Celtics Mailbag: Rajon Rondo Trade ‘Better Be for Chris Paul’ if Anyone


Celtics Mailbag: Rajon Rondo Trade 'Better Be for Chris Paul' if Anyone With the NBA season over and a lockout on the horizon next week, the Celtics are in limbo right now.

They’d love nothing more than to retool on the go, add a couple of nice pieces, and make their charge toward a championship in 2012. But at the moment, there’s not much they can do. They’ve only got six players under contract, none of them particularly tradable, and free agency will likely be delayed when the owners and players can’t make a deal.

That leaves the draft as the C’s lone means of adding to their roster at the moment. And needless to say, you guys have plenty of questions about that.

Thanks to everyone for their submissions to the mailbag. Be sure to check back next week and fire away again, after the draft is over and the Celtics have made their picks.

1. What do you make of Danny Ainge’s comments that there isn’t much in the draft and he doesn’t want to saddle Doc Rivers with a rookie next season? Can he get a decent veteran for a first-round pick in this draft? I can’t see anyone trading a first next year for this year’s pick.

That’s a tough question. My gut instinct is this — Danny Ainge‘s comments are interesting, but I’d hesitate to overreact to them too much. He’s not necessarily saying he definitely wants to trade the pick. He’s just saying the pick won’t yield any major, immediate impact.

The Celtics are in a position right now where this could be their last chance to win a championship. The last thing they want to do is shake up their rotation by throwing in an immature youngster who can’t learn the system in time. That’s why the C’s aren’t looking Thursday night to acquire a major rotation player — they wouldn’t mind drafting a long-term project with some upside down the road.

I don’t think the pick has much trade value at all. The chances of the No. 25 guy panning out aren’t good, and everyone else in the league knows this as well as Ainge does. Their best bet is to keep the pick, trust Ainge’s scouting instincts, and draft someone who might help them a couple of years down the road.

2. Could you see the Celtics trading up for a better pick? If so, who could they put on the table?

It’s an interesting thought, Johnny, but I’d lean toward no. What could they give up? Let’s play the “process of elimination” game.

Would they trade a player? Doubtful. They only have six guys under contract right now — the obvious Big Four, plus Jermaine O’Neal and Avery Bradley. They’re not giving up a starter, and Ainge wouldn’t trade Bradley, who he thinks would be a top-five pick in this weak class.

A future pick? Also unlikely. Ainge basically said point-blank Wednesday that he would never trade a 2012 draft pick for a 2011 one, since he thinks next year’s class will be way better.

I think Ainge has decided to suck it up and pick where he’s at. There’s not enough upside in taking a risky move up the ranks. He’s happy with his team the way it is, and there’s no reason to shake things up too much.

3. DeShawn Sims was the Rookie of the Year in the D-League last year, and Stephane Lasme showed some great rebounding intensity before missing the last cut to make the team last year. Do you think either of them has a shot at making the Celtics next season?
–Tom Melanson

It’s possible, Tom, but unlikely in my opinion. And even if one of them does make it, it’ll probably just be in a 15th-man role, waiting in the wings for a handful of injuries to guys above him on the depth chart. So you’ve got to ask yourself — where would you rather see the youngsters, sitting in Boston and waiting, or going to Maine and playing big minutes every night? The latter has got to be way better for their development.

I think the Celtics are comfortable with their identity right now as an old team. I think they’d rather sign a lot of minimum-salary veterans like Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo than devote too much time to developing rookies. It makes the locker-room dynamic simpler and Doc Rivers’ job easier that way.

That said, they’re both solid players. Sims is a big-time scorer, and Lasme is a great energy player although quite undersized. I hope they both find success in the pros somewhere, at some point.

4. I’m praying that the Celtics go after Dwight Howard! I would be willing to trade Jeff Green, Glen Davis, cash and draft picks to make that happen. Without a beast in the middle like Howard, there is no way the Celtics can win! What do you think?

Steven, you’re far from the only fan out there pulling for a Dwight Howard megadeal. But unfortunately, it’s very unlikely to happen. The C’s have a chance at getting Howard, but it’ll almost certainly have to wait until free agency in the summer of 2012.

First of all, the players you named are not currently under the Celtics’ control. Their contracts are both expiring and they’re heading for free agency. There are a lot of other C’s — Murphy, Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic, Delonte West, Von Wafer — in that same boat. Now normally, the team would only have to wait until July 1, and then free agency would begin and you could potentially see sign-and-trade deals happen. But that’s not the case this year with a lockout coming. Instead of July 1, you might be waiting for Dec. 1, or God forbid even later.

And even then, it’s doubtful that a Green/Davis/picks package would get a deal done for Howard. You’re talking about the best big man of his generation. The Magic won’t let him go that easy.

The Celtics’ best strategy vis-a-vis Howard is simple: Wait for 2012, save some cap space, and make him an offer he can’t refuse.

5. Hey Evans, I have a request. Please impress upon Ray Allen that his fans do not want him coming off the bench. Jeff Green should be fine in time, but start him now? No. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
–Minnie Wesbee

I’ll see what I can do, Minnie.

I agree that the Celtics’ starting five is an institution and there’s no reason taking a massive risk by tweaking it. Doc Rivers has always marveled at the continuity with that group — he can call any play he’s ever drawn up from the last four years, and his starters will know it instantly and run it with no difficulty. No other team in the league has that.

Green will be a good sixth man for this Celtic team. It’ll take him time to learn that role, but he’s capable of doing it. He has all the tools to be a Sixth Man of the Year, both physically (versatility as a player) and psychologically (ego-less devotion to the team). Let’s be patient with him.

6. This Rajon Rondo trade rumor that’s been floating around Twitter — any truth to it?

I think that talk is a little overblown. I won’t say there’s a zero percent chance of Ainge trading Rajon Rondo — this is Ainge we’re talking about, and you can never be sure. But the Celtics surely recognize that Rondo is their best player, and it would take an amazing offer to pry him away.

Ainge is a very active GM. He’s constantly on the phone with other teams, floating them ideas, making suggestions. Trade “talks” happen all the time, but that doesn’t mean deals are necessarily close to happening. Whenever you hear news like this leak, you should take it with a huge grain of salt.

The Celtics are going to pursue a championship in 2012, and they need an elite point guard to do it. So if they trade Rondo now, it had better be for Chris Paul, or someone else in that same stratosphere. Just a couple of someone’s spare parts isn’t gonna cut it.

7. With the interest in Richard Hamilton over the past season or two, do you see any possible move involving him? I know he may be expensive, but I just wanted your take.
–Ryan H.

That would be a nightmare logistically, Ryan. Richard Hamilton is under contract with the Pistons next season, due to make a guaranteed $12.5 million. That’s a ton of money, and it means two things — one, the Celtics can’t trade for him without offering up a contract of equal value (think Ray Allen), and two, it’ll be tough to buy Hamilton out. Who would walk away from a deal that rich?

Yes, the Celtics have definitely had interest in Hamilton in the past. But that was either in a trade two years ago (there was a Hamilton-Tayshaun Prince-Rodney Stuckey megadeal for Rondo discussed in 2009), or in a buyout this past winter. Neither of those two routes worked out for them.

If the C’s still want Hamilton, they’ve got one last option, and that’s convincing him to get out of his contract with the Pistons before March 1, 2012 and then signing him on the cheap. I suppose that’s possible, but it’s unlikely. The 33-year-old vet would have to leave a lot of money on the table.

8. Do you think there will be a lockout in the NBA?

Unfortunately, Wesley, I don’t think there’s much question at this point. A lockout is definitely happening.

The two sides are way too far apart to get a deal done now. A quick crash course — the players currently get a 57-43 split of the league’s revenue, and the owners are proposing a “flex cap” system that would change those numbers to 50-50. The players don’t want to give away that much dough.

The two sides have been meeting this week in New York, desperately trying to work out a deal. But at the moment, they’re nowhere close. They’ve got a week to go, and they need way more time than that.

9. I believe this Celtic team can win a championship. If they did, would Danny Ainge still blow up the team in 2012 as planned?

Do they really have a choice? Winning a championship would be nice, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that this team is too old to win it again in 2013.

Kevin Garnett will turn 36 next summer. Ray Allen will be 37. Both guys’ contracts will be up, and it looks like that’s a logical time to cut ties with the aging vets and begin retooling for the future. Between Garnett, Allen and Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics will have $37 million coming off the books next summer. That’s a lot to rebuild with.

The Celtics will do everything in their power to win a championship in 2012. But here’s a word of advice: If they do, don’t view it as a revitalization. View it as a swan song. This team won’t be together for much longer, and they have one last chance to go out on top.

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