The trade deadline is getting closer and closer each day, causing a huge spike in rumors.
One day the Boston Celtics are set to trade for Jimmy Butler and then Butler seems to be off the market one day later. You might hear a rumor about Danny Ainge targeting Nerlens Noel or maybe the DeMarcus Cousins rumor is making its monthly appearance; it’s often a lot to keep up with.
The deadline is always fun and Ainge is often unpredictable…so what are we going to do??? Make predictions of course!
Celtics trade Smart, Johnson and picks for a Magic big man
The Orlando Magic have a number of attractive big men on their roster who would be perfect trade targets for Boston, preferably power forward Serge Ibaka or center Nikola Vucevic. Both players bring a solid offensive presence to the floor along with defense and rebounding abilities so the skillset would be something that the Celtics desire regardless of which one they target, but there are pros and cons to each of them. Vucevic has a great contract and the Celtics would have to pay him just $12.5 million in each of the next two seasons after this one, an absolute steal for a player averaging 14.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 1.0 BPG despite averaging below 30 minutes per game. But having two full years left on a great deal after this would cause him to cost a lot more in the trade market and the draft pick package could be a big one for Boston.
Ibaka on the other hand would likely cost less because his contract is expiring at the end of this year and Orlando would probably sell him for a little less just so they can wind up getting something for him. But while he could cost less in February, Danny Ainge would eventually have to pay him when the summer rolls around. In a free agent market where Timofey Mozgov gets a four-year, $64 million deal and Joakim Noah gets a four-year, $72 million deal, the 27-year old big man – who is having one of the best years of his career – is surly set for a huge payday and it might not be in the Celtics best interest to resign him with Al Horford already getting big money and the contracts of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley set to expire shortly afterwards.
Celtics trade Rozier, Green and 2017 MIN 2nd for J.J. Barea
Believe it or not, Terry Rozier has actually seen a slight decrease in his minutes average since the Avery Bradley injury and at this point all signs point to Rozier regularly getting a DNP – Coach’s Decision once Bradley returns. Brad Stevens seems hesitant on moving forward with Rozier as the team’s third guard so after trading Smart away, Ainge might want to look into solidifying that spot on the bench with a solid veteran and Barea would be the perfect guy to fill Smart’s spot for a number of reasons. He has a decade of NBA experience, has been a number of playoff runs – including a championship in 2011 – and he’s currently having one of his best seasons at the age of 32. He’s also under contract for two fulls seasons after this one at just $3.9 million and $3.7 million respectively.
While he is having a great year and is playing on a very team friendly contract, that doesn’t do the struggling Dallas Mavericks any good. Boston has a real chance to make some noise right now and the rebuilding Mavericks can afford to wait for the 22-year old Rozier to fully blossom while also getting what will be a very high second round pick in the process. The contract is something that really would help the Celtics out in the long run as well. Smart, Bradley and Thomas all have their contracts set to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season and each of them deserves a big pay raise so changing one of them out for a veteran getting paid below $4 million while also averaging 12.2 PPG and 5.0 APG in a 25 minute bench role would go a long way in helping the team secure the other two guys. Barea has battled a few injuries this year which is a concern and a recent calf injury will have him sidelined for at least another week, but he’s stayed healthy for most of his career, playing in at least 74 games every year since 2009.
Celtics sign Ryan Kelly, R.J. Hunter to fill empty roster spots
The two proposed trades above would leave the Celtics with just 13 players after trading four guys and getting only two in return, so they’ll need to look around for potential free agents and D-League players to help get the roster back up to 15 and Ryan Kelly seems like a very logical first option. Kelly signed with Boston during the preseason and worked with the team for a few days before getting waived and subsequently picked up by the Atlanta Hawks, who he spent the first part of the season with. He appeared in nine games for the Hawks and racked up a number of DNP – Coach’s Decisions along the way before getting released in early January. The Red Claws signed him shortly afterwards and he’s been a stud for first place Maine ever since, averaging 23.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.8 APG and 3.0 BPG during his first two weeks with the team. It’s unlikely that Kelly factors in too much with Horford, Olynyk, Zeller, Jerebko and some player from the Magic all ahead of him on the big man depth chart but he’s averaging 6.2 PPG though four NBA seasons and is a very solid insurance option should something really go wrong and force him to get some playing time.
This second roster spot is going out to another guy who probably won’t factor in too much, but if worse comes to worse it’s an old friend who should have a good idea of how things are run; R.J. Hunter. It’s been a rough road for Hunter since getting cut at the end of camp. The Chicago Bulls signed him almost imminently but he made only three appearances with the club – playing a total of three minutes and not scoring a single point – before getting released by his second team in a matter of weeks. He’s currently playing for the Long Island Nets in the D-League, where he’s averaging 16.7 PPG. The former first round pick will be buried on the depth chart like he was with the Celtics a year ago, but you’re bringing in a guy who will have little to no learning curve when he walks in and the whole team seems to like him so it will be a nice little reunion.
Potential Roster Rundown
Starters – Horford, Ibaka/Vucevic, Crowder, Bradley, Thomas
Rotational Reserves – Olynyk, Barea, Brown, Jerebko
Other Reserves – Zeller, Young, Kelly, Hunter, Mickey, Jackson