The great Bill Barnwell of Grantland recently published his “NFL Trade Value” column which ranks the top 50 players in the NFL, taking into account their contracts, based on their trade value around the league. That means that every New Englanders favorite or least favorite basketball writer, Bill Simmons, will be doing his NBA Trade Value column soon as well. That shouldn’t concern the Celtics too much though, as there will likely only be one player ranked in the top 50.
But what about the Celtics? Who are the most valuable players on the team? You need to account for production, potential, age, health, contracts, etc. Since it appears to be another slow day around the NBA, I’ll give you my Celtics Trade Value Power Rankings. All 15 players with guaranteed contracts are ranked, and ordered from least to most valuable.
Group 1: Pretty Much Untrade-able.
15. Gerald Wallace, SF, 31
Contract: 2 years remaining, fully guaranteed, at $10,105,855 per year.
’13-’14 Key Stats: 58 Games, 7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 10.0 PER
Even if Crash hadn’t torn his meniscus last season and required additional surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle, it’s likely he would’ve came in last in these rankings. Wallace has lost most of his bounciness, which is what allowed him to be an effective slasher and defender early in his career. He’s simply not good enough of a shooter to be an effective player without his athleticism. Though he does deserve credit for at least knowing that he’s not a good shooter. He only took 5.8 shots a game last year.
If Wallace can regain his bounce there’s a chance he could play a role on the team this year (he’s expected to be ready to go come August). But with $10.1 million a year cap hit following him around for the next two years, he’s simply not a trade option. A team would be out of their minds to take on Wallace’s deal unless something dramatically changes. He’s simply the contract the Celtics had to take on when stripping the Nets of their entire future.
14. Joel Anthony, PF/C, 31
Contract: 1 year left at $3.8 million
’13-’14 Key Stats: 5.6 minutes per game, 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, 18.3 PER allowed when playing center
Joel Anthony feels a lot older than 31. He hasn’t been effective since 2011. Anthony had lost all of his rim-protecting ability and struggles to even finish in close anymore. An expiring contract at just $3.8 million, Anthony could be thrown in to a trade to make salaries line up. But that’s about it. Nobody is going to be calling Danny Ainge about Anthony. He’s not as valuable Wallace on the court, but he costs less than half of what Wallace does. That alone gets him ranked above Crash.
13. Marcus Thornton, SG, 27
Contract: 1 year left at $8,697,000
’13-’13 Key Stats: 24.2 minutes per game, 39.4% FG, 34.5% 3pt
Taking on Thornton’s expiring deal allowed the Celtics to get Tyler Zeller and another first round pick. He’s obviously overpaid, but he can light it up. He’s a terribly inefficient scorer, as evidenced by his FG%, but he can shoot you back into a game when he gets hot. He did score 42 against Indiana last season.
It’s hard to tell where Thornton fits in to this crowded Celtics backcourt, but his ability to score in bursts means he’s likely to see at least some playing time on an offensively-challeged team. On an expiring deal, he could emerge as trade bait at the deadline if he shoots well early in the year. But again, he’s really nothing more than a number in the payroll that the team just has to deal with.
Group 2: Cheap, young, but with limited upside.
12. Vitor Faverani, C, 26
Contract: 1 year fully guaranteed at $2,090,000…Team option for ’15-’16 at $2,180,000
Key Stats: 8 starts, allowed a PER of 20.5 to opposing centers
Last seasons short-lived, injury-plagued campaign was Faverani’s first in the NBA. He’s 6′ 11″ and about 270 lbs. The Celtics got him to protect the rim. But Faverani struggled mightily when on the court despite looking good in his first few games. He doesn’t have much skill on offense, so if he’s going to get beat on defense as much as he did last year and get out rebounded, he may be back in Brazil sooner than he hopes.
Faverani is also recovering from a torn meniscus. If he can come back 100% he has a little value just because he’s so damn big and affordable (having that team option is nice). But no other teams offered Faverani a contract for the first 25 years of his life, so it doesn’t appear as if he’s highly-regarded around the league.
11. Phil Pressey, PG, 23
Contract: Guaranteed this year at $816,482. Non-guaranteed next year at $947,276
Key Stats: 2.67 Ast/TO ratio, 30.8% FG, 13.1 PER to opposing PG’s
Pressey, a college superstar who went undrafted but impressed during the summer league last year and stuck on for the whole season, is a nice story. Good for him that his contract for this year was picked up. But Pressey is simply a marginal NBA backup PG. He’s a horrendous shooter and doesn’t have the athleticism to make up for that. He doesn’t beat people off the dribble and can’t finish at the rim.
However, Pressey is a proven ball-handler who can be counted on to at least initiate offense when on the court. He doesn’t do as bad of a job on defense as his 5′ 11″ height would suggest. With the uncertainty as to whether or not Marcus Smart is a true point guard, and Avery Bradley’s obvious inability to handle to ball, Pressey all of a sudden became a roster lock for this team. He’s young and cheap with a non-guaranteed deal next season, meaning another team wouldn’t mind taking him on. But again, Pressey is a marginal NBA player who could very well be playing overseas as soon as next season.
Group 3: Dump ‘em at the deadline…if not sooner.
10. Evan Turner, SG/SF, 25
Contract: 2 year at an undetermined value (likely around $2 million per)
Key Stats: 42.7% career FG shooting, 12.0 career PER, 17.4 ppt with Philly last season
Despite being accurately lauded as bust, Evan Turner actually put up decent volume numbers during his time in Philadelphia. The problem is that every single advanced metric you can find says terrible things about him. He’s been one of the least efficient players in the league for the last 4 years. He simply can’t shoot. He turns the ball over with way too much (2.8 per 36 minutes last season) for a guy who’s supposed to be a 6′ 7″ point guard.
Turner’s sample size is large enough to safely assume he’s never going to become much of a shooter. He’s got good size and athleticism and could find a second life as a defensive specialist if he works at it, but Turner simply isn’t the guy everybody thought he was when he was taken 2nd overall (over guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, and Eric Bledsoe). The signing of Turner was confusing as it may very well put the Celtics into tax territory. I have to believe that at least one more trade is coming this offseason. Turner is on a cheap deal for a player with his production history, which makes him obvious trade bait.
I just don’t see how Turner fits in with the Celtics long-term plans. I get the low-risk, high-reward argument but is the reward with Turner really that high? Let’s say we get the Philly version of Turner instead of the Indiana version. That’s still a terribly inefficient player who’s going to take up way too many of your possessions. I have to believe that the Celtics plan to trade Turner, as well as the next guy on this list.
9. Brandon Bass, PF, 29
Contract: One year left at $6.9 million
Key Stats: 47.1% on mid-range jumpers, 7.8 defensive win shares in his 3 years as a Celtic
Those two numbers show why Brandon Bass, on an expiring contract, could be dangled for contenders seeking rotation bigs at the deadline. Bass is undeniably a knockdown shooter from inside the arc (though he lacks a post game). He also has great lateral movement for a PF, allowing him to stay on the floor to guard stretch-4′s.
Bass isn’t overly-skilled with the ball, in fact, he’s a complete black hole offensively. A career total rebounding percentage of just 12.2% is alarming. In a vacuum, Bass is not a particularly valuable player and certainly not worth $6.9 million a year. But his contract is expiring, and if the right suitor with the right needs is found, Bass will likely net the Celtics another draft pick at the deadline. He’s been in trade rumors around that time of year for the last two seasons for a reason.
Group 4: Wait and see.
8. Tyler Zeller, C, 24
Contract: $1,703,760 this year with a team option next year at $2,616,975
Key Stats: 53.8% FG last season and he’s a legit 7′ 0″
Zeller was buried on the Cavs bench as a sophomore and given to the Boston in the cap-shedding trade that allowed the team to sign LeBron James. The Celtics need big bodies. While Zeller doesn’t give you much as a rim protector, his ability to run the floor and nice combination of skills (both passing and mid-range shooting) certainly make him worth developing over the next couple of years.
The team option is nice, and Zeller may very well play out his rookie contract as a role player in Boston. A skilled seven-footer on a rookie contract is never a bad thing to have on your roster. Whether Zeller is part of the future or just another trade chip Ainge has acquired doesn’t matter. He was a nice coup for the Celtics and is immediately one of their more easily-moveable pieces.
7. James Young, SG/SF, 18
Contract: Rookie deal guaranteed $3.4 million over his first two years, with team options ($1.8 million & $2.8 million) for his next two
Key Stats: 52% from the left corner 3 during his lone season at Kentucky
It says more about the Celtics than it does James Young that he is this high on the list. A non-lottery pick who hasn’t even played an NBA game yet isn’t usually considered one of your teams more valuable assets, but given the current state of the franchise, that is exactly the case with Young.
If James Young shoots as well as most project he will become an important player on this team. Many wanted them to go big with the 17th pick, but I thought Young was the best player on the board and made sense. I firmly believe Danny Ainge views him as important part of the franchises future. If Young doesn’t pan out, the fact that he’ll be under the teams control and affordable for the next 4 years makes him a possible minor piece in a trade. But Young seems to be here to stay.
Group 5: Jeff Green
6. Jeff Green, SF, 27
Contract: $9.4 million this year with a $9.4 million player option for ’15-’16
Key Stats: 35.5% 3pt shooting as a Celtic, 23.6 usage rate last year, held opposing SF to a PER of 14.3
We keep taking about Jeff Green developing a “killer instinct”. You hear how physically gifted he is all the time. How he can develop into a star. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that’s not the case. By pretty much every statistical measure, Jeff Green is an average NBA small forward. That’s fine. He can play a role on a good team. But if you count on him to carry you, which the Celtics have done in spurts for the last 2 years, you’re in trouble.
Given the money that has been handed out in free agency, $9.4 million a year for Jeff Green no longer seems that bad. In fact, if he has a good year he’ll likely turn down his player option and seek a long-term deal while he can still get one. That’s probably what’s best for the Celtics, as he would be off their books. It’s going to be hard to trade him with that option sitting there.
I want to again caution against talking about Green’s upside. He’s played nearly 500 games in his NBA career. He is who he is at this point. And that’s a good athlete who shoots the ball pretty well and gives you league average defense. His ball-handling and unwillingness to bang inside is what has held him back to this point. Green is one of the best players on the team and he’ll likely be a focal point of the offense again. But being the focal point of a 25 win team and being a valuable player around the league are two very different things.
Group 6: Young, skilled, physically-challenged power forwards.
5. Jared Sullinger, PF, 22
4. Kelly Olynyk, PF, 23
Maybe this is just and excuse to debate Sullinger vs Olynyk, but it’s a debate that needs to be had because ideally the Celtics would only keep one of them for the long haul as they both project as rotation power forwards.
To this point, Sullinger has been the more productive NBA player. He is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league and if his back holds up that will likely allow him to have a lengthy career. It remains to be seen what happens with his shooting. Sullinger really struggles defensively, especially when guarding centers. He’s not efficient as a scorer either, though his PER for last year was somehow a respectable 16.4. His inability to leave his feet greatly limits what he can do on both ends of the court. He’s also slow on his feet, which makes him unable to step out towards to perimeter on defense.
Olynyk isn’t an elite athlete either but it’s his proven shooting (35.1% from 3 last year after being a legit threat in college) and skill that give him the higher ceiling. Olynyk also chipped in a respectable PER of 15.2 last season. And while as of now he doesn’t protect the rim, the fact that he’s 7′ 0″ (compared to 6′ 9″ for Sully) means he’ll likely grow to be more effective in that regards. Olynyk also passes extremely well, which is important for bigs in Brad Stevens’ offense.
Sullinger is probably the more effective player right now, but Olynyk has more upside. And the fact the Olynyk will be on a rookie deal for one year longer than Sullinger makes him a more enticing trade piece. Both players have futures in this league as long as your expectations are held in check. I believe Olynyk would fetch slightly more in a trade today, though both would likely be just filler in a trade package based around draft picks.
Group 7: The core, the backcourt.
3. Avery Bradley, SG, 23
Contract: 4 years at $8 million a year
Key Stats: 39.5% 3pt shooting last season
I still believe Bradley was overpaid by the Celtics but given the way other contracts played out it doesn’t seem terrible in comparison. Bradley’s defense is good but not as amazing as most think, so it will be important that he continues to shoot well from 3. He’s not efficient since he can’t finish at the rim or, frankly, dribble the ball. Bradley is one of the better “3 & D” guys in the league. You can debate whether that’s worth $8 million a year. What you can’t debate is that he’s one of the Celtics best players who is just 23. His contract will likely look even more team-friendly two years from now when the cap jumps dramatically.
Ainge has made it clear that he views Bradley as part of this teams future and 4-year extension is indicative of that. Many, including myself, thought the selection of Marcus Smart meant the end of the road for Bradley. The Celtics will only move Bradley now if a fluky good offer comes up. He’s the only player on the team with guaranteed money 3 years from now.
2. Marcus Smart, PG/SG, 20
Contract: Rookie deal guaranteed $6.6 million over his first two years, with team options ($3.5 million & $4.5 million) for his next two
Key Stats: 29.2 usage rate in college
I still believe that Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh was the right pick for Boston at 6th overall, but I cannot deny Smart’s ability. At the very worst, he projects as an elite defender. That’s if he can’t tighten his handle, improve his decision making, and work on his shot. If Smart developed the way we hope, he’ll be an All-Star caliber player at either guard spot. If he doesn’t, again, we’re still getting a dominant defensive presence.
The Celtics obviously have no immediate plans to trade Smart. If some crazy deal for a superstar pops up, then maybe moving Smart becomes an option. But Ainge didn’t have him workout for the team 3 times for now reason. Smart will be one of the better players on the team right away, and his upside easily makes him the 2nd most valuable asset Ainge has at his disposal.
1. Rajon Rondo, PG, 28
Contract: One year left at $12.9 million
Key Stats: 30 games played last season, career 41.3% AST percentage
I get it. The Celtics should trade Rondo. His championship window doesn’t line up with that of the franchise, he’s only got one-year left on his deal, other guys don’t like him, yada yada yada. The Celtics may very well move Rondo. But if they do, they need to make sure they get a ton on return, because he’s BY FAR the teams most valuable asset.
This post is already nearly 3,000 words so I don’t have the time now to prove to you that when healthy, Rondo is an elite point guard. Just take my word for it.
The rumor has been the Celtics won’t even discuss a Rondo trade unless two first rounders are involved. That makes sense. You don’t trade a 28 year old who has twice finished top 10 in MVP voting for a couple of role players. If the Celtics sense they’re only going to get 50 cents on the dollar, than they should hold onto Rondo. Now, if Rondo was to say he wouldn’t re-sign with the team under any circumstances, obviously that changes things. But there;s no indication that he doesn’t want to be a Celtic.
Maybe Rondo isn’t part of the long term plan. I don’t know and you don’t know either. What I do know is that he is the most valuable asset on the Celtics by a mile, and really the only proven plus player on the roster. Rondo has his fair share of critics, and some of their gripes are completely legitimate. He rubs some people the wrong way. But all personal BS aside, Rondo is the Celtics lone enticing trade piece. The reason it’s his name in all the rumors is because he’s really the only guy on the team anyone else wants.
It’s a hard truth. The Celtics cupboard is mostly future draft picks. This team doesn’t have the tangible assets to get Kevin Love. They simply don’t. They never did.