Most NBA teams have completed their rosters in preparation for the upcoming season, but the Boston Celtics aren't finished just yet. With 18 players under contract, Boston needs to get to 15 total before the season begins, and it's likely that power forward Brandon Bass will be one of the players they'll attempt to trade.
The Celtics would like to make some changes to the frontcourt, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe, who reported last week that they have "tried like hell" to move Bass. This comes after Lowe's previous reports that they had hoped to deal him to Golden State, but that deal fell apart when the Warriors decided to let their trade exception expire.
Boston probably wants to deal Bass to simply open up additional playing time for the young bigs like Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, and Vitor Faverani. Even though Bass is a quality veteran big man, there's a good reason why the Celtics can't find "anything of value," as Lowe stated.
Bass might be a talented team and perimeter defender, a hard-worker, and a knockdown mid-range jump shooter, but that's exactly the problem; teams are looking for three-point shooting big men, not mid-range bigs.
Players like Brandon Bass are seeing a decrease in value because the NBA is evolving into something it wasn't just 4 or 5 years ago, and if Boston is going to deal him they're going to need to take less value than they gave when they first acquired him in 2011.
Determining Bass' Value
To understand how other teams value Brandon Bass, we must look at what comparable players received on the free agent market this summer. Fortunately, there are a handful of similar power forwards and centers to look at; here are 8 new contracts this summer with each average annual value (AAV) listed:
|3PT Shooting Bigs: AAV||Non-3PT Shooting Bigs: AAV|
|Channing Frye: $8,000,000||Chris Kaman: $4,908,000|
|Marvin Williams: $7,000,000||Kris Humphries: $4,622,500|
|Spencer Hawes: $5,663,088||Jason Smith: $3,278,000|
|Josh McRoberts: $5,663,088||Glen Davis: $1,227,985|
|Average: $6,581,544||Average: $3,509,121|
There is a huge difference in what three-point shooting bigs and non-three-point shooting bigs are receiving in the market. All of these players are, at the least, in the ballpark of Bass' overall skill level, and the fact that the four players who can effectively shoot threes received more money tells the whole story.
As Lowe suggested in his piece on Grantland, Bass will take a pay cut when he becomes a free agent in 2015, and "probably a severe one." Bass will make $6.9 million this season, and he most certainly falls into the "Kaman category" of contracts, and not the "Frye category." As good as Bass has been in his three years with Boston, teams just aren't swooning over players like him.
Realistic Pre-Season Returns
This is precisely why Boston is having a hard time finding anything of value for Brandon Bass. There is almost no chance they get a young, talented 25-year-old power forward in return, like the Orlando Magic did when they dealt Bass to Boston in 2011 for Glen Davis.
In terms of value, it's more likely Boston receives something along the lines of a second round draft pick or an average veteran player. Toronto opened up cap space/roster spots in 2012 by dealing power forward James Johnson to Sacramento for just a second round draft pick. In an attempt to free space for a Dwight Howard signing, that same summer Atlanta traded Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris.
Those situations are slightly different, but in any case both moves were made to open up roster spots for one reason or another. Boston is in the same boat since they want to assure that players like Olynyk and Sullinger receive consistent opportunities this season.
Getting a second round pick or a Devin Harris-like player for Bass is nothing to get excited about. Bass would essentially be a roster spot dump for Boston, while the other team would be receiving an effective big man on an expiring contract. Is it worth it? Maybe, depending on how much the Celtics really want to play all of the youngsters early in the season.
Realistic Mid-Season Returns
That's exactly why Boston is in a pickle. Should they deal Brandon Bass before the season, receiving essentially nothing of value? Or should they let Bass eat up minutes for half the season and wait until early 2015, perhaps until the trade deadline, for a team to potentially cough up something worthwhile?
It's a risk, but if the Celtics do decide to wait, they might be able to receive some players or assets that can help them. Back in 2011, New Orleans was trying to make a push for the playoffs and they acquired Carl Landry from Sacramento in return for Marcus Thornton. Landry was 27-years-old at the time and a similar player to Bass, yet the Kings were able to receive a promising young scorer in Thornton.
Of course, Thornton hasn't developed as expected, but he's still a contributing player who can drain shots and fill it up when he gets hot. Sacramento didn't come away with anything special, but at least they got something.
Earlier this year Philadelphia dealt Spencer Hawes to Cleveland for Henry Sims, Earl Clark, and two second round draft picks. Sims and Clark are nothing to write home about, but at the least Sims is young and has the promise of a rotational big. Not to mention that Philly also drafted Jerami Grant and Vasilije Micic with the picks they received; they may never turn into anything, but they are assets nonetheless.
Unlike some of the teams mentioned in these prior deals, Boston is in a prime position to react to other blockbuster trades that could occur over the course of the season, just like they were when they snatched Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, and a first round pick for essentially nothing.
Maybe Bass' expiring contract could become a valuable tool to help facilitate a potential trade, winning Boston some assets that go beyond Bass' true value. Naturally, this is all hypothetical because there are no guarantees of any large trades this season -- especially since we've had our fair share of huge moves during the summer -- and the market for Bass might've plateaued already anyway.
TL;DR: Bass alone isn't worth that much
After looking at "pre-season vs. mid-season" deals from recent history, the return isn't significantly different for players of Brandon Bass' skill level. It becomes clear that unless Bass is involved as part of a package (not the main piece), Boston won't be getting that much in return whether or not they wait.
If the Celtics want to allow the young players to play as much as possible this season, then moving on from Bass at anytime before the year might be the better choice. Teams just aren't that interested in players like him anymore. While the return won't be that fair on paper, it might be worth it in the long run if Sullinger, Olynyk, and Zeller are all developing consistently by playing close to 30 minutes per game.