The world knows that the Celtics are in selling mode. They've already gotten draft picks for Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, and even Austin Rivers. If anyone was willing to give us a 1st round draft pick for either Brandon Bass or Marcus Thornton I'd imagine that those deals would be done already. I think Ainge would ultimately settle on a 2nd rounder for either one if all other avenues have been explored.
Call me crazy, but I'd like to consider what those other avenues could be. Most would agree that Ainge is (if nothing else) one of the most creative GMs in the game. If there's a way to package his assets to make them worth more than the sum of their parts, he'll do it. He won't even waive a player if he can instead trade him for nothing more than a trade exception (see Bogans, Keith).
So what are some creative things that Ainge could do to get maximum value between now and the deadline?
First of all he can play the role of facilitator. There are always deals that don't work out perfectly without a third team getting involved. Usually it is for financial reasons. One team can't match salaries with the players that the other team wants so they get in a 3rd team to help things along. The Celtics are more than happy to help and if they find the right deal to jump in on, they could walk away with another 1st rounder for their troubles. (Presti played this angle for years before getting capped out and Hinkie is playing his own version of this game currently).
The Celtics even have the ability to add current year salary without jeopardizing our cap space for this summer.
Boston can utilize its three trade exceptions to take on additional salary before this season's trade deadline and possibly pull back even more draft picks. The moves made thus far have dropped Boston's total salary commitment this season (opening that door to help those close to the tax line in return for picks) and positioned the Celtics to have the available money to pursue a big-ticket free agent this offseason.
The Celtics currently have a payroll commitment of $65M. They are over the cap but under the luxury tax line by $11.8M. They have several trade exceptions that they can use to absorb short term salary. They can hold onto those exceptions to use up till a year from the trade dates, but if they actually want to make a play for free agents this summer, then they'll have to wipe the exceptions off the books anyway. So what this would look like is taking on an expiring contract, sending nothing but a heavily protected 2nd rounder out, and getting another asset in return - like maybe even another first rounder.
There are other teams that are over or close to the tax line that would prefer to stay under it and are willing to give up an asset or two to do so. The Thunder come to mind, as do the Brooklyn Nets. In fact, I'd keep an eye on the currently-dead-but-still-in-play Brook Lopez discussions.
In addition, if Danny really isn't very optimistic about landing a free agent this summer, he could elect to take back a player or two that aren't expiring contracts. This is more likely to occur in the offseason but if someone was looking to shed salary and was willing to give up someone good, the Celtics would have to listen. Or Ainge could get another first rounder out of a team looking to dump a multi-year contract quickly (if only the Nets had any more picks to give us!).
Here's yet another thing to ponder. Everyone assumes that the veterans are the ones that are going to be traded, but there's always a chance that someone might make a good offer on one of the younger guys like Sullinger, Olynyk, or Zeller. I'm going to have to start thinking of Avery Bradley as a veteran now, and even though the team liked him enough to give him an extension this summer, you know he's going to have teams that would be interested in his skill set.
Granted, all the moves that Ainge has made seem to indicate that that he wants to keep his cap space, his young players, and his picks for this summer. But those trade exceptions have value too and Danny is in the business of turning over every rock in search of future value.
This rebuilding business is not for the faint of heart and it isn't always fun to watch on the court (though when done right and with the right perspective, that can be fun too). But you can't say that it is boring. We're going to be on-call around here for just about anything over the next month or so. It may end up being a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, but I wouldn't count on it.
So what will trader Dan do next? Anything and everything he can.