Today, Adrian Wojnarowski poses some provocative questions about whether the Celtics should trade Paul Pierce:
As Kevin Garnett and Allen become free agents this summer, money will peel away from the salary cap. Between then and now, the bigger question promises to be: Does ownership and general manager Danny Ainge go for the complete rebuild and trade Pierce before the March 15 deadline? Several contending teams have inquired about Pierce’s availability. As one Eastern Conference official said, there are "lots of calls asking if [Boston] will blow it up." . . .
Garnett and Allen come off the Celtics’ cap this summer, but Pierce is the most perplexing member of the Big Three. He has two years and $32 million left on his contract through the 2013-14 season, and moving him for a shorter deal could make the Celtics a huge player in free agency the next two years. As Boston officials contend, this is the reason they didn’t re-sign Perkins and Tony Allen to long-term contracts. They’ve been preparing for the time their core became too old, for the team’s need to start over.
To be more precise, if the Celtics traded Pierce (without taking back additional long-term salary) they could clear $16,790,345 from next season's cap, and as much as $15,333,334 the following year. Without Pierce next season, the team could have realistically as much as $40 - $45 million in cap room, depending on things like rookie salaries, how much the cap fluctuates, etc. That's enough for at least two max contract guys to pair with Rondo. Or, the team could sign-and-trade Rondo, and do a fresh rebuild with three or more major free agents.
(more after the poll and break)
In addition to the cap flexibility, Pierce probably has some trade value around the league. He had an excellent season last year -- his best season ever in terms of efficiency -- and he's showing signs of life this year after a start that has been marred by injuries. It's likely that Pierce could bring us back a draft pick or two, and maybe a young guy with some potential. By trading Pierce, the idea would be to jump start rebuilding. Danny Ainge has repeatedly lamented Red's refusal to trade Larry Bird and Kevin McHale for sentimental reasons, and this could be Danny's chance to undo what Red did. He's already tried to trade Pierce at least once (in order to draft Chris Paul); perhaps Danny would be inclined to do so again.
At the same time, there's something to be said for allowing Paul Pierce to remain a career Celtic. Look at the leader board of all-time Celtics statistics: Pierce is top-seven all-time in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He's on the cusp of passing the legend Larry Bird for second all-time in Celtics scoring. He led the team to a championship after a long drought, and has been the face of the franchise for 14 seasons now. The Celtics are a franchise that have traditionally rewarded loyalty and have preferred to keep players part of the family. On a visceral level, trading Pierce would hurt badly. That's without even getting into arguments regarding whether Pierce and the rest of the core can lead a deep playoff run.
So, where do you stand? If a team makes a legit offer for Pierce (say, an expiring contract, a young player with some upside, and a #1 pick) do you pull the trigger? Or are you disinclined to trade Pierce under any circumstances?