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What If We Trade Pierce?

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TruthThis is part 2 of my “What If…?” series. The idea is to look at the various roads the team might take. Sunday I looked at what might happen if we didn’t get a top 2 pick and decided to still build around Paul Pierce. Today I’ll look at what would happen if we didn’t get a top 2 pick and decided that it was time to trade Pierce.

One way or another, the time may be finally coming where we could be saying goodbye to Paul Pierce. I’d hate to see it, since I’m a big fan of his and nothing would make me happier than to see him bring us a title and raise a banner in the Garden. However, that hope and about 5 bucks will buy me a cup of coffee but not much else. So I'll try (and fail) to make this objective.

Pierce’s departure could come about any number of ways. Like all of us, he’s eagerly awaiting the results of the lottery on May 22. If we don’t win it, he’s starring at future on a franchise that has no immediate answers. He might just snap at that point and storm into Danny’s office and demand a trade. On the other hand, he might sit down with Danny and quietly tell him that if he can’t trade some youth and picks for immediate help, he will not be happy and will make sure everyone is aware of it (thus plummeting his trade value). Or perhaps Pierce will still be on board with the rebuilding plan, but the team might decide that they like Green, Jefferson, and company way too much to give any of them up. They might just turn around and deal Pierce for as much talent and cap room as they can get and bank on the current nucleus of talent to blossom. Or maybe they’ll just get an offer they just can’t refuse from a team willing to overpay for the final piece to their puzzle (don’t bank on it).

Regardless, for the first time in a few years, it is very realistic to wonder if Pierce will be a Celtic by the time the team opens training camp in Italy.

What’s The Price On Pierce?

The logical question would have to be “what can you get for Pierce?” For an answer, you need only look as far as many of the trade rumors that were just bandied around the league at the deadline. Nobody pulled the trigger on a big deal because usually draft picks are the way to even out deals that are close but not quite there. This year, nobody wanted to move those picks for fear that it might become Oden/Durant. In the offseason, that won’t be the case anymore. Teams that didn’t make the big deals a week ago will make them in the summer.

The Clippers would love to move Maggette and might include Livingston for Pierce. The Bulls might be willing to part with Deng and other parts, especially since they seem to have missed their window to use PJ Brown’s contract for KG. Don’t shoot the messenger, but wouldn’t the Lakers give Boston a call if they thought Pierce might want to go home to Inglewood? They were tempted to give up Bynum for Kidd who only has 2 good years left (maybe). Would they relinquish him for Pierce who has a few more than that? Who knows?

On the other hand, you have to understand that this will be a buyers market. Like I said on Sunday, other big name stars will be on the market. I don’t think teams are going to be forced to overpay for Pierce when they could just as easily bid on Kidd, Gasol, KG, and others.

I’m pretty confident we could get some young talent, some reasonable contracts, and probably some additional draft picks. You know, the type of stuff that Danny is good at acquiring (although his definition of reasonable contracts might have to be examined closely).

Unhappy Fans

Of course, the biggest downside to trading Paul Pierce is one Wyc and the owners know all too well. The fanbase was antsy 2 years ago. Last year we were openly getting impatient. This year we are simply putting our angst on hold till the lottery balls drop. If the team loses the lottery AND trades Pierce,… well, all I can say is the floodgates will be open. Regardless of it being a smart basketball decision, it will not play out well with fans that want a winning team soon.

Trading Pierce for anything but another All Star (or immediately going to become an All-Star type) is admitting that the timetable has been pushed back yet again. That’s just not acceptable. Fans will express themselves with their wallets. The TD Banknorth Garden will have tumbleweed bouncing through it, no matter how pretty Gerald’s dunks are. Sure, most of us diehards will watch, but we won’t like being told that plans A, B, and C have all failed, but “hold on, we’re really (kinda) sure this next plan will work out (hopefully).”

{styleboxjp width=300px,float=left,color=black,textcolor=white,echo=yes}Maybe it is smarter to deal Pierce now. Maybe that is the best basketball decision. Just don’t expect the fans to accept that decision.{/styleboxjp} Winning cures all ills, but I have no confidence in this team’s ability to win anytime soon by trading Pierce for more young talent.

On top of that is the matter of getting good value for him. Similar to young prospects, you can never get equal value for a star. You never know what you are getting with prospects and 2 decent players don't make up for one great one. You would have to get another star to get equal value and teams looking to buy a star are seldom willing to sell one in a sideways move. About the only guys you can get equal value for in this league are middle-of-the-road veterans that have maxed out their potential.

Rebuilding With A Capital R

So what would be left if Pierce were to be dealt? Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins, whomever we draft in the top 5, and whatever came back in the deal for Pierce. Oh yeah, and Wally will be around for team pictures and moral support.

That puts a ton of pressure on Green and Jefferson to each make a huge leap next year. Tony Allen will have to work his way back from his season ending injury and try to recapture the progress that took him so long to find in the first place. West, Gomes, and Perkins would each be ideal as reserve players and spot starters. Each might be a decent starter on a team that already has stars in place. Just don’t count on them to carry the team. This year proved that much. Rondo is a wild card. I could see him getting much better in the next 2 years or so. Who knows, maybe even the ghost of Bassy will suddenly “get it” someday. Just don’t be terribly surprised if the collection of players that lost 18 in a row comes back next season and doesn’t set the world on fire.

{styleboxjp width=300px,float=right,color=black,textcolor=white,echo=yes}So it all boils down to what you can get for Pierce.{/styleboxjp} If you can get a guy like Deng, who seems just about ready to break out, maybe you go for it. If you can get a guy like Livingston or Bynum, you have to consider it because they would be the long-term answer at the hardest positions to fill on the court. Anything short of that type of value seems like another backwards move.

Maybe with the right coach, the team could rededicate itself to defense and overachieve some next year. Maybe that team would be on the right track in another couple of years. Maybe. By that time, you’ll have to make big-time decisions on who to give contract extensions to. Forget about trading Theo, you’ll need those cap savings. Same with Wally. The forecast is another couple years of rebuilding. Hey, maybe we can start the OJ Mayo watch at this time next year! Won’t that be fun?

Keep Pierce

I don’t know about you, but I’m just about running out of patience with this rebuilding business. I don’t know that I can take another 2-3 years of lotteries and moral victories. I don’t want to trade Paul Pierce and it would take a real sweetheart of a deal to convince me otherwise. But I don't think that is happening either, so I'm still in the keep-Pierce camp. Of course, all this might be a moot point if Pierce demands to be traded. Then the firesale will be on, heads will roll, and the team and its fans will be back to square one again.