By agreeing to trade Courtney Lee to the Memphis Grizzlies for long-term cap relief in the form of Jerryd Bayless, it has officially become selling season in Boston.
The Celtics have several well-paid veterans in their rotation who do not make much sense for a rebuilding squad but could have significantly more value on a playoff contender.
Despite their early-season success, the C’s have entered into a free fall, losing 11 of 12 games and getting swept on a brutal Western Conference road trip that featured heartbreaking losses to the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers.
Boston has fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, albeit not by more than a few games, but this is a team that will look to make as many moves as possible to get worse, not better, in the short term.
The C’s don’t have a staggering amount of young talent, but they have enough intriguing pieces in Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk to make it feasible that Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace and perhaps even Kris Humphries or Jordan Crawford are playing in their final games as Celtics.
It is difficult to predict exactly who will go first, but let’s try and see who will be jettisoned next following the chain reaction started by the Lee deal.
Brandon Bass has actually been one of Boston’s most consistent players and started 36 of the first 38 games this season, but the 28-year-old big man simply does not have the kind of upside to stick around for the next era of Celtics basketball.
On the year, he is averaging a respectable 10.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor.
Still, Bass plays the majority of his minutes at a position where the Celtics have two young players they desperately want to develop, and while Bass-Sullinger front lines have been effective, the pairing does not have enough size or offer sufficient rim protection to be sustainable.
Bass is a decent defender, holding opposing 4s to a PER of 15.3 and centers to a PER of 11.5, per 82games, but his strongest defense is played on the block, not above the rim.
The C’s are not comfortable running Olynyk at center for long stretches of time due to his lack of strength, and if nothing else Bass has the muscle to not be pushed around down on the block.
Offensively, Bass is being asked to do more on the Celtics than he would on a true playoff team, but he has responded well to the increased burden. He is averaging a career high in assists and has shown he can react to closeouts and break out a few decent one-dribble-drive moves.
The problem for Bass is that his bread-and-butter shot, the catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper, is not falling as it usually does. Bass is shooting just 28.6 percent on spot-ups, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
He is owed $6.5 million in 2013-14 and $6.9 million in 2014-15, a bit pricey for a third big man, but Bass would be an excellent addition to a team like the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Clippers, teams that have question marks in their frontcourt rotations.
There were rumors from Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski in December of Bass being shipped to the Rockets as part of a package for Omer Asik, but that deal also included the since-departed Lee.
Boston should be able to find a taker for Bass by the trade deadline, and while Olynyk will likely struggle with an increased role this season, it is ultimately the best move for the Celts, who need some more lottery-level talent to complete the rebuild.
Once the feel-good story of the 2013-14 season, Jordan Crawford’s play has trailed off noticeably, and he is once again displaying some of the habits that got him shipped out of Washington in the first place.
Crawford is averaging a solid 13.8 points, 3.2 boards and 5.8 assists, but his shooting percentages have dipped to 41.8 percent overall and 32.5 from three-point range.
When the Celtics were at their best this year, Crawford was playing with surprising poise, using his herky-jerky moves off the dribble to break down opposing defenses and make smart decisions out of the pick-and-roll.
Despite some recent struggles, he is still shooting a respectable 45.1 percent as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, per Synergy Sports. On the year, Crawford has a PER of 23 when he runs the point, versus 14.6 when he plays 2-guard, per 82games.
Unfortunately, with the Celtics struggling to score Crawford has taken the matter into his hands and has gone back to jacking up tough jumpers and taking wild shots in the paint. He posted 24 points against the Clippers and went to the line 11 times, but Boston is going nowhere with Crawford as the main scoring option offensively.
The newly acquired Bayless can play some point and is also more comfortable in a backup ball-handler role, something that the Celtics will need from Crawford when Rajon Rondo returns to action.
Crawford is making just $2.2 million this season but is set to enter restricted free agency in the offseason. While it is unlikely a team will make him a whopping offer to be its starting point guard, he could get some decent looks as a sixth man or secondary playmaker.
Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News reported in December that the Miami Heat might be interested in Crawford as a way to help manage Dwyane Wade’s role and minutes.
While the thought of doing a deal with the Heat may seem unconscionable, it would be a big win for the Celtics if they could get back something like Norris Cole and a first-round pick.
If Crawford can adjust back to his bench role behind Rondo then the Celtics could wind up keeping the 25-year-old guard, but unless Rondo is traded before his return, look for Boston to make some calls about Crawford soon.
If there is one player Celtics fans would be ecstatic to see moved, it’s Gerald Wallace. But his poor play, constant criticism of the team and absurd eight-figure contract may make that impossible.
Despite his high salary, Wallace is averaging just 4.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 22.1 minutes. He’s shooting well from the floor at 50.4 percent, but just 32.4 percent from three and an anemic 34.5 percent from the line.
Long reliant on his athleticism to make an impact on both ends of the floor, the 31-year-old forward now lacks the quickness to blow past his defender and get to the rim.
He has never been an elite shooter, and without the consistent threat of the drive he has effectively become a liability for Boston offensively.
Wallace has actually been very effective in the post, shooting 62.5 percent, according to Synergy Sports, but he has been forced to serve as a secondary playmaker and do most of his work out on the perimeter.
“Crash” is a good passer who can push the ball and help establish tempo, but he is at his best offensively when he is slashing without the ball.
To make matters worse, Wallace is due $30.3 million through the end of the 2015-16 season, a figure that makes him nearly impossible to move.
Even if a contender thought that Wallace could play for half a season like he did back with the Trail Blazers or Charlotte Bobcats, it is unlikely they would be willing to stomach another two years of paying him.
Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling discussed in November a rumored deal that would send Wallace and Humphries to the New York Knicks for Amar’e Stoudemire, but nothing materialized. With Stoudemire playing well and the Knicks finally developing a little rhythm, it is unlikely they would pull the trigger on it.
In retrospect, though, having Wallace be the penalty for what turned out to be a complete fleecing of the Brooklyn Nets is not so bad.
Another possibility to clear up the frontcourt logjam, albeit one less likely than dealing Bass, would be for Boston to ship Kris Humphries to a team in need of a quality big off the bench.
Humphries has been producing well in limited minutes and has even worked his way into the starting lineup. He is averaging 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in just 18.5 minutes while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor.
Obviously Sullinger and Olynyk present more upside than Humphries, but it’s hard to argue with the way he has been contributing on a per-minute basis.
Per 36 minutes, Humphries is posting 14.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He leads the Celtics in PER at 19.3 and is also first in total rebounding percentage at 16.8, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Humphries has never been a flashy player, but he sets solid screens, times his rolls to the basket well and has shown an increased confidence in his mid-range jumper this year. This season, Humphries is shooting an impressive, 53.1 percent out of the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. He may be Boston’s best finisher in the paint, too.
He would be a huge addition to a team like the Dallas Mavericks or Atlanta Hawks that could use a player who can grab double-figure rebounds if given the minutes.
Humphries is due $12 million this season, making it tough for many teams to acquire him, but he is on an expiring deal.
A Boston Herald article by Steve Bulpett from December noted that Humphries is highly tradable, but the former-Mr. Kardashian has not been linked to any concrete rumors yet.
He is playing extremely well and could be a good influence on the young big men in the future, but it just makes too much sense for Boston to trade him if an offer, particularly one with a first-round pick, is on the table in February.