Since the conclusion of the Boston Celtics’ season the hype from veteran reporters and bloggers alike has been to blow up the Celtics by trading Kevin Garnett and either waiving, trading or using the amnesty clause to remove Paul Pierce from the team. The thought process being that by trading Garnett and Pierce the Celtics would receive younger players who in return would fill the rebounding and scoring void needed to pave the way to the Celtics 18th NBA title.
There has been speculation, none of which has been corroborated by the Celtics organization, that in February the Celtics rejected offers for both players. The Los Angeles Clippers supposedly offered center DeAndre Jordan and point guard Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets presented the Celtics with an offer of forward Kris Humphries, guard MarShon Brooks and a first round pick for Pierce. More recently, it was reported that the Clippers would like to give the Celtics Matt Barnes and Carron Butler for Pierce.
If these are the quality of players that will be offered this summer for Garnett and Pierce, it is highly probable the two future Hall of Famers will be in a Celtics uniform next season. None of the players that have been presumably offered thus far provide an upgrade to the scoring, rebounding and leadership that Garnett and Pierce can supply next season. Nor do they offer the Celtics a player that can help carry the franchise for the foreseeable future. The only thing the Celtics would receive in a trade that contained this level of talent is young players. Trading for youth just to get younger is an irrational decision.
Even at their advanced NBA age Garnett and Pierce are still among the best and most impactful players in the league. Garnett’s value was on display in this year’s postseason where he finished with a 13.7 rebounds per game average, the highest thus far in the 2013 postseason, and five double-doubles, more than any player in the first round of the playoffs.
Pierce, who struggled in this year’s playoffs averaging 5.3 turnovers a game and a shooting percentage of .368, was also arguably the Celtics best player in the regular season. He averaged 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, with three triple doubles. Those numbers put him in a production category with Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
These are the elite players with whom Pierce is in company with, not the average players mentioned in trade offers. And that gets to the issue of why it does not make sense to part ways with Garnett and Pierce. They are still two of the top players in the league and the Celtics will in all likelihood not get anything close to their value through a trade. The only reasonable trade the Celtics could accept for one or both of them would be a bone-fide all-star that is eight to ten years younger than their aging veterans. However, teams that have that caliber of player on their roster are not going to trade him for a veteran all-star with only a couple of years left in the league
Pierce’s value as a player also makes it unlikely that he would be waived or amnestied by the Celtics to open up money to sign a transformational free agent. In both scenarios’ the team would essentially be giving him up to receive less in return. The savings on his fifteen million dollar contract will not be worth enough under the current cap structure for the Celtics to sign one of the top young free agents available this summer.
Which means the Celtics will have to find an alternative method to add scoring and rebounding around their talented young core of Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green and four time all-star Rajon Rondo. The only real alternative the Celtics leadership has is to attempt to separate themselves from guards Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee, and forward Brandon Bass. Together they represent close to seventeen million dollars in outgoing salary next season.
Unloading one or all of these three players will not be easy, as all three underachieved last season and neither their play nor their contracts are particularly attractive to potential trading partners. But, they do have their upsides. Lee has a history of shooting well from the three point line and playing solid defense. Terry is an established NBA veteran who is known for playing well in big games and Bass is a solid mid-range jump shooter who has become a good defender.
Their resumes, while blemished by inconsistent play last season, may be attractive to certain teams looking to add the skills that these three players have. This method of altering the team may offer the Celtics their only opportunity to get the scoring and rebounding they need to be contenders for the 2014 NBA title. Because the alternative, removing Garnett and Pierce, will only push them further from their next title, not closer to it.