Irish Coffee: Ranking Danny Ainge’s Celtics assets
|12.20.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
The recent trade rumors surrounding the Celtics aren’t going away any time soon, so for the purposes of any trade discussion between now and the Feb. 20 deadline — real or imaginary — let’s rank all the assets available to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in order of value (highest to lowest). Here goes.
RAJON RONDO: Albeit completely unfounded, the mere fact people debated whether a Kings package of Ben McLemore (2013 No. 7 overall pick), Isaiah Thomas (18.9 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59.5 TS%, 22.8 PER, 730 minutes), Jason Thompson (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg over six NBA seasons), Marcus Thornton (18.7 ppg in 2011-12) and two first-round picks was enough for Rondo should tell you all you need to know about the Celtics point guard’s value.
2014 CELTICS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Whether this was the stumbling block in an Omer Asik deal or not, Ainge should rightfully think thrice before dealing either first-rounder in this coming June’s loaded draft. While the Celtics still own a one-game lead atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, they’re only 1.5 games out of the lottery, and most GMs would be willing to gamble against the C’s making the playoffs.
JARED SULLINGER: If the 2012 NBA draft took place tomorrow, how many players would be selected over Sullinger? Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond are likely the only four you’d definitely take over the Celtics sophomore since he’s returned from back surgery. Under control at least through 2015-16 for a grand total of $5.1 million, Sully has arguably been the C’s most important player this season.
AVERY BRADLEY: Emerging from the shadows of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and — for the time being — Rondo, Bradley has cemented himself as one of the game’s best two-way guards. He’s emerged as an elite shooter from both the midrange and corner 3, and his stop of Brandon Jennings on Detroit’s final possession of Wednesday’s game is just the most recent example of his pitbull defense. Still on his rookie contract, any team hoping to land Bradley would have the right to match any offer he gets this summer in restricted free agency.
JEFF GREEN: Once thought to be a burdensome contract, Green’s $9.2 million price tag for the next two seasons seems about right for a guy leading a first-place team in scoring (Ok, Ok, it’s the Atlantic Division, but still ‘¦), shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and proving remarkably durable since missing the 2011-12 season due to heart surgery. His 36-minute averages have remained fairly steady since he was the third banana on a Thunder team that won 50 games, and he could fill that same role for any contender looking for an athletic wing.
2014 NETS (OR HAWKS) FIRST-ROUND PICK: While the Nets are currently in the lottery, the Hawks have the right to switch draft choices with Brooklyn, so this pick is more likely to land in the twenties. (And the fact many pundits don’t understand this scenario is one of the more annoying themes of this season.) Still, in a loaded draft, this should be a quality player at affordable dollars for the next few seasons, and that holds significant value.
KRIS HUMPHRIES: Weird, right? But Hump’s $12 million expiring contract is one of the C’s more valuable assets. Any team in danger of going over the luxury tax or wanting to get under the salary cap next season, which is most teams, wants his deal on their books. That makes him valuable to the Celtics, too, and while the expiring contract alone isn’t enough to make a blockbuster trade, it offers Ainge significant flexibility in making any deal work.
BRANDON BASS: The remainder of his $6.5 million salary this season and the $6.9 million owed Bass next season is an attractive option for teams in need of veteran frontcourt depth (see: Asik, Omer). His recent production (12.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg in December) and ability to guard the 3, 4 and 5 have significantly increased his value.
2015-18 CELTICS AND NETS FIRST-ROUND PICKS (6): The depth of the 2015 draft isn’t nearly as impressive as the 2014 class, and who knows where the Celtics and Nets will be in the coming years. Considering the age of Brooklyn’s roster and the $45.9 million owed Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in 2015-16, the Celtics might be in better shape than the Nets by 2015, so all these selections hold similar value (with a sooner-the-better caveat). While the uncertainty of where they may fall in the first round, any top draft pick is a nice bargaining chip.
JORDAN CRAWFORD: The Wizards couldn’t even get a second-round pick for Crawford at last season’s trade deadline, instead dumping him on the Celtics for two players no longer in the league (Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins). Needless to say, his maturation has seriously improved his value around the league. Raise your hand if you thought Crawford would have a better PER than D-Will a third of the way through the season.
KELLY OLYNYK: Following his summer camp and preseason performance, Olynyk was named the steal of the draft and among among the league’s top Rookie of the Year candidates in an anonymous survey of NBA GMs. Now? He’s not considered either. While his 36-minute averages of 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists are impressive, his shooting percentages (40.0 FG%, 24.0 3P%), defense and athleticism leave plenty to be desired. The latter two deficiencies would give any team’s talent evaluation department pause.
COURTNEY LEE: As the first guard off the Celtics bench, Lee has resurrected his reputation as a talented two-way player, improving his shooting (51.8 FG%, 48.6 3P%) in shorter minutes this season. He’s an attractive piece for any team looking to add backcourt depth for a playoff run (also see: Asik, Omer), and his $5-6 million annual salary through 2015-16 is a trade-able commodity after the season for any team interested in acquiring him.
2015 CLIPPERS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Given the current state of the Clippers organization, this should be a late pick in a shallow draft pool. (And who would’ve thought that sentence would ever be written?) If Ainge is willing to part with any of his top picks, it’s this one, but don’t think executives around the league don’t know that, too. Still, this is an unprotected first-rounder, and most teams out West are always an injury away from the lottery.
KEITH BOGANS: The veteran guard has played all of 28 minutes this season, and still his $5.1 million expiring contract holds plenty of value. That’s another hefty chunk of change slated to come off the books. Packaged with any of the above assets, suddenly a 33-year-old yet to score his first points of the season doesn’t seem so bad.
VITOR FAVERANI: Strange to think Vitor started eight games early this season. He’s dropped to fifth on the C’s frontcourt depth chart and remains a project, plain and simple. Still, he’s a 6-foot-11 center making short money for three more seasons who totaled 12 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks in his second NBA game. Not bad.
2015-18 CELTICS AND KINGS SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICKS (6): Generally a throw-in to tip the scales on a deal, second-rounders in the NBA don’t hold much weight. Sure, the occasional Glen Davis earns his way into a championship-caliber rotation, but generally you’re looking at the Luke Harangodys on the end of your bench.
PHIL PRESSEY: While the undersized point guard has offered some key contributions off the bench in Rondo’s absence, every NBA team including the Celtics passed on him twice in this past June’s draft, and his 2.0 points and 1.2 assists per game probably hasn’t left many general managers regretting their decision.
MARSHON BROOKS: Relegated to the end of the Celtics bench and appearing in only eight games this season, Brooks and his $1.2 million expiring rookie deal isn’t worth much more than a throw-in to a deal just to make the money work. Once a promising scorer, his defense has simply proven too much of a liability.
GERALD WALLACE: And then there’s Gerald Wallace. Poor Gerald Wallace. After so much ripping of his teammates early in the season, it’s Wallace who’s become the team’s least valuable asset. It’s not for lack of effort, but for lack of production (4.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 52.6 TS%, 8.9 PER, 639 minutes), which might be worse. Owed $10.1 million dollars each of the next two seasons, his deal is among the worst in the league.