The basketball world has been filled with news of a potential Celtics/Clippers trade over the past few days. Though he wouldn’t technically be part of the trade per NBA rules, the “center” of the trade rumors has been current Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers. After firing Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers are without a Head Coach and feel that Doc Rivers on the sideline would give them the best possible chance to retain Chris Paul via free agency.
In the rumored deal, the Celtics would allow Rivers out of his current contract with the team in order to sign with the Clippers as part of an actual trade that would be centered around Kevin Garnett going to the Clippers. The two sides have been on and off in talks for days, with the Celtics first insisting on Eric Bledsoe being included in the deal, along with DeAndre Jordan and a 1st round pick, and then once that fell through insisting that the Clippers take on the salaries of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee in the deal. Now it doesn’t even look like the Clippers want to do that.
Clearly, it would be in the Celtics’ best interests to get a deal done at this point. They have crossed the point of no return with Doc Rivers. There’s no way he returns to the team now after all this. It simply wouldn’t be a smart move to allow Rivers to continue coaching. You don’t want the leader of your team feeling like he’s forced to be there and you know the players know what’s going on. How is a coach going to get the most out of his players when they know he wishes he was elsewhere?
However, that doesn’t mean the Celtics should settle. They should at least be able to use Doc as a little bit of leverage in any potential personnel trade. The Clippers have a lot at stake here with a franchise point guard hanging in the balance. On top of that, a personnel trade with the Celtics makes a lot of sense for a Clippers team that is clearly in win now mode, while the Celtics look prepared to go into a full rebuild. There is incentive for both sides to make a move.
One move that makes a lot of sense, though also one that makes any potential deal more complicated, would be to add a 3rd team into the mix. The reason the Clippers don’t want to include Eric Bledsoe in the deal is because they reportedly want to move him in another potential deal, with Arron Afflalo and Danny Granger’s names being floated around as the targets. With only Willie Green, Caron Butler, and Jamal Crawford under contract on the wings, the need for a wing player is obvious for the Clippers.
With that in mind, it could make a lot of sense for the Celtics to include Paul Pierce in the trade, to increase their leverage and their return. If the Celtics are going to go into rebuilding mode, they should go into a complete rebuild. If the Celtics were to do that, they could both get Bledsoe in return and have the Clippers take on Jason Terry and/or Courtney Lee in a deal. While Bledsoe would be of value to the Celtics, it would be more valuable for the Celtics to flip Bledsoe to a 3rd team, the Pacers, in exchange for Danny Granger, who would replace Pierce.
The Pacers will be looking to move Granger this off-season. After all, they just made game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals with Granger hurt for all but 5 games of the season thanks to Paul George’s breakout season. George at small forward, along with the strong play of Lance Stephenson at shooting guard makes Granger expendable, especially with him heading into a contract year and being an injury risk.
Bledsoe would give the Pacers a much needed bench scoring option, as could Jason Terry, who would also go to Indiana as part of the trade. Caron Butler’s expiring contract would also go from the Clippers to Indiana, to make the financials work for an Indiana team shedding Danny Granger’s 14 million dollar salary. It would certainly make the Pacers deeper than they were last year without Granger without adding significant salary to their payroll and preventing their chances of re-signing free agent David West.
Along with Danny Granger, DeAndre Jordan would also go to Boston, as would Willie Green for financial reasons. The Celtics would then have the option to keep Green as a bench option at roughly 1.4 million or decline his team option. It would give the Celtics a lot of versatility with their starting lineup, allowing them to go big with DeAndre Jordan, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Danny Granger, and Rajon Rondo, or small with DeAndre Jordan (or Brandon Bass if they want to go really small), Jeff Green, Danny Granger, Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo.
Jordan Crawford, Jared Sullinger, and Fab Melo would round out the rotation, along with maybe Willie Green and few cheap free agents. Their only major need would be for a backup point guard, which they could address at #16 overall with someone like Shane Larkin and still have the Clippers’ first round pick to use on the best available, adding someone like Jeff Withey. Granger’s would be an obvious injury risk, but with an expiring contract, it still gives the Celtics the financial flexibility to go after a big time free agent in a deep 2014 free agency class, including Granger if he’s able to bounce back.
The Clippers’ final haul from the deal would be Garnett, Pierce, and Courtney Lee. Garnett and Pierce would slot into the starting lineup with Blake Griffin and hopefully, for the Clippers’ sake, Chris Paul. Courtney Lee would likely be in the other starting guard with Jamal Crawford continuing to serve in his bench scoring role. They could then potentially make enough move later for Dwight Howard, with Blake Griffin going to the Lakers in a sign and trade.
It would make the Clippers a top heavy team with 6 guys filling up much of their cap and no 1st round pick, but it would definitely give the Clippers a stronger chance to win the title in 2013, especially with Doc on the sideline. For the win now Clippers, that’s what’s most important and they can always fill out their rotation with cheap free agents. In the NBA, once you have the top guys, everything else can fall into place. It’s a deal that would make sense for all 3 teams involved.