Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2 comments Ira Winderman Says Instead of Blowing Up the Celtics, Why Not Trade a Bunch of Players?

Let's talk trades. The Boston Celtics are struggling (sort of...they are still in line for a playoff spot and the Knicks are struggling just as much) and they have a bunch of old players on their roster. This isn't something we didn't know going into this year. At some point, changes will have to be made. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents after this year, so some major changes are coming. The question remains whether the Celtics should stay put or try to rebuild the team on the fly by trading Paul Pierce, Garnett, Allen or even Rajon Rondo (not likely).

Ira Winderman of NBC Sports believes the Boston Celtics shouldn't blow up the team, they should just trade 40% of the starters currently on the team. I'm not sure there is a difference. He wants to trade Garnett and Allen, but doesn't think this is blowing up the Celtics roster. I think trading away two of the four best players on the roster isn't too different from blowing up the team entirely. He believes the Celtics should not trade Pierce, yet because Garnett and Allen are free agents after this year, Pierce and his contract is probably the best one to trade if the Celtics really want to rebuild on the fly. What is weird is Winderman thinks the Celtics should use the Mavericks model in order to ensure success at rebuilding on the fly. It is weird because the Mavericks model was implemented this year and hasn't been shown to work effectively yet.

So I'm not sure the Celtics should model a non-rebuilding, non-blowing up of the team (while two trading important players) based on a unproven plan. Not to mention dangling Pierce in a trade doesn't mean you have to trade him. Personally, I think the Celtics shouldn't trade any of their best four players unless they get a trade offer they can't refuse.

In June, no sooner were the Heat defeated by the Mavericks in the NBA finals than the debate ensued about breaking up the Big Three.

This wasn't serious talk. It wasn't talk because the Big Three were getting old or were ineffective. The talk began because the issue was cap room for the Heat and the media needs to further controversial topics to fill columns and the airwaves. I don't recall these talks about breaking up Wade, James and Bosh as ever being serious.

Amid success in Dwyane Wade's absence in recent days, the volume has intensified on that one.

To the right of the column is an NBCSports podcast entitled "Are LeBron and the Heat better off without Wade?" Is Ira Winderman reporting on a story NBC Sports has helped create? To me, this discussion is the result of short-term, potentially non-sustainable success without Wade and a self-created media story. The media starts a discussion and then breathlessly reports on it. Basically, it is ESPN's entire reporting style.

In L.A., months after being blown out in the second round by the Mavericks, and little more than a season removed from consecutive titles, the Lakers first attempted to rip it apart in a bid for Chris Paul, then sold off Lamar Odom for pennies on the dollar to Dallas.

The Lakers sold Odom because he was unhappy and wanted a trade after finding out he was part of the failed Chris Paul trade discussions. I'm not sure this trade was of the Lakers choosing. Odom wanted out and the Lakers were looking to clear cap space in order to lure Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Notice who the Lakers traded Odom to. The Dallas Mavericks. So Winderman is essentially saying the Mavericks have a plan to take a step back to cut cap space for the future, while also being the beneficiary of a team cutting cap space for the future and taking on larger, non-expiring salaries.

And now the Celtics, a team that advanced to the 2010 NBA finals and might have made it back in 2011 with an ambulatory center, are threatening a core meltdown.

Uh ... um ... patience, anyone?

And what follows is Winderman saying the Celtics should trade Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. I guess patience isn't the best move after all.

First, step back and consider whether we even would be debating the Celtics had Kendrick Perkins not been dealt to the Thunder last season (or at least had Jeff Green not been detected with a season-ending heart condition in the wake of the lockout).

Yes, we would. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen would still be a year older and Jeff Green really isn't anything more than a borderline starter or key guy coming off the bench. A healthy Jeff Green would help and I still don't like the Perkins trade, but Perkins/Green's presence on the roster would not change much. The core problem with the Celtics, at least in my mind, which is their age and lack of bench depth would still be present with Kendrick Perkins on the roster. I think many people have turned Perkins into a cure-all player who in reality was important to the Celtics current roster, but doesn't necessarily have as much value once the needed roster changes happen. Perkins is a great fit for the Celtics when they have a defensive-minded, shot blocking power forward. It's a great role for him. He isn't a scorer and he isn't going to be any more than a team's fifth best starter.

For as ugly as it has gotten for Boston at the start this season, it would not nearly be as ugly if Perkins were there to ease the inside burden on Kevin Garnett, or if Green's versatility was in place to alleviate the scoring load on Paul Pierce or Ray Allen.

Of course, but that's why you have backups. The Celtics have half-assed backing up their center and wing positions over the past couple of years and so they are paying for it this year. Sure, they haven't had a ton of cap room,. A lack of cap room probably somewhat affected their chances at getting better players, but it left them in a position where they had to hurt one position (center) in order to reinforce another position (the backup wing spot) last season. Hence the Perkins-Green trade.

With Perkins or Green, we wouldn't be here, at this intersection of allowing it to play out and blowing it apart.

Yes, we would. Garnett and Allen would still be free agents and neither Perkins or Green are cornerstone franchise pieces. They are guys who fit a role well, but they need good players around them to fill that role.

Why deal Perkins, when a mega-bucks contract decision would have had to have been made with Green, anyway?

This is irrelevant, even if it is a good point. I don't think the Celtics should have traded Perkins last season either. The issue the Celtics are facing is whether to ride this team out with Garnett and Allen as potential free agents or try to get value for them now and hurt the team in the short-term. Pierce is also out there as trade bait because you never know what kind of offer you may get for him. Trading Garnett and Allen would be giving up on a #1-#4 playoff spot and essentially giving up on the year...no matter what Ira Winderman tells us.

Why lock Doc Rivers into a new, long-term deal if there was even an iota of a thought about rebuilding?

Because the Celtics ownership thinks he is a good coach?

And why continually dangle Rajon Rondo while he remains the lone youthful component that could be utilized as a foundation for rebuilding?

Again, to see what return could be had for Rondo. The same reason Pierce is being dangled. These are two valuable players with non-expiring contracts. If Chris Paul could have been had for Rondo, isn't that a trade worth making?

This is the NBA, where the last time the Celtics blew it up they went eight seasons, starting in 1994, with just one playoff victory. Not one series victory, but winning one playoff game over an eight-year span.

And why did the Celtics have to blow it up at that point and failed? Because they held on too long with their veteran players instead of trading them on the fly. Because their best young player died of a heart condition. So if this is an analogous situation, and Rondo doesn't have a heart condition, then perhaps learning from history would say trading key players while still getting value is the best move.

What is so funny is Winderman and I are arguing to the same conclusion. He says the Celtics shouldn't blow it up, which I agree with at this point, but he is arguing this based on also stating the Celtics should trade Garnett and Allen. I count this as blowing up the Celtics. So he is essentially advocating the 2011-2012 Celtics do the exact thing the Celtics should have done prior to 1994, but did not do. Winderman is using the Celtics failure to not blow up the roster prior to 1994 as reasoning for why they shouldn't blow up the team during 11-12. Yet, the 1994 season is a perfect reason why the Celtics should blow up the roster (meaning trade two of the best four players is "blowing the roster up," no matter what Ira Winderman says) this year.

The counterargument, the one being mulled these days by Ainge, is that the step back does not have to be one off a cliff, if it is taken with the proper foresight, that the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement rewards teams who build cap stashes.

On the surface, that appears to be the approach being taken by Mark Cuban in Dallas, who despite winning the 2011 championship allowed Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson to walk in the offseason without compensation.

This approach has not been proven to work yet. Let's remember this. The Mavericks could use a tall center who can block shots and play defense. You know, like Tyson Chandler.

What is even more interesting is Winderman uses the Mavericks as a potential destination for Kevin Garnett. So while trading for Odom and Garnett by the Mavericks, and the trading of Garnett by the Celtics, would the Mavericks and Celtics really be using similar rebuilding philosophies?

But there is a difference here, a significant difference from the nuclear winter being forecast in Boston:

Cuban's plan centers on reloading — perhaps with Deron Williams, perhaps with Dwight Howard — with Dirk Nowitzki still in place.

The equivalent in Boston would be doing the same with Pierce.

There is also one other significant difference. Dirk is still at the top of his game, while Pierce seems to be declining in some ways. I'm not saying the Celtics shouldn't build around Pierce, but seeing what he can return on a trade makes sense for the Celtics, while building around Dirk makes sense for the Mavericks.

Nowitzki is 33; Pierce is 34. Dirk was MVP of the Finals last season; Pierce in 2008. Yes, Pierce's numbers have come down in recent seasons, but he still is a go-to scorer, a player capable of creating needed baskets in a league where such players simply have not come free other than during Pat Riley's one-time score in July 2010.

But for how much longer will Pierce be this guy? He is shooting 42% right now and may not be that go-to guy for much longer. I am not advocating the Celtics trade Pierce, but what if the Celtics manage to get a good haul for him? There's no harm in at least seeing what the market is like. This would never happen, but what if the Hornets offered (after February 12th of course) Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon for Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley? You just never know what trade opportunity may be available to improve the team in the long-term.

Then consider the state of the Eastern Conference. Considering Charlotte, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and New Jersey already have reservations at the lottery, it essentially would come down to beating out Milwaukee for the eighth seed. Even at Boston's current depths, that seems not only doable, but likely.

In fact, it would be achievable even in the midst of Ainge's restructuring, but not demolishing.

I think there is too much panic over the Celtics current state of affairs and regardless of how Winderman spins this, trading Garnett/Allen and accepting a #7 or #8 seed is giving up on this current year. I also like how trading Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett is seen as "restructuring." Trading 40% of your starters seems like a demolishing of sorts to me.

What would make sense is dangling the expiring contracts of Allen and Garnett to contenders who could ship back either prospects or else similar expiring contracts and draft picks.

This does make sense. As does dangling Pierce or Rondo to see what they could return. There is a deep NBA Draft coming up, so if Pierce could net a first round pick and a quality player why not look into that too? The mistake a lot of teams make while rebuilding on the fly is half-assing it. Trying to rebuild while also stay competitive, but not wanting to trade too many good players or listen to offers for certain players. I don't think the Celtics are doing that, which is why Pierce/Rondo have been on the table.

Allen to Chicago in a package for Omer Asik would be a win-win for each side, the Bulls getting a better-than-Rip Hamilton sidekick for Derrick Rose, while the Celtics get a taste of the future in the middle.

The issue with this trade is it would have to be Omer Asik and a combination of other players for Allen. If the Bulls traded Asik they would also have to throw in other guys to make the trade work and the Bulls don't have expiring contracts. So the Celtics wouldn't really be gaining cap room in the long-term, which I think is their intent. I'm not sure if these teams match up very well. Not to mention, why would the Celtics trade Allen to the team they may face in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?

As for Garnett, the $21 million salary is massive, but Cuban, of all people, has the pieces to potentially concoct something in return.

How would this trade be made without hurting the Mavericks though? They have expiring contracts in Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, but this would weaken the Mavericks this year without these two players. Terry and Kidd's expiring contracts are also of value to the Mavericks, as well as the Celtics. The players the Celtics would get in return would not have expiring contracts, which wouldn't help them build around Paul Pierce. If the Mavericks and Celtics have similar goals to clear cap space, maybe they aren't the best partners in a trade.

With Rondo and Pierce, Boston still would measure up ahead of the Bucks, and therefore still measure up for a playoff spot.

Trading Garnett and Allen would be blowing the Celtics up in some ways. The Celtics would be a lesser team and it would big roster upheaval. They have valuable contracts because they are expiring and can give the Celtics room to sign players in the offseason. Pierce and Rondo have expensive contracts that aren't expiring after this year, so I can see how the urge to dangle them would be there.

For now, Ainge needs to take a deep breath before blowing up anything in Boston.

And then after taking this deep breath Winderman thinks Ainge should trade the Celtics best perimeter shooter and rebounder.

With a subtle touch, the playoffs — as well as rapid regeneration — remain not only plausible but eminently possible.

This can happen by trading Pierce to a contender and then using the cap space from Garnett and Allen's expiring contracts to rebuild the team. I don't think the Celtics should make a move necessarily, but trading Allen and Garnett would be blowing up the team in essence. It would be conceding the Celtics are playing for a lower playoff spot. Trading these two players is anything but subtle.


rich said...

And now the Celtics, a team that advanced to the 2010 NBA finals and might have made it back in 2011 with an ambulatory center, are threatening a core meltdown.

The Celtics lost in the second round 4 games to 1.

Let me repeat: The Celtics lost 4 games to 1 in the second round.

They were not, in any way, shape or form, getting into the Finals last year.

They have two aging guys who are free agents. Allen could fetch some decent returns and KG probably could as well.

So you have to ask yourself:

1) Are you resigning these guys? Easy answer is not a chance in hell.

2) Are you going to threaten to win this year? They are 10-10 so far this year, so not likely.

So if you're not winning this year and you're not keeping them... why wouldn't you trade them?

that the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement rewards teams who build cap stashes.

This is the only reason I could see Boston keeping these guys. Let their contracts expire and go after Howard and Williams in the off-season.

However, it's high likely that Orlando trades Howard and since the Celtics don't have any pieces to move for him... trade KG and Ray Ray.

it essentially would come down to beating out Milwaukee for the eighth seed. Even at Boston's current depths, that seems not only doable, but likely.

Fantastic. Stick the season out, make it as the 8 seed and get your ass kicked by the same team that kick your ass in the playoffs last year.

Only Boston and NY fans would be happier to make the playoffs as an 8 seed (where upsets happen only once every 12 years or so) rather than missing the playoffs and rebuilding a championship contender.

I would rather my team suck ass for 2-3 years and become a legit contender than wallow in mediocrity every year. Seeing as how I've done this later part with the Sixers most of my life, trade them Danny!

With Rondo and Pierce, Boston still would measure up ahead of the Bucks, and therefore still measure up for a playoff spot.

Half of the article seemed to be in favor of keeping them together and making a run.

Then it took a U-turn and now it's saying that they can be just as good without KG and Allen?

For now, Ainge needs to take a deep breath before blowing up anything in Boston.

Ya, Danny. Take a deep breath and think about being the 8th seed with a bunch of expiring contracts for aging players compared to being the 8th seed with some extra picks or prospects.

It's scenarios like this that make me happy I'm not an NBA GM.

This can happen by trading Pierce to a contender and then using the cap space from Garnett and Allen's expiring contracts to rebuild the team.

That's the bizarre thing about the Celtics. They have a ton of ways to rebuild. You can trade Pierce and take the cap space from KG and Allen.

Or they can trade Allen for a pick/prospect, let KG's contract expire and go after one of the big free agents.

Or they can trade KG and let Allen's contract expire.

Or they can trade KG/Pierce or Allen/Pierce for picks/prospects and take the cap space for the expiring contract.

The only stupid thing to do is not blow this up at some point.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, agreed on nearly all counts. Last year's Celtics team wasn't very good despite what Winderman says. They traded Perkins, but needed a guy like Green on the roster also. I think they lose that second round series even w/ Perkins.

1. Allen-maybe, Garnett-no.

2. No. Maybe a #4-#5 seed if they are lucky.

I am all for seeing what Pierce/Garnett/Allen can fetch on the market. I don't see the point in coming in as a 8-seed and losing a series. I would rather they plan for next year since they have the assets to do so.

The Celtics are in good shape no matter what they do. Garnett and Allen's contracts are expiring, so that will open up room. I love Paul Pierce, but I don't see him as a guy you use to build around at this point. So I would probably trade Pierce or at least see if he can fetch anything on the market and then use cap space/players from trading/not trading Garnett/Allen to rebuild next year.

I went through the 90's when the Celts hung on too long w/ Bird and company. It wasn't fun. I think the best thing for Ainge to do is see what is available in exchange for Garnett/Pierce/Allen and then make a trade or don't make a trade. The idea of only trading expiring contracts doesn't make a ton of sense to me. The expiring contracts have value and since Pierce is on the downside of his career why not trade him? Pierce is my favorite Celtic of the last 15 years, but why keep him around out of loyalty if he has trade value?