As February rolls in, we begin to see who the buyers and sellers on the trade deadline might be. Right now, the biggest sellers are the Knicks, who appear willing to give up Carmelo Anthony without getting a star player in return.
While the Knicks and Clippers try to work out a deal to move Anthony, Keith Smith reports that the Celtics may not end up as a third team to facilitate, but as the team that acquires Anthony. While the Celtics initially expressed no interest in bringing Anthony to Boston, the door still appears to be open after it was revealed that the Knicks are not demanding a star player in return. This is good news for a Celtics team that is reluctant to move any core pieces but is otherwise flush with future assets and expiring contracts. For those thinking that Carmelo doesn’t fit Boston’s “timeline,” just remember that Danny Ainge once gave up a lottery pick, a young Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak for a 32-year-old Ray Allen to play alongside a 30-year-old Paul Pierce and a 31-year-old Kevin Garnett. The Celtics roster is relatively young as it is right now, and Anthony alone wouldn’t change that. In three years, Boston's current core will be entering their prime while the Brooklyn picks, assuming we keep them, will be shaking off their sophomore slump. The Celtics would have a remarkably deep supporting cast for a veteran trio of Thomas, Horford, and Anthony, and they would be fighting for Eastern Conference dominance with mid-30s LeBron.
If the Celtics only serve as facilitators, the only other Knick that I see the Celtics pursuing besides Melo is Kyle O’Quinn to fill the Tyler Zeller role. I could also see Danny Ainge trying to swoop in for the Clip’s JJ Redick. Redick is in the last year of his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent, and while I don’t like the idea of giving up pieces for a possible rental, I think the Clippers could be willing to give him up for cheap. Why? Not only would they be getting something instead of nothing if Redick were to walk this summer, they’re also replacing his production with Carmelo freaking Anthony. Redick is also on a team friendly contract at $7.3 million this year, so if there’s going to be money coming off the books regardless (Tyler Zeller's $8 million), then we might as well give Redick a test drive.
At the moment, the Knicks are enamored with Kevin Love, whom Cleveland has no reason to move.
Keeping up with the
Move over Atlanta, because Chicago might be the next best show on TV. Reports are still vague, but there are whispers in the wind suggesting that the Bulls may be reconsidering Jimmy Butler’s future with the team. Butler has had some lingering beef with the Bulls front office dating back to their lowball offer of a $44 million extension over four years after the 2014 season, which Butler turned down. Bulls management threatened to give Butler’s minutes to Tony Snell, but the scheme was squashed by Coach Tom Thibodeau who continued to start Butler. Butler scored exactly 20 points per game the next season and earned the big contract he wanted, but the damage is done. As far as I can tell, the rumors are still just rumors, but with Chicago slipping in the standings, not to mention the players, coaches, and management feuding, something has to give. Chicago has Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo inexplicably signed for another year, which could force the Bulls to stick it out, but it would be wise to cash in on Butler while his stock is high so Chicago can hit the reset button after next year.
Given the unpredictability of high school drama, I can't imagine how Chicago will try to fix everything. I’m not one to reason with the logic that would have Tony Snell starting over Jimmy Butler. Knowing the astronomically high asking price (Brooklyn picks and young players), I doubt Danny Ainge gives up the farm for Butler.
Last time I wrote about trade rumors, I said not to overthink them because trades don't work out as logically as we anticipate, a concept most recently manifested by fourth-seeded Atlanta giving up Kyle Korver practically for free. It’s important to understand that deals that should happen won’t, and deals that won’t happen will, all because the world doesn’t make sense. With that context in place, I turn your attention to the Orlando Magic, who shipped out Victor Oladipo, drafted at second overall in 2013, and a draft pick for Serge Ibaka. I don’t know what Orlando was trying to do by making this move, but I think it’s time they move on to plan B. A Sherrod Blakely reported that the Magic and Celtics were discussing a possible trade involving Nikola Vucevic, who now exists in a frontcourt logjam awkwardly created by his team’s management following up his impressive 19 points and nine rebounds last season. Vucevic wouldn’t solve all (or any) of the Celtics’ defensive issues, but the increase in production at his position could mitigate some of the damage.
Speaking of legalized weed in Massachusetts, Larry Sanders was in town. Sanders was nearly a walking double-double in 2013 but took a break from professional basketball after the 2015 season to deal with anxiety and depression. Sanders’ worked out for Boston recently and also plans to meet with other teams. It was reported that Sanders’ workout wasn’t all that impressive, which isn’t surprising given how little we know about how he spent his time off. Boston’s rebounding is still a weak point, although it has been better in recent games. If nothing else, Sanders could be the backup plan if no trades are made to improve the frontcourt. If you’re not high (get it?) on Sanders, don’t forget his triples doubles in points, rebounds, and blocks.
Obligatory Demarcus Cousins Section
Say it with me: “Demarcus Cousins is not available. You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it.” Boogie is clearly dedicated to signing a super-mega-max deal with the Kings to cement himself as their knight in shining armor, their prince charming, — hold on — what? Phoenix? Really? Part of me doesn’t believe my own eyes because of how little Phoenix offered in terms of total value (TJ Warren, Alex Len, a draft pick, and "possibly" more), but part of me also thinks Sacramento may have considered it because, you know, it’s Sacramento and they do silly things there. I find it less likely by the day that Ainge is willing to give up any Brooklyn picks given that the Nets appear to have the NBA's worst record on lock, so there could be some traction to the idea that Boogie could be traded somewhere other than Boston.
My Two Cents
No matter who the Celtics pursue, the most likely assets to be moved should be expiring contracts (Amir Johnson’s $15 million, Tyler Zeller’s $8 million) and non-Brooklyn draft picks (we have approximately 40 of these saved up). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terry Rozier dangled in front of the market as well, as many of the teams looking to make moves should be looking to build for the future rather than try to make hasty win-now moves again (i.e.: Knicks and Bulls). If Orlando wants to free up some money and add a couple small pieces going forward, then the Celtics have what they need, but each team’s evident reluctance to go fully nuclear with their roster could explain why trade talks didn’t last long. Still, they could be convinced to tank a little harder as they slide down the Eastern Conference standings with a supposedly loaded draft on the horizon.