Celtics, Lakers, Knicks among teams to watch leading up to NBA trade deadline
The pressure of the NBA’s trade deadline puts team executives into overdrive, with each working their phones frantically in a last ditch effort to secure a player or draft pick of import. Every team is weighing its options and fielding offers, but a select group stands out as deadline week takes hold of the NBA world. Below is a collection of those very teams, many of which figure to be front and center as the rumor mill becomes a spectacle in itself.
Why they will make a move: There’s just no reason to keep the current roster in place. Boston pulled the trigger on its rebuild last summer by trading away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce at the perfect time, though a few tradable veterans still remain. Brandon Bass is a useful shooting big, though the $6.9 million he’s owed next season is a touch on the high side. Jeff Green could likely be had for the right price. Danny Ainge will personally wash the car of any GM willing to take back the 2+ seasons remaining on Gerald Wallace’s contract. Boston’s new era will continue apace with or without those players, though a cleaner cap sheet would likely make the next stages of the rebuild a bit easier.
Then comes the Celtics’ bigger-picture decision regarding Rajon Rondo. His talent is undeniable, and in the right circumstances the well-regarded point guard registers the on-court value of superstar. It’s worth wondering, though, if Boston really wants to embrace the challenge of rebuilding around a notoriously stubborn ball handler who doesn’t pose a scoring threat, hasn’t managed consistent defensive effort in recent seasons, and whose contract will expire in 2015. Those “right circumstances” might be hard to come by for a Celtics team still so early in its rebuilding process, leading Boston to more seriously consider the prospect of trading its best player.
Why they won’t: It’s not as if the players Boston wants to trade are all that attractive at their current salaries, while the most interesting Celtic trade chip is easily the most difficult to price. Wallace earns enough to make him trade-prohibitive, while both Bass and Green pull salaries that teeter on the edge of what might be considered irresponsible spending. That won’t likely stop the names of all three players from being pitched in various trade talks, though I wouldn’t expect some enthusiastic buyer to be blowing up Ainge’s phone with offers for any among them.
Rondo is sure to register more intrigue as a trade candidate, though as noted above (and as laid out by Tom Ziller here) he’s not the easiest universal fit. For a team with the right amount of complementary offensive talent, Rondo could be worth quite a bit. But for a team without the shooters and finishers to make the most of Rondo’s playmaking talent, it might not make all that much sense to give up serious assets for a season and change of Rondo’s services. There’s no question that his abilities as a passer and defender (when committed) are appreciated throughout the league, but Rondo’s unique blend of strengths and limitations make valuation of his game particularly tricky.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Why they will make a move: They’re the Knicks. New York has managed to play more respectable basketball of late, but don’t expect that to appease one of the most panicky front offices in the league. Point guards are reportedly the team’s opiate of choice, with players such as Kyle Lowry and Jeff Teague being linked to the Knicks. Any talent of that caliber would take a significant trade package to pry loose, but we should know better than to doubt New York’s ability to muster roster action beyond reason.
Why they won’t: Past moves have left New York’s cupboard a bit bare. Due to lingering costs of the deals to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani, the Knicks are unable to trade any of its own first or second round picks prior to 2018. The only draft pick the Knicks still have in their possession is a 2014 second rounder that originally belonged to Sacramento, though it bears such heavy protection that it almost certainly will not be conveyed.
That leaves the roster pieces on-hand as the sole components of a potential trade, of which only a handful are even reasonably attractive trade pieces. Anthony is reportedly off the table. Tyson Chandler would likely draw some interest, should the Knicks completely sell out any notion of playing defense through 2015. Otherwise, you’re looking at some combination of Raymond Felton (who isn’t particularly attractive trade bait), Tim Hardaway Jr. (perhaps New York’s only long-term prospect), Iman Shumpert (who has been brutal on both ends of the floor), and Beno Udrih (a merely passable player on a minimum salary) as the basis of a potential trade package. Best of luck in constructing a sensible and legal deal for a quality player with that bunch, let alone Rondo.