Is Opportunity Knocking?

Trying to work off of rumors is tricky. There are so many that are just repeats that it makes it near impossible to figure out the original source. In turn it becomes equally tough to determine the validity. If one looks at what teams are apparently doing or have stated that they are trying to do, some rumors at least have a chance of being credible. With that in mind, let's try to piece some of the more plausible together to construct scenarios beneficial to both the Celtics and the other teams.

First up Charlotte. They want to make the playoffs this year. This makes sense as they, on average, have 4000-5000 empty seats per game. They would like to move the expiring contract of Ben Gordon. This also makes sense since before the injuries to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor, Gordon had played exactly six minutes. Lastly it is rumored that they are willing to give up picks and/ or future assets to win now.

Next is Philadelphia. Plain and simple, they want picks and/ or future assets. They are obviously rebuilding, but hope to do it in maybe as little as one season, similar to Phoenix. They are said to be trying to package Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner in order to accomplish this. The commitment appears to be to build around the young core of Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, and Tony Wroten (and possibly Arnett Moultrie just returning from ankle surgery). Keep in mind that they have a virtually clean cap sheet for next season with only roughly $17M guaranteed. Normally a team clears that kind of space to chase free agents. However, I don't see Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony beating down the door to go play there.

This brings us to our own Celtics. Ambivalence may be the key word here. Not in the sense of not caring about getting to banner 18 because that is absolutely the goal. Rather it is ambivalence in terms of not caring how we get there. If the team is bad enough that it gets a really high pick in the upcoming draft, that is fine. But it is just as suitable to have no pick if the same goal can be accomplished through strategic trades. For Danny Ainge, it is all about the result, not the method.

What we as fans know is that we too have a very good core and also some contracts that would be better off unloaded. The thing that many are missing though is the tax implications. By being under the cap this year, the C's miss the repeater tax for next year. The following season though, it becomes three out of the previous four as a taxpayer that triggers the repeater. So they really need to be under the tax again next season as well, while still trying to build a winner. If Ainge does nothing else, the Celtics would be at roughly $50M for eight players (including Pressey). If you assume that they want to keep Avery Bradley and he does command $8M, and then with the salaries of two picks, that puts you close to or over the projected cap already. Another trade is almost a mandate. But who and how?

Well, here's a suggestion. Charlotte really has three positions of need, power forward, small forward, and shooting guard. In the first two, a starter would be best and the latter a back-up. Detroit gave them their 9-30 pick to take Gordon off their hands. So the trade looks like this:

Charlotte receives Kris Humphries (a player they tried to trade for the year before) and Evan Turner (at 6'7" can play both the 2 & 3). As a side note, Brandon Bass would work in place of Hump..

Boston receives Ben Gordon ($13.2M expiring) and Spencer Hawes (who is having a breakout year, could be an answer at Center and is a $6.5M expiring in case he doesn't work out).

Philadelphia receives Gerald Wallace and Cody Zeller (a future asset). In addition the 9-30 Detroit pick goes to them as payment for taking Wallace's contract this year. And the Celtics release Philly's conditional pick just received from Miami back to them as payment for Wallace's contract next year. That could be an important consideration as all of Philly's picks this year look to be money good. If they were to be good enough to make the playoffs next year, it would leave them with no pick.

The beauty is, if they (Charlotte and Philly) would agree to it, Ainge would have essentially moved Wallace using other people's picks and assets.

Let's call the above a pivot trade. Why? Because some fans may not agree with having Hawes at Center and still pine for Omer Asik. So let's look at Houston. The main reason the deal did not happen was the Rockets couldn't get what they wanted. Their goal is to have Dwight Howard in the middle with four three point shooters. Brandon Bass doesn't shoot threes and Courtney Lee is not a forward. Who they really wanted was Ryan Anderson, but being rebuffed by New Orleans they focused on Hawes. Complicating it further was that they also wanted a pick and Philly did not want Asik that badly and they wanted a pick.

So the trade in this case would be identical to above with the exception that Hawes and possibly a second round pick would go to Houston and Asik would come to Boston. In this case though, it would have to be Humphries and not Bass to Charlotte to make the salaries work.

Perhaps you don't want Asik either. Pivot another way with Milwaukee. Hawes stays in Philly (at least until they do another deal) and Boston gets Larry Sanders and the Bucks get the expiring Lavoy Allen. It works because with the poison pill contract, Milwaukee takes in the $3.1M to match Sanders even though he comes into another team at $9M. I doubt this has much chance though as the reason the Bucks might decide to deal Sanders is his character issues. That is the same reason why the Celtics would likely pass.

One other minor deal that has nothing to do with those above: Joel Anthony ($3.8M - two seasons) goes to Toronto with Steve Novak ($3.5M three seasons) going to Detroit and Chauncey Billups ($2.5M non guaranteed next year) comes back to Boston.

Toronto could use another back-up in addition to Chuck Hayes at Center and Anthony would be an immediate fan favorite since he is from Montreal. Novak is little used but would spread the floor in Detroit and is a better defender than most give him credit for. Billups, like Gordon is not somebody the Celtics want or need but, would save $1.3M this year and be cut for next.

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