There's something happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but for what it's worth, the Boston Celtics have been lining up their dominoes for months, and I sense that they're about to make them fall.
"Everybody look! What's going down?"
The Celtics agreed to terms with Evan Turner back in July, but have yet to officially sign him because they are "working to clear roster space."
And today is September 10, which happens to be the day that Marcus Thornton is eligible to be dealt in aggregated trades. Thornton plays the same position as Turner, and CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely previously reported that he will get a chance to "showcase his talents," but maybe not in Boston.
Brandon Bass reportedly put his home on sale, according to CLNS Radio, after being lumped into trade rumors all summer. Bass and Thornton also share the same agent, Tony Dutt. If Dutt is worried about playing time for Thornton, then he definitely must be for Bass.
Finally, Keith Bogans' non-guaranteed contract is just waiting to be waived by the Celtics -- or traded to another team that'll waive him.
I'd argue that this is strong evidence that something could happen this week or sometime before the month ends. With so many players on the roster, someone has to go so there is enough playing time to go around. Whether it's a large or small move, there will be some piece of Celtics related news. And I know you're all just dying for that.
Let's look at a few players who could be traded by the Boston Celtics before training camp begins on September 30:
|Marcus Thornton||Possible, 80%: All signs point to a trade, since Turner hasn't signed and other teams were interested in his services before the Celtics swooped in. His day to be included in aggregate trades has also arrived.|
|Keith Bogans||Possible, 75%: Bogans was a disaster with the Celtics, but no fan cares about that if he's used again to finish off a trade. At $5.5 million non-guaranteed, Bogans' contract is a huge trading piece.|
|Brandon Bass||Questionable, 60%: Bass is extremely valuable for playoff contenders because of his hard-nosed defense and knockdown mid-range game, but there hasn't been a strong market for mid-range specialists.|
|Chris Babb and Johnson||Questionable: 50%: Babb and Johnson could work as the final pieces to make a deal work financially. I bet the Celtics will hold onto them if they can, though they could end up being tough roster cuts.|
|Joel Anthony||Questionable, 45%: I don't see Anthony being dealt unless his salary is needed to make a deal work. Not many teams would be interested in him unless they had to take on his expiring contract.|
|Gerald Wallace||Questionable, 35%: Fans would love to get rid of Wallace, but it's just not that easy since so few teams can take on his salary. And I'm not convinced it's worth giving picks just to dump him at this time.|
|Jeff Green||Doubtful, 20%: There should be interest in Green for his team-friendly contract ($9.2 mil with a player option for next season), but past reported offers have been lowballs. Would Ainge really give him up that easily?|
|Rajon Rondo||Doubtful, 5%: Everyone knows the deal with Rondo by now. It's unlikely gets he dealt before the season, but we can't rule it out entirely. Someone could come along and blow Ainge away, of course.|
That's quite a long list, so let's forget about the doubtful players when looking for potential trades. More importantly, keep in mind each player's value. In order to get Tyler Zeller and Cleveland's future first round pick, Boston had to take Thornton's contract. Not too many teams will be interested in his bloated $8.6 million contract, so it's possible the Celtics would have to add more to any deal.
Bogans should be looked at as salary filler and nothing more. As for Bass, he probably isn't worth much unless a team needs a shooting big -- click here for a detailed explanation.
Which teams could be interested?
Three teams were reportedly interested in Marcus Thornton before free agency began -- Dallas, Minnesota, and Phoenix. With an overflow of two-guards and combo forwards, it doesn't seem like Minnesota would have much interest in either Thornton or Bass. I'm sure Boston would love to get their hands on center Nikola Pekovic, so you never know what Minnesota could be thinking.
Dallas might've made sense in July, but they have since signed Richard Jefferson, a player who can fill that spot up shooting role that Thornton would've occupied.
Phoenix Suns: Are they a perfect fit?
Phoenix is still a strong option since they haven't found a replacement for Channing Frye, who signed with the Magic. Even though they brought in Anthony Tolliver, he can't fill that role like Brandon Bass could. And if Eric Bledsoe is eventually traded, they will need a scoring backup two-guard, which makes Thornton an option.
The Suns are in flux right now, just like the Celtics. Bledsoe has yet to sign an extension or his qualifying offer, so he's a possibility -- but unless Rondo is involved only smaller deals appear possible. The Suns have $11.2 million in salary cap space, even with their holds included, which means they could take extra salary from the Celtics without going over the cap.
Some of Phoenix's assets that could interest the Celtics are big men Alex Len and Alec Brown, and guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Archie Goodwin. Len was the No. 5 pick in 2013, but is buried on the Suns' depth chart, Brown is a stretch shooting big man who will spend the year playing in Spain, Bogdanovic is a draft-and-stash for two more years, and Goodwin is an athletic young combo guard.
For example, Phoenix could trade Len and the rights to Bogdanovic for Thornton, Bass, and a package of valuable draft picks. Phoenix would acquire veterans and reload their picks in the coming years, and Boston would open up playing time at wing and power forward while acquiring a center and a promising guard who won't impact this year's team.
Or, if Phoenix is actually comfortable with what they have at power forward, Thornton and future first rounders could go to Phoenix for just Bogdanovic. Either way, there are a lot of possibilities for Boston and Phoenix, which stretch far beyond what's being outlined here.
Indiana Pacers: Replacing George
Without Paul George, I can see them having some interest in Jeff Green, but I don't know if they have enough to complete a deal. They're in the conversation to sign free agent guard Zoran Dragić, who could help ease the pain from losing George, but if they miss out on him they could settle for Marcus Thornton. Something like Thornton and a draft pick or Ian Mahinmi and Chris Copeland could work for both sides. Copeland will be a restricted free agency next summer and Mahinmi is a solid rim protector, who would be a dark horse to start.
Milwaukee Bucks: Where there's smoke...
Everyone loves Larry Sanders, and so do I. Sanders is a legitimate enforcer in the paint who would immediately make Boston a contender for a playoff seed. Since Milwaukee has been unable to deal Ersan Ilyasova, perhaps they will fold and ship Sanders away.
It'd be quite a heavy price to pay for a player that has had trouble with injuries and suspensions, but well worth the risk. It's a long shot, but Bass, Bogans, and multiple draft picks for Sanders could be enough to entice them. They could move John Henson to center, put Bass into the rotation, and decline Bogans' contract, and the Celtics would have their rim protector while retaining future flexibility.
New York Knicks: Toxic Candy?
I'll be the first person to say that I'm not the biggest supporter of any trade that brings Amar'e Stoudemire to Boston. The locker room was extremely positive last season, despite all the losing, and Stoudemire's once toxic personality could bring a dark cloud to a young, maturing team. Even though he has matured over the years, I'd worry that his negative attributes could manifest in a potential losing environment that wouldn't provide him many on-court opportunities.
Maybe I'm just over-thinking it.
Either way, there's no denying that his $23.4 million contract is appealing. He's the type of contract that would allow the Celtics to burn all their extra fat. It actually brings to mind a deal from 2006, when Raef LaFrentz's monstrous contract and the No. 7 pick (Randy Foye) was sent to Portland for Theo Ratliff's deal, which had one less year on it.
Maybe the basics of a deal could look like Bass, Thornton, Wallace, and Philadelphia's conditional draft pick to the Knicks for Stoudemire. The incentive for New York is that they get a better starting power forward in Bass, depth at the two-guard (they might be looking to deal Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith elsewhere), and Wallace has only one more year than Stoudemire. They also don't have any second round draft picks from 2015 through 2017, so Philly's conditional pick would likely replenish them for '16 and '17.
Still, I don't see how the Celtics can take on a personality like Stoudemire and expect things to be fine and dandy like they were during Brad Stevens' rookie year as a head coach. Then again, if things got sour he could always be "sent home" like Keith Bogans was.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Welcome back Perk?
The writing is on the wall for Kendrick Perkins after the Thunder selected two promising young centers in two consecutive drafts. Steven Adams and Mitch McGary are the long-term options, so someone has got to go. That leaves Perkins, whom OKC fans love to hate.
Deals centered around Thornton and Perkins are something to keep in mind, though it might be difficult to expand with more players unless a third team were involved. The Thunder just don't have enough movable salaries to receive more bodies. Perkins would be a positive veteran presence in Boston's locker room, and he might even help Rondo develop as a leader.
Taking Boston's Pulse
I dug deep into each team's situation looking for deals that just make sense, but there's not a lot out there. This has been a constant theme throughout the summer, despite the Celtics holding some very appealing assets. However, the five teams above are a starting point, and I believe that we shouldn't be surprised if a deal is reached with one of them.
Maybe if Danny Ainge pulls a trigger on one of these proposed deals, or a similar one, one thousand Boston Celtics fans will be in the streets singing songs and carrying signs, mostly saying, "hooray for our side."