- How does a sign-and-trade work?
- Who could the Celtics get in return for Davis?
- What are the odds of a sign-and-trade after the NBA lockout?
Here, we’ll attempt to answer all three of those issues.
HOW DOES A SIGN-AND-TRADE WORK?
Under the now expired collective bargaining agreement, the sign-and-trade option benefited all three parties involved. Ideally, the player got a better contract than he would have on the open market, his new team got a player coveted by its opponents and his old team got a a player, picks or some kind of trade exception in return.
For example, the Celtics own “Bird rights ” to Davis and could sign him for more dollars than another team at or above the salary cap. I’m guessing Big Baby wouldn’t turn down the extra cash. So, let’s say the Magic and Hawks both want Davis, the Celtics could shop him to the highest bidder in exchange for acting as the middle man.
Recent history of sign-and-trades involving players of Big Baby’s caliber haven’t garnered too much in return. I think we can agree that Davis falls somewhere in between 2010 C.J. Watson and 2006 Al Harrington . Watson signed a three-year, $10.2 million deal with the Warriors, and then got shipped to the Bulls for a second-round draft pick. Harrington inked a four-year, $35.3 million deal with the Hawks, and then got traded to the Pacers for a first-round draft pick. The Harrington deal turned into the No. 11 overall pick in a fairly deep draft — which Atlanta wasted on Acie Law — so there is some value there.
WHO COULD THE CELTICS GET IN RETURN FOR DAVIS?
This past season, Big Baby made $3.3 million from the Celtics. If the “Base Year Compensation ” rules remain intact in the new collective bargaining agreement, the C’s would likely be shopping him for players within 125 percent-plus-$100,000 of that same salary ($4.225 million) — unless some team is crazy enough to offer him an annually salary of more than $8.45 million dollars.
Of all the players that make any sense under that scenario, only four would increase the C’s projected wins for next season based on John Hollinger’s analysis when you run them through ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine :
- Age: 29
- Contract: 2 years, $6.45 million remaining
- 2010-11 stats (72 games): 20.8 MIN, 8.9 PTS, 2.7 REB, 1.8 STL, 51.0 FG%, 75.3 FT%
- Projected wins: Celtics (+4); Grizzlies (-7)
- Odds: 100-to-1 (based on Allen’s contribution to Memphis’ conference finals run)
- Age: 25
- Contract: 2 years, $7.9 million
- 2010-11 stats (82 games): 38.4 MIN, 16.4 PTS, 5.3 REB, 3.0 AST, 42.3 FG%, 78.9 FT%
- Projected wins: Celtics (+1); Warriors (-1)
- Odds: 50-to-1
Jason Thompson — center, Sacramento Kings 
- Age: 25
- Contract: 1 year, $3.0 million
- 2010-11 stats (75 games): 23.3 MIN, 8.8 PTS, 6.1 REB, 1.2 AST, 50.7 FG%, 60.5 FT%
- Projected wins: Celtics (+/-0); Kings (+/-0)
- Odds: 25-to-1
Carlos Delfino — small forward, Milwaukee Bucks 
- Age: 28
- Contract: 1 year, $3.5 million
- 2010-11 stats (49 games): 32.4 MIN, 11.5 PTS, 4.1 REB, 2.3 AST, 39.0 FG%, 80.0 FT%
- Projected wins: Celtics (+/-0); Bucks (-1)
- Odds: 20-1
And then there’s a crop of players who would make sense for the Celtics just to get something in return for Davis:
- Jazz  guard Raja Bell  (2 years, $6.7 million; 8.0 PTS, 2.6 REB, 1.7 AST)
- Spurs forward Matt Bonner (3 years, $10.9 million; 7.3 PTS, 3.6 REB, 45.7 3P%)
- Timberwolves  forward Anthony Randolph (1 year, $2.91 million; 7.6 PTS, 4.0 REB, 46.6 FG%)
- Nets guard Anthony Morrow ( 2 years, $8.0 million; 13.2 PTS, 3.2 REB, 42.3 3P%)
- Suns forward Hakim Warrick (3 years, $13.9 million; 8.4 PTS, 3.7 REB, 51.1 FG%)
- Mavericks guard Corey Brewer  (2 years, $6.3 million; 8.0 PTS, 2.5 REB, 1.4 STL)
- Clippers forward Ryan Gomes  (2 years, $8.0 million; 7.2 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.6 AST)
- Suns center Robin Lopez (1 year, $2.86 million; 6.4 PTS, 3.2 REB, 50.1 FG%)
- Thunder forward Nick Collison (4 years, $11.0 million; 4.6 PTS, 4.5 REB, 56.6 FG%)
- Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (3 years, $12.5 million; 4.6 PTS, 3.4 REB, 52.9 FG%)
- Rockets forward Jordan Hill  (3 years, $11.4 million; 5.6 PTS, 4.3 REB, 49.1 FG%)
- Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha (3 years, $10.8 million; 5.1 PTS, 4.4 REB, 47.1 FG%)
- Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov (2 years, $5.4 million; 3.6 PTS, 2.7 REB, 47.4 FG%)
- Hornets center David Andersen (1 year, $2.69 million; 3.4 PTS, 2.1 REB, 46.3 FG%)
- Nets center Johan Petro (2 years, $6.5 million; 3.5 PTS, 2.8 REB, 44.5 FG%)
- Thunder center Cole Aldrich (4 years, $12.4 million; 1.0 PTS, 1.9 REB, 53.3 FG%)
Of course, the Celtics could also shop Davis for a trade exception or draft picks that would give them chips for another trade down the road, although the C’s already own two first-round draft picks next season and multiple second-round picks in four out of the next six seasons.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF A SIGN-AND-TRADE AFTER THE NBA LOCKOUT?
Are any of the guys listed above an upgrade over Big Baby? An argument could rather easily be made that he is more valuable to the Celtics than any of those other players. After all, he finished fourth in the league’s Sixth Man of the Year voting behind only Lamar Odom, Jason Terry  and Thaddeus Young.
Once you consider Davis has been in the system for four years and contributed to two NBA Finals  runs, it’s hard to imagine guys like Warrick or Gomes coming in and making a greater impact during the 2011-12 season (if there is one).
Keep in mind the Celtics won’t have many other trade opportunities outside of Davis. Unless Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on an unlikely deal that included one of the Big Four — Rajon Rondo , Paul Pierce , Kevin Garnett  or Ray Allen  — their only other pieces are Jermaine O’Neal  ($6.2 million expiring contract) and Avery Bradley  (under control for affordable dollars through 2014-15). Remember, once Jeff Green  signs an offer sheet, he automatically comes off the table until at least Dec. 15 (under the expired CBA ).
In that regard, a trade exception from a Davis deal might be the most valuable asset the Celtics could obtain. Then, come the 2012 trade deadline, the C’s would have Green, a $3-5 million trade exception, JO’s expiring contract, Bradley and multiple first-round picks as enough chips to at least be invited to the bargaining table for just about every high-profile player on the market, including Dwight Howard .
However, if the Celtics could sign Davis for $4 million per season — a reasonable raise from the $3.3 million he made this past season — wouldn’t he also be an asset? Again, he’s improved every season and finished among the top five bench players in the league. If that’s the case, there’s zero sense in flipping Big Baby for a trade exception when he could be an attractive, affordable piece in a potential package around the trade deadline.
Sure, Davis had an atrocious showing in the 2011 NBA Playoffs  — averaging just 4.9 points on 39.1 percent shooting and 3.6 rebounds in 21.2 minutes — but a series of injuries and his forthcoming free agency had a lot to do with that performance. Should the Celtics show enough faith in Davis to re-sign him to another multi-year deal, Big Baby’s production probably reverts to the averages of 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds that vaulted him into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation — if not further improvement.
Both the Celtics and Davis have expressed interest  in keeping him in green, and all the factors addressed here make what seemed unlikely at season’s end a probable scenario. Of course, the new collective bargaining agreement could outlaw sign-and-trades altogether, making the C’s choice an even easier one.
And then Big Baby’s future in Boston can be reconsidered when the trade deadline nears in February. You know, if the NBA even exists at that point.