As the clock ticks toward 3 p.m. and the end of the trade deadline Thursday, the Celtics are in the same position they were last week. They would like to make a move for a backup small forward, but they don’t have many assets other teams want and they don’t seem to want to give up the few that teams do want — namely Semih Erden and Avery Bradley.
Now that Kendrick Perkins will be held out of the remaining three games on the team’s West Coast trip, and Shaquille O’Neal seems no closer to a return, Erden is once again being counted on as a contributor, and not just a developmental prospect.
While the 24-year-old Erden is not ‘young’ by NBA standards, 7-footers with emerging offensive skills on cheap second-round contracts are rare. You wouldn’t package him for a stopgap like say, Utah’s Raja Bell, who has two more years left on his contract.
The problem is that the Celtics just weren’t built to make an in-season trade, which team president Danny Ainge has acknowledged time and again. All the pieces were supposed to be in place, but then Marquis Daniels bruised his spinal cord and that was the one area where they didn’t have a contingency plan.
The Celtics don’t have any contract-friendly veterans stashed at the end of their roster and the one that they would most like to part with — Nate Robinson’s — has an extra year left on his deal. Daniels has what’s known as ‘Early Bird’ rights and thus would be able to block any trade that involved him if it comes to that and Von Wafer and Luke Harangody don’t make enough money to match up with anyone on their own.
Despite their obvious need, Ainge has played his hand tightly this trade season and he doesn’t want to make a panic trade. If he can make a move he seems determined to make the price drop, which would take him right up to the deadline.
In the interim, the Celtics have been linked to players like Corey Brewer and Kirk Hinrich who wound up elsewhere, and for a brief moment to Shane Battier who has gone nowhere. As quickly as a rumor surfaces, it gets shot down just as fast. The other names haven’t changed: Anthony Parker, Dahntay Jones, Josh Howard.
While the deadline clock ticks, the secondary market for veteran free agents who are bought out of their contracts has begun to take shape. The first domino to fall is Troy Murphy who was traded to the Warriors and who is expected to be bought out of the final year of his contract. Once that process clears he will be free to sign with any team for the veterans minimum and is said to have Miami and Boston high on his list.
Murphy doesn’t address the Celtics need at small forward, but he can shoot 3’s and rebound and would offer a new wrinkle to the second unit. The Heat are in the same position as the Celtics. They also don’t have many tradeable assets, which is why they made Mike Miller available. Expect Miami and Boston to battle it out on the veteran free agent front.
Elsewhere, there were other deals that had an impact on the Celtics, the most notable coming from New Jersey when the Nets swiped Deron Williams from Utah (click here for a breakdown).
Also, the Hawks acquired Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong from Washington in exchange for Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford. Hinrich isn’t the shooter that Bibby is, but he is a much better defender, which is important come playoff time.
Despite the blockbuster moves, there have been a dearth of smaller transactions and that’s the game the Celtics are playing. With less than 24 hours remaining, that market is still taking shape.