Trades in the NBA can rarely be simplified down to there being a clear loser and clear winner. The recent three-team deal between the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Brooklyn Nets is proof of that as all teams got what they were looking for.
Here’s what each team gets.
- Marcus Thornton (from Brooklyn)
- Tyler Zeller (from Cleveland)
- Protected 2016 1st round pick (from Cleveland). Top 10 protected.
- Future 2nd round pick (from Boston)
- Draft rights to Ilkan Karaman, Christian Drejer, and Edin Bavcic (from Brooklyn)
This trade clears cap space for the Cavs, giving them about $24 million to spend. That’s more than enough to sign a certain free agent as well as being able to add a couple of veterans around him. This trade was solely about cap space for Cleveland. And now reports indicate that they’re also pursuing Ray Allen.
The big get here for Brooklyn is Jarret Jack, the combo guard they were seeking after Shaun Livingston took a deal with the Warriors.
And for the Celtics? Well, they gave up just a 2nd round pick and used their trade exception to acquire an expiring contract (Thornton), a young center (Zeller), and yet another first rounder. The Celtics could have as many as 9 first rounders over the next 4 years, though many speculate this hoarding of assets has been made with Kevin Love in mind. Regardless of their intentions this offseason, this is a great trade for the Celtics.
When you’re a rebuilding team, taking on an expensive expiring contract is fine if you get assets as well. That’s exactly what the Celtics did. Thornton’s expiring deal (worth about $8.5 million) won’t impact the teams future in any negative way. In fact, he could potentially be an important piece in a major trade due to his salary. Teams would much rather take on his expiring deal than, say, Gerald Wallace’s two remaining years. It’s unlikely that Thornton plays much of a role for the Celtics this year.
Zeller, however, could become a key cog in the Celtics rotation. He’s 24 years old, 7′ 0″ tall, and will only cost $4 million over the next two years. He was buried on Cleveland’s bench for most of last year but actually put up decent per 36 numbers. Here’s a quick scouting report on Zeller.
- runs the floor well
- good passer for a center
- great touch around the hoop with either hand
- nice mid-range game
- solid athlete
- not physically strong
- slow on his feet
- relatively limited upside
Tyler Zeller isn’t the menacing defensive presence the Celtics are looking for inside but he’s a promising young center. Again, he’s a center. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are really just power forwards. Zeller should find minutes right away.
The 2016 first rounder from Cleveland is Top 10 protected, but that shouldn’t matter. If they were to sign LeBron James, there’s no way they’d be picking in the top 10 two years from now. And even if they don’t sign him, Cleveland has enough young assets and cap space that there’s no way they should be a bottom-10 team two years down the road. It is Cleveland though so I just should hold my breathe there.
Whether the Celtics plan to move three or four of these 1st rounders for a superstar doesn’t matter. Danny Ainge has stockpiled assets, and he’s done so for virtually nothing. The Celtics have the most stacked cupboard in the NBA. Ainge got a 1st round pick out of a coach for christ’s sake.
Every team got what they were looking for in this trade. It may not stir up headlines like a Kevin Love deal would’ve, but this is a great trade for the Celtics. If you can’t see that, well, you’re going to miserable over the next two years of this rebuild. There will likely be a lot of trades just like this one.