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The TPE, Carmelo Anthony, and the Asik trade revisited

The biggest trade chip the Celtics have this summer might not be Rajon Rondo in the final year of his contract or the affordable and reliable Brandon Bass.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

One of the hottest trade scenarios has recently ousted Houston looking to make an upgrade to their roster. There's the Rondo-to-the-Rockets rumor that will be raised again between Danny Ainge and Daryl Morey, but something smaller could be done that would allow the Celtics to retain their All-Star point guard, add the defensive center they've been looking for in Omer Asik, and free up cap space for Morey to add a third superstar in Carmelo Anthony. Here's the scenario:

For the Rockets to sign free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony, they'll need to make room for another max deal on their cap sheet with the redundant Asik and expiring Jeremy Lin likely to be moved. It's doubtful that Phil Jackson would help Morey cherry pick one of the best players in the league from his team in a sign-and-trade, so Houston would have to find a home for Asik and Lin.

Enter the Boston Celtics and their $10.3 traded player exception. Because this deal would fall almost a year from when the exception was generated, it's considered a non-simultaneous trade. According to Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, "a team can acquire only up to 100% plus $100,000 of the outgoing salary." For the Celtics, that's the $10.3M that was created in the Paul Pierce-for-Keith-Bogans transaction of last summer's big trade. Check out this reddit thread for an explanation.

Now, for Ainge to cash in on the TPE AND the Rockets to get their man, a few things could happen. The Celtics currently have four players on non-guaranteed deals: Keith Bogans ($5,285,817), Phil Pressey ($816,482), Chris Babb ($816,382), and Chris Johnson ($915,243). That's a total of $7.8M. Bogans' sweetheart deal plus two out of three rookie contracts could theoretically be cobbled together (a total of around $7M which would satisfy the CBA's 125% + $100,000 matching requirement) to mirror Lin's $8,374,646 and later waived before they step foot in the Toyota Center. In a subsequent trade, Asik's $8M would fit into the Celtics' TPE. The combined effect for Houston would be a Carmelo-sized cap hole. The Celtics get their rim protector and a back up point guard with both on expiring contracts.

It gets a little more complicated if Jeff Green and Brandon Bass are involved or if Ainge insists on the inclusion of Chandler Parsons (who has his own pending free agency in flux), but the biggest player in a Celtics' deal this summer might be the TPE. With so many big name free agents potentially on the move, Boston could be the landing spot for teams looking to dump salary.

And keep this in mind: Houston isn't the only team that Danny could deal with. Asik is certainly at the top of the list of centers to target, but Ainge could swing a similar deal with Oklahoma City for fan favorite Kendrick Perkins, pick off the Jazz's underperforming Enes Kanter, or even snag Tiago Splitter from San Antonio if the Spurs decide to do a brick one rebuild.

It's hard to handicap the likelihood of something happening, especially considering the tight window that Ainge has to utilize the TPE. July 1st is the start of the NBA calendar year; free agents are technically free, holds and rookie scales are applied to teams' salary cap, and Bird rights are renounced. There's a moratorium on transactions that ends on the stroke of midnight on July 10th and the TPE expires on July 12th. Ainge will have two days to work his phone or he loses it.

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