The ESPN Trade Machine is a fun way to waste a Wednesday night. Danny Ainge has a multi-tiered mission ahead of him this offseason as he looks to either retool a contender on its (last) (double last) triple last leg or cash in on the reduced yet still prominent value of Paul Pierce’s in flux contract. Let’s play some trade machine and see if there’s a mutually attractive deal out there for Danny to lose a few weeks sleep over.
Ainge has 6.5 weeks to establish Pierce’s trade market and pull something off. On June 30th, he either buys Pierce out for $5m or keeps him at $15.3m. Ben Watanabe from NESN.com and Brian Robb from Celtics Hub already wrote great breakdowns of Pierce’s trade mechanics and contract mechanics respectively, so they deserve your full read. We’ll just take a look at Pierce’s trade market.
First, let’s lay out the five key points for this exercise:
1. Pierce cannot resign with the Celtics if they buy him out. The NBA has a one-year ban on players re-signing with teams that waive them or buy them out. So if he is let go on June 30th, then he will sign somewhere else.
2. Pierce actually can still re-sign with the Celtics if he is waived. However, his bird rights are erased when he is waived and the Celtics would only have their mid-level exception (likely around $5.8m this year) to offer and that would be a significant pay cut. He could still take it, but the process would have to be handled carefully by Ainge. That apparently didn't happen last year and before you knew it, Ray Allen was helping to lead the Heat to the conference finals.
3. When Pierce is traded, the team acquiring him still has the same buyout option the Celtics have. So any team can trade for him, get rid of their base salaries, and save at least $10m off the cap.
4. Pierce is still very good and only looked like he was struggling because he was forced to run a discombobulated offense without Rajon Rondo, who we all learned accounts for approximately 93.6% of the Celtics’ offensive control. Pierce was playing incredibly after Rondo went down and he himself wore down during the stretch of the season. But he is still a near-elite scorer when playing off-ball with Rondo. This will especially be true if he comes back healthy next year and plays a notably smaller role with Jeff Green taking the reigns as the go-to perimeter scorer.
5. The Clippers aren’t going to trade Blake Griffin for Pierce. Shut up. Be realistic.
There are six (and a half) trades that could make sense for both sides. Three help contenders looking to make the leap offensively and three help struggling franchises clear space or gain a much-needed veteran leader.
I Want to Win a Title!
1. Clippers trade DeAndre Jordan (2 yrs/ $22.43m), Eric Bledsoe (1 yr/$2.63m w/ $3.73m qualifying offer in 2014) and Caron Butler (1 yr/$8m) for Pierce:
This is what we call Peacocking in the NBA front office world.
Chris Paul is a stud. An absolute 10. So you can either try to sweet talk him, or show all your feathers and add a reliable perimeter scorer and passer to take pressure off him to score in crunch time.
Of course, this assumes all those rumblings about Paul second-guessing staying with the Clippers aren’t complete BS.
This was the package floated for Kevin Garnett at the trade deadline and could make sense for Pierce as well. Since the Clippers won’t extend Bledsoe if they keep Paul and aren’t really playing Butler or Jordan in the fourth quarter, they would be more than willing to sacrifice the depth and youth for a go-to fourth quarter player.
2. Nuggets trade Wilson Chandler (3 yrs/$20.27m w/ 3rd yr team option), Andre Miller (2yrs/$9.63m) and Kosta Koufos (2yrs/$6m w/ 2nd yr team option) for Pierce:
The Nuggets have generally tried to avoid the luxury tax. They are currently slated for a $72.6m cap figure for next season assuming Andre Iguodala takes his massive $16m player option. So they are straddling the line right now.
If ownership is really desperate to avoid the tax, they could consider bringing in Pierce and either dumping him for instant savings or hang on to him while Danilo Gallinari recovers from a Torn ACL and still open up space in 2014. This deal also works with the Nuggets just trading Javale McGee and Miller. Either deal seems fairly plausible for Denver.
I Want to Win a Title…But Save Money More!
3. Bulls trade Carlos Boozer (2 yrs/$32.1m) and Kirk Hinrich (1 yr/$4.06m) for Pierce:
Taj Gibson’s $8.5m a-year extension kicks in next year, so now is the time for the Bulls to move Boozer if it’s going to happen. Chicago has usually been a team wary of the luxury tax and are approaching the multiplier tax with their current payroll outlook. If they make the move for Pierce, they can save $10m off their 2013 payroll and be safe from the tax (and get the full mid-level exception back).
Boozer solves the Celtics post scoring issues and helps with rebounding, but is signed through the legendary 2014 free agency period. So this is highly unlikely for the Celtics. Hinrich is an expiring fill-in, but does provide value as a human being that can handle the ball.
Forget the Title, Let’s Sign LeBron Next Year
4. Suns trade Marcin Gortat (1 yr/$7.28m), Jared Dudley (3 yrs/ 12.75m w/ 3rd yr player option) and Shannon Brown (1 yr/$3.5m) for Pierce:
Here’s the most mutually beneficial deal so far. The Suns are paying mid-range salaries to mid-range guys. Gortat and Dudley are good, but they are hogging up valuable payroll space next year that the Suns could use to bring in a star like Josh Smith or Al Jefferson.
The Suns can either keep Pierce to save their max space for the 2014 free agency class or save $10m this year and carve out a max slot. The Celtics get expiring deals on Gortat (who fills a crucial need) and Brown (who adds to the pile of underachieving shooting guards) while supplying Dudley on a great contract.
5a. Sixers trade Evan Turner (1 yr/ $6.68m w/ $8.72m qualifying offer for 2014), Spencer Hawes (1 yr/$6.5m) and Jason Richardson (2 yr/$12.81m) for Pierce:
Would the Sixers give up on Turner? His big restricted free agency is rapidly approaching and they have a big call to make. After making it clear that Andrew Bynum was a failure, new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie could decide to clean house and attack this year’s market (as in Dwight Howard). They could get the payroll down to $36m if they buy out Pierce, allowing for at least a max contract for an unrestricted free agent.
The Celtics would get a high potential scorer in Turner to fill Pierce’s void and Hawes, who tends to play well against KG for some reason. Richardson would be a brutal contract to take on but could be worth the risk if Turner turns into a great scorer.
5b. Sixers trade Andrew Bynum (currently expiring $16.47m) for Pierce:
6. Cavs trade Anderson Varejao (2 yrs/$19m w/ 2nd yr team option), Marreese Speights (1 yr/$4.52m) and Alonzo Gee (2 yrs/$6.5m w/ 2nd year team option) for Pierce:
We finally get to the namesake for this section. The Cavs maybe possibly think LeBron maybe possibly would come back to Cleveland. All of us that aren’t deluded by the fumes from the smokestacks over Lake Eerie know that would never happen in at least three suns. But there are plenty of other great stars available this year and next year for the Cavs to throw giant novelty checks at.
Howard and Irving would be a good compliment as would Josh Smith. For the sake of basketball, can Smtih please go somewhere that has a great point guard to take the ball out of his hands? Please?!
So the Cavs either get a second scorer and offensive leader or they bring this year’s payroll down to $22m and throw two max contracts into the pond and hope they catch some fish.
The Celtics get one of the game’s best centers (who can’t stay healthy). It’s cool though, since everyone in this trade can be let go for the super 2014 sweepstakes.
So there’s no great deal out there for a Pierce trade. But there are some good opportunities that can get the Celtics some short-term good value talent or long-term talent that will turn Avery Bradley into a sixth man and/or trade bait. The likelihood of being able to fix the Celtics’ interior issues with just a mid-level and a mid-round draft pick are unlikely, so Ainge may be leaning in the direction of finally pulling the proverbial plug.