NBA trade deadline approaching
As the NBA trade deadline at 3 p.m. EST grows closer and closer, teams begin to grow more and more frantic to make some sort of significant (or sometimes insignificant) change to their roster. For certain teams it is shedding cap space, for others it is gaining that one piece that they feel will give their team that last push they need to bring their game to the next level, and others provide as cap relief for teams.
As far as the Boston Celtics and their General Manager Danny Ainge go, they are one of those teams that fall under the second category as they are looking for that one piece to really put them in contention for a title. The Celtics have a group of players that most of the league looks at as complimentary players or even off the bench players, but Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens has turned this band of second string players into a formidable opponent for any team in the NBA. If the Celtics were to find that one star they would solidify themselves as contenders for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and would greatly increase their chances at winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
At the trade deadline, he Celtics have a few options that they could choose from that would fit that star roll that they need. That group includes: Al Horford, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Love. They also have the draft picks and the players to make these trades happen if they ever get the chance, but most of them, if not all of them, won’t happen.
So what should the Celtics do since most of these players are readily unavailable? Most NBA analysts feel that they shouldn’t make any moves and should leave their roster alone until the offseason. On the other hand, they have an opportunity to pick up a rim protector that they have been seeking since the Kendrick Perkins trade and they can do it for a low cost. The Miami Heat and their General Manager Pat Riley were in the headlines a few weeks ago with a possibility of trading their Center Hassan Whiteside, but have since said they plan on keeping him. The original reasoning for trading Whiteside was that the Heat play better defense with him on the bench even though he is averaging 3.9 blocks per game. Whiteside has had a problem with defensive rotation and with staying front of players. Whiteside allows players to go around him too easily, but he puts himself in a position to block any player that may go around him. The problem with that strategy is he can’t block every shot and whoever is driving to the rim will more than likely score. The Heat originally didn’t want to deal with this problem and wanted to move on from Whiteside, but have since decided to try and work with him on this issue.
This doesn’t mean that Whiteside can’t be acquired, if Ainge presents Riley with the right package of players and picks the Celtics can still have a chance to acquire Whiteside. The right package would have to include a big man that can somewhat fill the role that Chris Bosh has since Bosh’s health is in question for the rest of the season. The Celtics have a few players that could fit this role such as Jared Sullinger, Kelley Olynyk, and Amir Johnson. Amir Johnson fits the role of a stretch big man that can also be a rim protector. The problem with trading Johnson is the Heat are well above the luxury tax line and Amir Johnson is set to make $12 million this season compared to Whiteside’s $981,000 contract. One solution to make this trade work would be for a third team with cap space (Blazer, Sixers, Pelicans) to get involved which allows the Heat to dump a few salaries and lower their luxury tax. With this trade the Celtics would more than likely have to give up one or two first round picks along with a few second round picks as well.
Another option for the Celtics would be to trade Sullinger or Olynyk, preferably Olynyk only for the fact that his contract works better. The Celtics have the cap room to absorb another contract if needed or they could find third team to absorb that same contract. Olynyk’s contract is worth $2.2 million for this season and wouldn’t affect how much the Heat have to pay in luxury tax as much as Johnson’s. If the Celtics decided to trade Sullinger instead his contract is worth $2.6 million this season and expires at the end of the season, so the Heat could get rid of him if they choose. Either of these options would still involve the Celtics losing probably one first round pick (their own 2016 first round pick would probably work) and maybe a second round pick or two.
Danny Ainge and the Celtics would be taking a risk getting Whiteside due to the same reason that the Heat wanted to get rid of him, but Coach Stevens has been known to use players to their full potential. Stevens could very well turn Whiteside into an elite shot defensive player, not just at the rim.
The potential reward greatly out weights with risk as the Celtics have a chance of grabbing and possibly developing Whiteside into an elite defensive shot blocking center that they have been seeking for a long time. This may take longer than this season but when it does happen it will bring the Celtics one step closer a Championship.