In case you missed my daily reminders for the last few weeks, today is December 15th which is an unofficial kick off day for many trades (or at least trade rumors) to get started.
Ever since the Pierce/KG trade, it was assumed that the Celtics were going to be sellers right on through to the trade deadline. We have some good pieces and they play hard and competitive under Brad Stevens, but nobody expects them to compete for a title and the timeline to get back to that point is talked about in terms of years, not months. So why would we hang onto veterans who have proven their worth and have more value to a competitor than they do on a rebuilding team?
The thing is, it seems like three quarters of the Eastern Conference has the same basic outlook - and some are outright unabashed in their tanking philosophy. In such an environment, wouldn't it make sense to zig when others are zagging? Instead of selling out, perhaps the Celtics should be buying up.
There are quality players that are openly on the trade block, like Omer Asik, DeMar DeRozan, and Iman Shumpert. There are rumblings that the Lakers would like to move Pau Gasol and his $19M expiring contract. The Bulls are probably having some conflicted discussions about what to do with their roster with Derrick Rose's availability questionable this year (and beyond?). I'm not sure if any of those specific situations make any sense for the Celtics but they hint at the fact that there's a lot of sellers on the market. It might make sense for the Celtics to take the position of a buyer.
A perfect example is the Greg Monroe rumblings from a week or so back. If the Pistons want to move him for current or future assets, the Celtics would be smart to look into that. On the flipside, if they don't feel like they can lock Avery Bradley up for a reasonable amount this summer, they might look to trade him for an older veteran with a cost controlled contract.
Of course I don't think Ainge is going to start calling around offering up future draft picks for middle-of-the-road players that other teams are trying to move just so the Celtics can cement their not-so-coveted Atlantic Division title. But if the price is right and an opportunity presents itself, I don't think Ainge would hesitate for a moment to pull the trigger on a deal that makes us better both today and in the future.
We've got a nice young(ish) core of players that could be the building blocks to put around Rajon Rondo. Or some of them could be the centerpieces to deals that bring stars or future stars to Boston. I feel like that has a better chance of happening in the summer, but there's no reason why it couldn't happen sooner. In fact, sometimes you can get more value during the season as teams are more in flux and perhaps making decisions fueled by emotion a bit more than a well reasoned process.
One thing is certain: Danny Ainge is going to be as active as ever (and he's always been very active) during trade season this year. He'll be taking calls on anyone on the roster - yes, including Rondo - but the price better be right. If he finds some deals that make us better right away and don't sacrifice the future, I do think he'd pull the trigger. Then again, if he can get value for some of his more established players, that would be an option as well.
So will the Celtics be buyers or sellers? I think it just depends on the price.