Tank candidate or free agent destination?: a conversation with Liberty Ballers

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the Celtics and Sixers tied at the top of the Atlantic Division, could Boston and Philadelphia be attractive destinations for free agents rather than lottery ticket owners at the end of the season?

Maybe we're jumping the gun. OK, we're definitely jumping the gun, but both teams have shown a lot of promise in this young season.  They may both end up in the lottery by April, but is it conceivable that they trade their pick for more established talent?

I talked to Jake Pavorsky over at Liberty Ballers about who could be a more popular destination for free agents and who has the assets to make a franchise-changing move.  Here's the tale of the tape:

CORE PLAYERS:

Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk. I really want to include Pressey and Faverani and even Crawford, Lee, Bass, and Wallace, but I know the really attractive young pieces is that starting five and we'll have to move those role players/expiring contracts if we really want to make a big splash.  The biggest attraction will be playing with Rondo, but it helps that there's also a young group of players in place that can contribute immediately. Celtics fans remember that Garnett spurned Boston a few times and it wasn't until Danny swung the deal for Ray Allen was he convinced that he could win here.

CORE PLAYERS:

Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, and Tony Wroten. With a massive turnover in the front office, Sam Hinkie has made it clear he's starting from the ground up. Carter-Williams and Noel were Hinkie's first two picks as Sixers GM, and he'll hope they can anchor the team for the next 8-10 years. Everyone at Liberty Ballers is in love with Wroten, so I threw him in there. He's going to be one hell of a sixth man, and he's only 20 years old.

EXPIRING CONTRACTS:

Jordan Crawford (1 year, $2.1M), Keith Bogans (1 year, $5M, 2 years unguaranteed), Kris Humphries (1 year, $12M), Brandon Bass (2 years, $13.4M), Courtney Lee (3 years, $16.4M), Gerald Wallace (3 years, $30.3M)

EXPIRING CONTRACTS:

Spencer Hawes (end of a 2 year $13 million contract), Evan Turner (end of his rookie contract). Lavoy Allen (end of 2 year, $6 million contract). Jason Richardson (player option for 2014-15). Kwame Brown (end of a god forsaken two year, $6 million contract).


UPCOMING FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS:

2014 (own), 2014 (Brooklyn or Atlanta), 2015 (own), 2015 (LAC), 2016 (own), 2016(Brooklyn), 2017 (own or Brooklyn), 2018 (own), 2018 (Brooklyn)

UPCOMING FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS:

2014 1st round pick, 2014 1st round pick (from Pelicans, top 5 protected, unprotected in 2015), 2015 1st round pick, 2016 1st round pick, 2017 1st round pick, 2018 1st round pick.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT TARGETS:

Big men, big men, big men. My thinking is that even though it's a risk, it's always easier to draft wings, especially in 2014. It's much more difficult to find a franchise front court player. My wish list comes down to Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Cousins signed a long term deal in Sacramento last summer, but his situation is always volatile. Love and Aldridge could both be free agents in 2015 (Love has a player option) and could both be looking for greener pastures if Minnesota and Portland can't put it together over the next two seasons.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT TARGETS:

Gordon Hayward (RFA). Evan Turner will inevitably be traded. Depending on how they draft, Sixers may need to find a wing through free agency. Hayward fits the mold of a pretty efficient, Hinkie type player.

Greg Monroe (RFA): Sixers will need a big man to complement Noel, and a guy like Monroe coudl also allow Nerlens to shift to the 4, if need be. The question is whether or not the Sixers front office will be willing to throw out a near max deal at Monroe, which is very likely what it would take to snatch him from Detroit.

REASONS TO COME TO BOSTON:

We'll see how the current season turns out, but I think the recruiting process has already indirectly started.  By hiring Brad Stevens to a six year contract, Ainge has committed to rebuilding a culture in Boston that is more geared to a youth movement rather than the veteran magnet that Doc Rivers and the Big Three created for the last five years.  You can see it on the floor, too.  The team plays less rigid under Stevens and he's done a really good job highlighting a player's strengths.  Under Doc, usually your role was predetermined and I got the sense that players felt pigeonholed and frustrated easily.  It was great when things worked out, but miserable when it didn't.

REASONS TO COME TO PHILLY:

1) Join a young, growing core on the uptrend: If all goes right in June, the Sixers will have the consensus top player in the 2013 draft, a pretty impressive rookie PG in MCW, and two relatively high lottery picks in an extremely loaded 2014 draft class. This team is going to be filled with youthful exuberance, and while they're maybe a rough patch here and there, this is truly going to be a team on the rise. For a guy like Hayward or Monroe, it's definitely a team they can grow with. We're not saying we're going to attract LeBron James, but if you're reading this, LeBron, have your people contact the Sixers people.

2) Brett Brown and his staff: After sitting through a tortuous 2012-13 season with Doug Collins, Brown has been a breath of fresh air. Like air after spending 15 years in a solitary confinement cell. Brown's an extraordinarily bright, forward thinking coach who doesn't think any detail is too minute. If Evan Turner's strong play early in the season is any indication of what Brown can do, then free agents would be foolish not to want to learn under him. Couple him with assistants Chad Iske, formerly the Robin to George Karl's Batman, and Lloyd Pierce, a player development guru formerly of Memphis, Philadelphia has an incredibly competent and non-overbearing staff that can take players to the next level.

3) If you play well, you'll be idolized: It's no secret that Philadelphians love their sports, almost irrationally. If you decide to play in Philly and you give it your all, you'll assume a god-like status. You'll be the talk of sports radio. Everyone will be wearing your shirt or jersey. Somebody may end up tattooing your face on their calf, which really isn't as unlikely as you might think. And the only example I need here is Allen Iverson. Despite his tenure in Philadelphia ending on a rocky note in 2006 (he did come back to the Sixers in '09, and all was forgiven), there are few athletes in this city more beloved than A.I. Iverson gave his all out there each night, and in return the fans showed him affection like no other. If having fans who willingly worship you doesn't entice you (hello again, LeBron!), then I don't know what does.

My homer take: Celtics.  We've got the expiring contracts and draft picks to make a deal and if Brad Stevens continues to develop a reputation around the league as a smart tactician and more importantly, a player's coach, Boston could finally become a hot spot for free agents.  Chris Mannix said this earlier today on Toucher & Rich:

"This is a team built to make a trade," said Mannix. "Danny believes in that philosophy; you saw what he did in 2007 with all those assets. You could make an argument they're better equipped to make a big trade now than they were back then with the young players on the roster and the draft picks. With their picks, Brooklyn's picks and the assets they have with guys on the roster, there is the potential over the next year or two to go out and get a super star."

I'm not the biggest proponent of developing young talent and then shipping them off for established stars, but it's definitely an available route just like in 2007.  I'd prefer to draft smart, develop young talent, and grow the team organically that way.  Either way, we're primed.

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