The never-ending question of whether general manager Danny Ainge will or should part ways with the Big Three is coming to a conclusion in the near future. Within the week, Ainge will have to gauge what he deems necessary for the team heading forward. After a nice five-game winning streak, the Celtics were on the verge of sitting atop the division with a win against the 76ers. But a 103 to 71 shellacking, for the moment, crushed all the momentum swung their way since the All-Star break. Rumors have run rampant the past few weeks, and even during the offseason for that matter. Not one player on this Celtics team is untouchable, especially the teams all star point guard, Rajon Rondo. In the offseason, Rondo would have been traded in a package for Chris Paul except for his unwillingness to come to Boston. His name also resurfaced when several outlets reported Ainge's desire to trade Rondo due to his lack of maturity and leadership skills. Both of which have been refuted by Ainge on WEEI in which he said, "[Rondo] He's our best player, he's the most important part of our future. There's no way we're actively trying to trade Rondo. That makes no sense, no logical sense." He went on to say that with every player there's bumps in the road with players and coaches. But that the relationship between Doc and Rondo is stronger than ever.
Does this mean Rondo won't get traded? No, it doesn't. But what it does mean is that Ainge is not going to give away a three-time all star for nothing. If he is going to trade Rondo it will be for another, and in his eyes, better all star player. With that in mind, do not expect him to get traded given the fact that the market for him is not at the level it should be. The newest rumors concerning Rondo have him linked to Pau Gasol and Stephen Curry. Gasol, firstly, does not make sense for a team trying to get younger. The Celtics are no longer one piece away from solving the puzzle. Gasol would greatly help the team in rebounds and even scoring, but it makes no sense to give up your best player for a veteran. And knowing the personality of Garnett he would surely not get along with the likes of Gasol. The Stephen Curry trade would make more sense in terms of a package deal, but his health concerns raise questions. Why take a chance on a point guard who is only two years younger than Rondo and only excels in one aspect of the game better than Rondo, which is shooting?
The only scenarios that make sense to move Rondo is for Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook. And the probability that a deal could be made is definitely slim, but worth the risk. So without further adou, here is what Ainge should at least try to do.
1. Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Brandon Bass for Dwight Howard & J.J. Redick
Rondo to the Magic makes sense due to the fact that they would be guaranteed a three-time all star player locked into a reasonable contract, instead of losing Howard with nothing in return. The Magic obtain an expiring contract, in Ray Allen, who provides veteran leadership if they choose to resign him. Along with that, they get back a player in Brandon Bass who they probably wish they didn't let go of in the first place. For the Celtics, it's obvious Dwight IS who they want. With this deal, they go all-in and hope to persuade Howard to stay. A. Because they have the money and B. they can sign an all star player along side him, not to mention Pierce would still be around. The problem with all this is that the Magic are still trying to convince Howard to stay, looking to acquire pieces to build around him. If the Celtics are serious about wanting Howard and believe they can convince him to sign a big fat contract with them, Ainge just might have the guts to do it. But if he gives away this much talent for a wasted rental, fans will bring out the pitchforks.
2. Rajon Rondo for Deron Williams
The Nets know Deron has no chance of coming back unless they trade for Dwight Howard. Therefore, the Nets would with open arms take a Rondo for Williams swap. Brooklyn would at least have a face to their franchise next season to get people into the seats. Williams is the type of scorer the Celtics need, but again similar to the Howard scenario the Celtics would need to convince him to stay. Though the Celtics could promise Williams the signing of Howard to make a new dynamic duo. A trade for Westbrook would also interest the Celtics, but the Thunder said no to Rondo and Chris Paul already in the offseason.
3. Kevin Garnett & Ray Allen for Joe Johnson & Josh Smith
As good as Atlanta is this team is looking to rebuild through Teague and Horford. Joe Johnson has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, and if they can get two expiring contracts to get out of it they will. Atlanta is able to free up a load of cap space and acquire two veterans who can provide much needed leadership. For the Celtics, they do not have to worry about attracting free agents, which has been a problem. Johnson knows how to score and plays great defense. And Rondo gets to team up with his high school teammate in Josh Smith, who will be able to run the floor. With the likes of Rondo, Johnson, Pierce and Smith on the court the Celtics are practically a center away from making a serious run for the title.
4. Kevin Garnett for A'mare Stoudemire
Garnett's expiring is extremely valuable to the Knicks. KG's defense is still lock down which is exactly what they need considering they have plenty of scoring options. After the season, the Knicks free up money to get Deron Williams or Dwight Howard. While the Celtics get a young, dominant big man who can score, that is under contract for three more years.
5. Paul Pierce & 1st round pick for Rudy Gay
Their salary years and money left are almost identical, so why the need for the trade? Well, last year Memphis shocked the NBA in the playoffs without Rudy Gay, and a real veteran presence. Pierce would give them the leader they desperately need who can step up late in pressure situations. On the flipside, Rudy Gay is a scorer and only 25 years old; two things the Celtics desperately need going forward.
Of all the hypothetical trades listed it is a 50/50 shot Ainge makes a big move. With the expiring contracts of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett he doesn't necessarily have to make a move if he does not get market value. And by not trading either of them he still runs the possibility of resigning them to cheaper contracts and potentially smaller roles on the team heading forward. If I was a betting man and someone on this team gets traded, most of the fingers are pointing at Ray Allen. He is expendable, the type of shooter many teams in the playoff hunt need, and his contract expires after the season. The problem is the teams the desperately need him (Clippers, Bulls, Heat etc.) do not have much to give up in return for his services without effecting the core of their respective teams. Expect the Celtics to ride out the season and hope for some luck in free agency, but I wouldn't be surprised to see anyone on this team getting traded. Ray seems to be the most moveable piece.