Next Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline has the potential to be the most significant moment in the rebuilding process since the blockbuster trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last July. GM Danny Ainge has some problematic contracts he would like to delete from the Celtics cap sheet and some veteran players without a clear role in the future of the team that may have some value to teams jockeying for playoff position. On the flip side, he has a bevy of draft picks and young players at his disposal if an opportunity arises to add a transformative talent to the roster.
What happens is anyone’s guess as trade deadline activity is typically an exercise in chaos theory even in a quiet year. While there is a significant disparity between conferences, there is a great deal of parity within each conference with as many as 12 teams in each conference having a legitimate chance at the postseason. Toss in a dozen or so franchises (Washington, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Detroit, New York and Cleveland in the East, and Dallas, Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis, Minnesota, and New Orleans in the West) that are desperate to make a playoff appearance and this year’s trade market could be a seller’s paradise.
Ainge and the Celtics are positioned well for the future but there is still plenty of work to do to return the franchise to championship contention. How much of that work gets accomplished next week will have a direct impact on how quickly the return to prominence is realized. Here are the best case, worst case, and most likely trade deadline scenarios for the players most frequently mentioned in the rumor mill.
Best Case – A franchise like the Washington Wizards are so desperate to make a playoff push that they are willing to take on Gerald Wallace’s contract just to acquire Bass. An added bonus would be netting a draft pick in the deal.
Worst Case – Ainge is desperate enough to clear the last year and $7M of Bass’ contract off the cap sheet that he includes a 1st round pick in a deal to make it happen.
Most Likely – Bass is packaged along with the expiring contract of Keith Bogans in exchange for a player on a more substantial expiring deal like Emeka Okafor of Phoenix.
Best Case – Mr. Kardashian’s ability to crash the glass, steady mid-range shot, and $12M expiring deal makes him irresistible to Michael Jordan and the Bobcats. Ainge is able to package Humphries and Bogans in exchange for Ben Gordon’s expiring contract and a young talent like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Worst Case – There really isn’t one. His contract expires at the end of the season and at worst, he may steal some valuable minutes from Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani.
Most Likely – In a slight twist on the Best Case scenario, a Humphries for Gordon and a 1st round pick makes a lot of sense on both sides. The Bobcats help their playoff push by adding a rebounder/energy guy to play alongside Al Jefferson and the Celtics add another pick for their trouble.
Best Case – Some playoff-hungry team is so desperate for a veteran role player that they are willing to swallow the 2 years/$20M he’s owed after this year straight up for an expiring contract.
Worst Case – Wallace is still on the roster February 21st clogging up the Celtics Salary Cap arteries like a Super Sized Big Mac Meal.
Most Likely – Ainge finds a home for Crash but it costs the Celtics a draft pick as a relocation fee.
Best Case – The veteran swingman’s $6M expiring contract enables Ainge to make the Salary Cap numbers work on a blockbuster deal that brings an impact player back to the Cs.
Worst Case – Ainge can’t find a trade to his liking and the value of Bogans’ deal as a building block for a blockbuster deal is squandered.
Most Likely – Bogans’ contract facilitates a trade that helps the Celtics shed a bad contract.
Best Case – There aren’t many trade scenarios involving Bradley that make a lot of sense, but one that might be attractive to the Celtics would be a Bradley/Wallace/future 1st round pick to the Pelicans for Eric Gordon.
Worst Case – Ainge is concerned that Bradley will get a Restricted Free Agent offer that he won’t be willing to match and deals the defensive menace for 50 cents on the dollar.
Most Likely – Bradley stays in Boston, continues to gain experience playing next to Rajon Rondo and increases his value, both on the trade market and the free agent market.
Best Case –The physical, skilled, but undersized forward is the centerpiece of a deal that brings back the player he’s most often compared to; Kevin Love.
Worst Case – Not much downside associated with the rapidly developing power forward. It is extremely unlikely that Ainge deals him without something significant coming back to Boston.
Most Likely – Sully is still on the C’s roster, getting more consistent on the glass, and figuring out how to get his points against long, active defenders.
Best Case – Green stays put and establishes himself as a bona fide 20ppg scorer and 3rd option over the last two months of the season.
Worst Case – Ainge decides that the remaining 2 years/$18+M left on Green’s contract is a significant enough impediment to rebuilding that he is willing to cut bait on the enigmatic forward in exchange for an expiring contract.
Most Likely – Despite many phone calls and emails, Ainge can’t find the right deal for Green and he continues to drive Celtics fans crazy with his inconsistency.
Best Case – The all-star point guard continues to round into form in a Celtics uniform, decides he doesn’t want to test the Free Agent market after all and signs a 5 year extension at a hometown discount.
Worst Case – Ainge decides that more ping-pong balls are the key to future glory and trades Rondo away to ensure a steady stream of losses.
Most Likely – Adrian Wojnarowski types Rondo’s name so many times in the next week that he develops a insatiable urge to play Connect Four, but when the deadline passes, Rondo is still Captain of the Celtics and the clock starts counting down until he hits free agency.