. Per 36 minutes, he’s not even averaging a rebound more than Avery Bradley.
 
The lack of rebounding is just one subplot of the greater issue with Green: His lack of desire and energy and effort. All those things that have nothing to do with basketball and natural athletic ability, and everything to do with pure emotion and competitiveness. On that level, Green’s looking more and more like a lost cause.
 
9. I’ve been following this story for a while now, and feel like it’s finally time to place it in the spotlight:
 
Vitor Faverani needs 52 points to break Leandro Barbosa’s Celtics franchise record for points scored by a Brazilian. (Fab Melo is in third place, with two.)
 
10. Nothing pisses off Rondo haters more than talking about his assists, so let’s talk about his assists.
 
One of my favorite stats from last season was that Rondo still led the Celtics in total assists, despite only playing in 38 games. This year, he’ll be looking to do it again, but while playing even less than that.
 
Jordan Crawford is the current Celtics season leader with 224 assists, and Rondo has 81; he needs 144 more for the crown. If Rondo played in all 27 games, he’d need to average 5.3 assists to get there. But let’s play it safe, and say that he’ll only play in 18 games. In that case, he’ll need to average exactly eight.
 
Very doable.
 
Are the Rondo haters annoyed yet? OK, good. Let’s move on.
 
11. Time for a blind taste test:
 
Player A (per 36 minutes): 17.9 points/10.9 rebounds/.7 blocks
 
Player B (per 36 minutes): 14.4 points/10.8 rebounds/1.7 blocks
 
A is Jared Sullinger. B is Kris Humphries.
 
I’m glad Humphries survived the deadline. Whatever they could have gotten for his expiring contract wasn’t worth as much as the opportunity to keep him around, let him get a little more comfortable and then see what happens in free agency.
 
As the stank from his Kardashian marriage continues to wear off, people are remembering that Humphries is a pretty good basketball player. That he can help a team – a good team. Moving forward, he might even help the Celtics.
 
12. I don’t have too much to say about Jared Sullinger that I haven’t already this season, but here’s a quick five-point recap of where I stand:
 
a) His emergence as a very legitimate NBA player has been the most promising development of this frustrating season. Whether he’s a future building block or future trade bait, the Celtics rebuild is in far better shape for the Rise of Sully.
 
b) He can be even better, but won’t reach his full potential until he loses some weight. I’d say 15-20 pounds would be ideal. For every rebound that Sullinger grabs there’s another that he can’t get to because he’s too slow and grounded. For every dainty put back attempt, there’s a potential dunk. And it’s really just a matter of his diet. This is something he has the power to fix.
 
c) He’s still so young. Only 21 years old. That’s the same age as Xander Bogaerts. As a result, it’s probably unfair and unreasonable to expect Sullinger to have the whole world and his career figured out. That said it’s nice to know that he’s growing up under the watch of a non-toxic and supportive organization. That’s a luxury a lot of young players don’t have.
 
d) Sullinger’s averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game; impressive numbers that become only more impressive when you remember that he’s playing out of position. He’s 6-9 with a limited vertical, and being asked to battle down low nightly against seven-footers. It’s very exciting to think about what Sullinger might accomplish once he’s able to play against guys his own size. Just another reason the Celtics need to find a center.
 
Fine, OK. 25 first rounders for Embiid.
 
Deal?
 
e) It’s an honest shame that Papa Sullinger and Mama Ray Allen never got a chance to root for the Celtics together. Feel like they would have been great friends and even better teammates.
 
13. Just want to send a few quick thoughts and prayers out to Gerald Wallace. Hang in there, buddy. Just a couple more months and I promise that Danny is going to everything he can to get you out of this. It’s what he wants. It’s what you want. It’s what we all want. Together we can make it happen.
 
14. Is Phil Pressey a legitimate back-up NBA point guard?
 
He’s got 27 games to prove it, and should get plenty of opportunity.
 
15. Avery Bradley also has a lot on the line these next few months. His ankle injury might bode well for the Celtics tanking hopes, but it’s bad news for a guy in a contract year.
 
If Bradley catches fire these next few months, who knows? Maybe another team comes in this summer with an $8M offer and the Celtics don’t want to match? Maybe he struggles and the Celtics can keep him around for a bargain?
 
Either way, it would be nice to see at least one prolonged stretch of a healthy Rondo/Bradley backcourt. Just to say we did after spending so much time talking about it.
 
16. Shout out to Keith Bogans.
 
Hope all is well. Don’t be a stranger.
 
17. Kelly Olynyk had it pretty good for the first few months of his career. He was playing for a team with low expectations, and was given an opportunity to play, make mistakes and live to play some more. In general, there wasn’t much pressure.
 
But the emergence of the Greek Freak in Milwaukee has changed that. Now, Kelly Olynyk is no longer just Kelly Olynyk. He’s Kelly Olynyk, the guy that Boston drafted instead of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
 
I like Olynyk’s game, and think it will only improve after a few years in an NBA weight room. He has the potential to be a solid contributor on a solid NBA team. He’s like a taller Luke Walton. But for now, the stars are aligned for Olynyk to become this generation’s Michael Smith.
 
18. Only 88 Days until the lottery.
 
And here are 88 thoughts on that . . .
 
1. Just kidding.
 
Enjoy the weekend.
 
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine