What do we know about what happened before the trade deadline?
- Rondo came up in some rumors, indicating he was shopped, at least to gauge his value. This probably happened before his injury, though, and the discussions were just reported closer to the deadline.
- The KG to Clips for Jordan and Bledsoe deal was a real possibility. If KG had waived his no-trade clause, it likely would have happened.
- Danny Ainge shopped Pierce heavily on the day of the trade deadine, but there were no significant offers other than the Humphries / Brooks / 1st package from the Nets.
- Ainge tried hard to get in on the Josh Smith bidding, but didn't have much to offer that the Hawks wanted. A third team that could facilitate the trade by giving up some younger assets in exchange for Pierce never materialized.
- Bass, Terry, and Green never came up in trade rumors prior to the deadline -- except that Ainge supposedly offered Bass and Green to the Hawks for Josh Smith (sounds like a classic low-ball).
- Courtney Lee's name did come up in a vague rumor involving the Timberwolves (a Brandon Roy salary dump), but the rumor didn't seem to have any legs.
- The Celtics supposedly had interest in Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson, and Tyreke Evans, but those talks never developed into any full blown rumors with specific offers.
- Ainge ended up trading Barbosa and Jason Collins to the Wizards for Jordan Crawford -- essentially a salary dump by the Wizards of a player still on his rookie deal.
- Fab Melo was originally in the Wizards deal, but the Wizards preferred a cheaper veteran expiring contract as filler to a 1st round pick big man with a few years left on a rookie contract.
- In general, teams were unwilling to part with 1st round picks or young, productive players on rookie deals at this year's deadline. Teams were similarly unwilling to take on significant long term salary, either preserving cap space for summer free agency, or eager to avoid paying the luxury tax in future seasons.So what now?
As it stands, the Celtics have a well stocked guard rotation, though they still completely lack any true ballhandlers. The big man rotation is comprised of three players -- KG, Bass, and Wilcox -- unless you count Fab Melo, who hasn't given any impression so far that he's ready to play in the NBA this season.
Barring a major injury to Pierce or Garnett, this team is headed to the playoffs. Most likely they will be a bottom four seed; the 5th seed is not out of reach, but the 6th seed is probably a more realistic goal considering the team's lack of depth.
Optimistically, this team could keep up the inspired play they've exhibited since Rondo went down and finish the season on a really great run, culminating in a top 3 seed. A couple of savvy big man pickups from the waiver wire, D-league, or free agency could fortify the front court and set the team up for a nice little run in the playoffs. An elite defense paired with a streaky but functional offense could make this team tough to beat.
Pessimistically, the post-Rondo high may have just been a mirage created by a soft home-heavy schedule and a lack of scouting material for opponents. If that's the case, the team might revert to the level of play that characterized the first third or so of the season, in which case they could end up as the 8th seed, or even fail to make the playoffs at all. A lack of size, rebounding, ball-handling, inside scoring, and overall energy could sink the team quickly, resulting in a painful first-round exit -- something that has yet to happen in the Garnett era.Was the trade deadline a success or a failure?
This is a matter of perspective. The fact that KG and Pierce are still on the team could mean that the trade deadline was a rousing success. Alternatively, the failure of the team to get any long term value in return for its aging and perhaps close-to-retirement stars could be seen as an utter failure. The inability -- or indifference -- of the team to shed long term salary tied up in role players like Bass, Terry, Green, and Lee could also be viewed negatively.
Regardless of your perspective, it's hard to say that the team significantly addressed any of its short or long term goals at the trade deadline.
Jordan Crawford, on this team, is probaby something like a poor-man's Barbosa. He can play 10 minutes a game, or he can play 40. Either way, he's probably not going to play much defense and he's going to try to score a bunch of points; some nights he'll even manage to do it. But the team did have to give up Jason Collins to get him.
While Collins was not very productive, he was the only big man on the team other than Garnett who could be trusted to make defensive rotations, take charges, set hard picks, and defend the rim a little. His presence will be missed, and contrary to popular belief, it will not be easy to replace him with somebody off the waiver wire / D-league / free agency dung heap.
The team is still very small, and lacking in rebounding, shot blocking, or inside scoring. The identity of the team and its strengths and glaring weaknesses were not altered at all. They are who they are; there will be no cavalry coming on the trade winds.Should we blame Danny?
It is hard to blame Danny Ainge for the lack of moves. If you look around the league, almost nothing of consequence happened yesterday. A lot of teams wanted to make moves, but there apparently was not much willingness between various trade partners to make palatable offers. Perhaps thanks to the new CBA, fewer and fewer GMs are willing these days to offer themselves up as potential suckers.
It's telling that the most notable trade that happened in the days leading up to the deadline involved two teams exchanging fist-fulls of young players and mid-level veterans, with no picks involved. That trade, with Thomas Robinson going to the Rockets, was effectively a salary dump for the pathetic, cash strapped Maloofs, owners of the Kings. Once the Kings move to Seattle and the Maloofs are finally done making decisions for an NBA team, deals like that one will probably be altogether a thing of the past.
What is clear now is that Danny Ainge more or less locked himself into this group last summer. He gave Kevin Garnett a three year deal at $10 million a season, and to top it off he gave KG a no-trade clause. He paid what was probably a little bit above market value for Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, and paid mid-level money for Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. All of those players were signed for 3-4 years.
Danny knew the details of the new CBA when he made those moves. He probably could have predicted that none of the free agent signings would be very valuable trade assets, unless one of them had a breakout season, until the last year of their deals when they became expiring contracts.
He also probably could have predicted that few if any teams would be willing to give up significant future assets in the form of cheap young players, draft picks, and cap relief by way of expiring contracts for aging veterans -- even All-Star caliber ones.
In short, Danny made his bed with this group. As soon as Garnett agreed to come back, the plan for the off-season was to go all-in to win now. Danny probably could have gotten different players for less money and on shorter deals, but then the supporting cast would have been much weaker, which would have doomed the next run before it began. This season was supposed to be the last hurrah, and the next two seasons were supposed to be the price of that last hurrah. Well, this season has gone horribly awry due to a dreadfully sloppy, inconsistent start and a plague of major injuries.
It is possible that Ainge may have more freedom to reshape the roster for the future this summer. KG may finally retire, with the team's future looking murky at best. Pierce may or may not join him. On the other hand, we might see virtually the same crew, with a first round rookie and a few minor free agent additions. We won't know for sure until the summer. But in all likelihood, the window of opportunity for making a major move to drastically change the look of this team before 2015 has passed.
For better or for worse, this is our team.