So, I have been working on creating a trade that would net us that evasive superstar that will finally enable us to firmly place rebuilding in the rearview mirror. Needless to say, I have spent this entire month researching salary cap situations, evaluating team needs, gaining insight from various fans, on a multitude of forums, about the direction/future that they believe best suits the team's future. I think I have found the most plausible trade out there that benefits all teams involved, but is very unlikely to happen given the sheer landscape altering magnitude of the trade. Hit the jump to dive head first into the madness! (A caveat does exist in this scenario and that is Gerald Wallace cannot be traded in combination with other players until September 12th)
The four teams involved are the Celtics, Suns, Thunder and Wizards and I'll analyze the ramifications of the deal for each team individually, providing a link to the salary cap situation of each team in the process.
Salary Cap Situation: The Wizards are about a million and change away from the luxury tax, so it is imperative that they not take on too much salary in return in a trade. With Frye and Lee set to make a combined 11.6 million, the Wizards would be adding 600K in salary in this deal, so as far as cap is concerned, this trade makes sense.
What the outgoing players worth: Jan Vesely has a team option that is very unlikely to be picked up given that he has done very little to justify his being taken 6th overall in the 2011 draft. Just last season, he nearly had as many points as personal fouls and his shooting has been abysmal to say the least. He might be better suited playing the four, but he has very little chance to prove himself in the cluttered Wizards roster. Ariza is an expiring deal and his poor three point shooting and natural position of small forward make him extraneous on this roster. There is little to no chance the Wizards are considering re-signing him. The Wizards figure to be in the playoff hunt, and with the additions of Frye and Lee, their pick is most likely to be somewhere in the late teens/early twenties, even in 2015 because Beal, Wall, and Porter are only going to get better next season.
Team Need: Martell Webster is currently slotted as the starting small forward, with Otto Porter set to be the back up. That being said, Ariza, listed as a two, and Singleton, listed as a four, are both best suited at the three. With that, there is an evident log jam at the three and four positions and exacerbating this problem is the lack of three point shooting touch from everyone on the bench except for Maynor and Porter. Considering the Wizards' second to last rank in points scored last season, spacing is certainly an issue. The Wizards currently start Emeka Okafor, an expiring contract mind you, and Nene at the five and four respectively and as such, the Wizards Management as well as Wizards players have publicized their interest in a stretch four to not only create more space on the low block, but also create kick out opportunities to complement Wall's uncanny ability to get to the front of the rim. Obviously, this is where Frye comes into the picture.
The case for Courtney Lee is simpler: He is an athletic two guard who plays hard defensively and can stroke it from deep. Overall, Lee is more valuable than Ariza is because of Lee's exceptional three point shooting numbers. You might ask why the Wizards would want to replace Ariza, an expiring contract, for the remaining three years of Lee's deal and I would answer because it helps to clear up the log jam without imposing too great a financial burden on the franchise. Okafor is not likely to be re-signed and the combined contracts of Frye and Lee would be less than Okafor's 2013-2014 contract.
Salary Cap Situation: The Thunder too are about a million and change from being over the luxury tax line; something they are apparently avoiding considering their unwillingness to re-sign Kevin Martin. In this scenario, the Thunder would need to request waivers on Thabeet, Orton and LIggins (Which wouldnt cost them a thing) to avoid the tax and make salaries match 100%.
What the outgoing players are worth: Perkins, heretofore known as Pork, is worth absolutely nothing after posting a negative PER in the playoffs and being completely out of tune with what the Thunder need to be doing in terms of competing with Miami. Lamb and Pork for Gortat is a trade that has been discussed a number of times on this blog and I think that is a fair trade, even if it skews in OKC's favor, especially when considering how big an impact a decent offensive center like Gortat could have when facing the Heat. Westbrook is a star in this league and the Thunder would need to be getting a bundle of very valuable assets and picks or another superstar and decent role players as compensation.
Team Need: When Miami and OKC met in the finals, the Thunder had an advantage as far as bench and starting point guard were considered. With the departure of Martin, the Point Guard position remains the only position of strength in OKC's favor. Enter Butler and Gortat to help change that fact. Butler, an expiring contract who can be re-signed on the cheap at the end of next season, gives the Thunder a decent two way player off the bench to replace Martin. A bench role in which his minutes were limited would greatly help Butler prolong his career. Roy Hibbert exploited the hell out of Miami in the postseason simply by being opportunistic as a 7'2 Center (No disrespect to Roy Hibbert, I've been rooting hard for him since he entered the league, but he did shoot 42% from the field during the regular season and he isnt exactly the most mobile big out there.)I am fully convinced that Gortat is better both offensively and defensively than Pork and can be a certifiable scoring threat in the pick and roll, an aspect of the game both Rondo and Durant excel.
Rondo is a much better floor general and passer than Westbrook. There are reports that (Rondo will be back in time for the start of the season) While he doesnt score nearly as well, although this game against the Heat whom Rondo hates, seems to suggest otherwise, that is offset by the additions of Butler and Gortat as well as Rondo's ability to better position his teammates to score. OKC's gameplan right now is essentially let one of Durant and Westbrook do whatever they want with the ball and pray that they score. With Rondo at point, the Thunder's offense will have more structure and flow to it and will be able to fully milk Durant's ridiculous efficiency. By eliminating Westbrook's occasional jarring boneheaded plays, the Thunder can work to maximize the strengths of what is already a terrific offense in terms of points scored per game as well as efficiency.
Outgoing players: Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace, and Courtney Lee,
Incoming players: Michael Beasley, Gerald Green, Shannon Brown, Jan Vesely, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Lamb, 2015 Lottery protected first round pick via Washington, 2015 top 5 lottery protected pick via Los Angeles, 2015 unprotected pick Via Phoenix.
Salary Cap Situation: If the Celtics use the trade exception they acquired from the Paul Pierce trade to absorb the salaries of Green, Brown, and Vesely, the Celtics will have created a new trade exceptions worth 16.6 million (Beasley, Bledsoe and Lamb add up to 10.7 million in salary whereas Rondo, Wallace, and Lee add up to 27.3 million in salary; subtract the outgoing from incoming and voila) This deal gives the Celtics bundles of cap space to work with in the near future: they no longer have to worry about paying Wallace and Lee for the next three years, Humphries, Brown and Bogans (He can be waived next season for no cost as his deal is unguaranteed) are expiring, Vesely and Jordan Crawford havea team option, and Beasley only has 3 million guaranteed next season. Of Course, re-signing Bledsoe and Bradley will cut into that freedom, but that is where the massive TPE comes into play.
What the outgoing players are worth: Rondo is a very valuable piece, the compensation for which needs to be valuable assets as well as a bundle of picks (This was the hardest part of the trade because I was unable to gauge whether or not Bledsoe, Lamb, and multiple picks is fair return for Rondo, which is why the Suns absolutely need to take Wallace back and thereby bestow upon Boston a TPE.) Wallace had a miserable year last season, though he played much better in the playoffs, that makes it very difficult to find a trade partner to take him especially given his age and the length of the contract, but I am sure his stock will rise once the Suns revitalize his health. Lee, by himself, is not worth that much either given that he is already 27 and has another three years left on his deal. Getting someone to take Wallace and Lee in exchange for a first round draft pick would be a steal and in this case, that is exactly what the Celtics are getting.
Team Need: The Celtics need to rebuild and this would be the easiest way to kickstart that process. Bledsoe is obviously the highlight of this package as pairing him with Jeff Green and Avery Bradley would be very exciting for Celtics fans. All three will have equal opportunity to demonstrate that they can indeed be good to great NBA players. Though Green's upside is limited by his age, he will be 27 at the start of the season, he showed glimpses that he can be a very good player, and some of the Celtics fans I spoke to are very high on him in regards to his being able to replace Paul Pierce (This obviously is the big question mark.)
More enticing are Bledsoe and Bradley, 23 and 22 respectively, who will probably be the best defensive backcourt in the NBA, regardless of their respective heights; the athleticism, speed, and strength that these two possess and would bring to a single backcourt is simply mesmerizing to ponder. Lamb and Brooks will compete very hard for that backup two slot, and while it may be difficult to keep both Brooks and Lamb, the Celtics would have more than enough young pieces (MarShon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Jeremy Lamb, Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley) and picks to complete a trade for a star. Not to mention the fact that they will certainly be in the running for Wiggins upon completing this trade. Lastly, the Celtics get to see how Beasley and Vesely respond with their NBA careers on the line; I think Brad Stevens' presence will be beneficial in that respect as he managed his players at Butler magnificently and he is, in my mind, the quintessential coach to help mold these young pieces and allow them to become useful NBA players by helping them reach their individual ceilings.
Outgoing: Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Michael Beasley, Gerald Green, Shannon Brown, Eric Bledsoe,and P.J Tucker
Incoming players: Russell Westbrook, Gerald Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Trevor Ariza
Salary Cap Situation: The Suns have about 38.6 million in salary leaving and 41.3 million in salary coming and by invoking the 150% rule, the Suns are allowed to make this trade. While people will groan at the length of the contracts coming back, there is method to the madness. Most of the contract on board, with the exceptions of Dragic, Westbrook, and Wallace, will be done or can be terminated in just two years time. The Suns would be one simple Gerald Wallace trade away (A December 15th trade that looks a little something like this seems plausible, let us just replace the Celtics with Suns) , from having max cap space, and then some, in 2015. Kevin Love, a UCLA Alum just like his close friend as well as former teammate Russell Westbrook, becomes a free agent in 2015, and with plush cap space, the Suns could theoretically sign Love, to a 4 year 70 million dollar deal and another player to a deal in the 8-10 million dollar vicinity to go along with Westbrook and Dragic's deals with money to fill out the bench.
What the outgoing players worth: Well, I've documented what Frye, Butler, Bledsoe Gortat and draft picks are worth and the rest of the outgoing players are simply used as trade filler. I'm sure the Celtics would rather have Beasley's partially guaranteed deal and Gerald Green than have to pay Lee and Wallace for the next three seasons, especially when their two guard rotation is tightly packed and Wallace doesn't fit in their plans to rebuild.
Team Need: This team is in clear need of talent and lots of it and in this trade they are getting arguably the most talented player in this trade without giving up a whole lot. Trading lottery picks is a risky proposition for this franchise to be sure, but as McDonough said, the Suns are willing to part with picks when a guy they want is there for the taking. Talent attracts talent in this league, as franchise level players rarely go to lottery teams via free agency. Dwight Howard left the premium big market team so he could play with another superstar in James Harden. In this scenario, Russell Westbrook's presence on this team could very well attract Kevin Love, who if not a franchise player as I believe him to be, is at least an excellent number two on a championship contender.