Double ’07: Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen and Celtics triumvirates
|05.08.14 at 3:01 pm ET|
This is the third in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
As if acquiring Kevin Love or another perennial All-Star to pair with Rajon Rondo weren’t difficult enough, in order to restore the Celtics to championship caliber, Danny Ainge faces the harsh reality that Love is not enough.
In today’s NBA, three isn’t a crowd. It’s a necessity. The Celtics don’t win the 2008 title without Ray Allen, just as the Heat don’t win the past two without Chris Bosh (or Allen, for that matter). Making matters worse, few — if any — elite players will realistically change teams in the next couple years. Other than Love, of course.
Of the top-25 players listed on ESPN’s NBA Rank this past season, only Love, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony and an injured Kobe Bryant failed to make the playoffs. Irving remains on his rookie contract through next season, and Bryant just signed an obscene two-year, $48.5 million deal, leaving Anthony as the next most likely candidate.
The question isn’t whether 2014 Anthony is 2007 Allen’s equal. While Allen was well on his way to becoming the game’s greatest shooter in 2007, Anthony is three years younger and only one season removed from finishing third behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant in MVP voting. As a pure scorer, the Knicks forward has few peers.
There are those who question Anthony’s willingness to share the ball on offense and his devotion to defense for a disappointing Knicks club, just as Allen had his detractors on a 31-win SuperSonics squad in 2006-07.
Motivated by missing the playoffs for two straight seasons in Seattle, Allen came to Boston at age 32 with the understanding his touches would suffer alongside Pierce and Garnett. Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, a 29-year-old Anthony may not be so benevolent. However, his scoring mentality could complement a pass-first point guard (Rondo) and a deft passing big man (Love) like a Cabernet does a steak.
The real question is how, exactly, the Celtics go about acquiring another player of Anthony’s caliber. It’s possible, albeit improbable. Anthony owns an early termination option, so if he’s keen enough on leaving the debacle that was the Knicks this past season, he could simply sign with the Celtics this summer.
Sure, it would require a helluva sales pitch by Rondo, Melo’s fellow Oak Hill Academy alum, who might also need to sell LaLa on the idea Boston isn’t so far from the Big Apple, but at least there’s a chance. Of course, Ainge would have to free up more cap space, too, starting by using the stretch provision on Gerald Wallace.
Still, this seems like a prayer even Ainge wouldn’t expect to be answered. So, who else is out there? The truth is, not much. The large majority of the current league’s top-tier talent either plays for a contender or is already a young cornerstone of a rebuilding franchise — neither of which Ainge can hope to acquire. Others just aren’t Big Three type talents. The Rockets aren’t giving up James Harden, the Wizards aren’t letting go of Bradley Beal and if Rudy Gay were the solution, the Celtics probably would have already made a push for the oft traded wingman.
Pistons center Greg Monroe might be an option, but the Celtics desperately need a scorer, particularly one who can create his own shot in crunch time, especially if they acquire a double-double machine like Love elsewhere. If Anthony isn’t an option, Ainge must identify an under-appreciated player who could seize that role on the right team under the right coach, and the answer may be someone Brad Stevens is awfully familiar with.
Gordon Hayward is not the next Ray Allen. That would require an extraordinary leap in Hayward’s career trajectory. Still, despite decreased efficiency this season, when he took on greater offensive responsiblity for a miserable Jazz group, Hayward’s numbers in the three years since his underused rookie season (14.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 54.6 TS%, 16.2 PER) aren’t that far off from Allen’s first three seasons (16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 54.5 TS%, 16.3 PER). Playing with Rondo and for Stevens again should only improve Hawyard’s efficiency.
Like Avery Bradley, Hayward becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. While the Jazz can match any offer for the 6-foot-8 Butler product, the Celtics could outbid Utah as Houston did to the Bulls with Omer Asik. Likewise, the Celtics have the picks and contracts to package in a potential sign-and-trade deal. At the very least, it’s plausible.
Is either of these the most likely scenario for the Celtics this summer? Absolutely not, but plenty of pieces had to fall into place before acquiring Garnett and Allen in 2007, too. After all, owner Wyc Grousbeck did promise fireworks.