Tuck: Breaking Up Boston’s Big Three Not Easy

The Celtics are 7-9.  They were clearly outclassed in the second round of the playoffs by Miami a season ago.  These decisions aren’t easy, but they are necessary if you want to win another title anytime soon.  Boston has two choices: 1) Trade for youth and assets now, or 2) let it play out, lose in the playoffs, and bottom out next year or soon after.

Danny Ainge sat down recently with The Globe and admitted breaking up Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.

“First of all, it’s a different era,” Ainge told The Globe. “I sat with Red (Auerbach) during a Christmas party (in the 1990s). Red was talking to Larry, Kevin, and myself and there was a lot of trade discussion at the time, and Red actually shared some of the trade discussions. And I told Red, what are you doing? Why are you waiting?

“He had a chance to trade Larry (to Indiana) for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and (Steve) Stipanovich and he had a chance to trade Kevin (to Dallas) for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’  I mean, I feel that way now. If I were presented with those kind of deals for our aging veterans, it’s a done deal to continue the success.”

“After those guys retired, the Celtics had a long drought,” Ainge said, according to The Globe. “But those (types of fruitful trades) aren’t presenting themselves. In today’s day and age with 30 teams in the NBA, 15 teams know they have no chance of winning a championship. They are building with young players. It’s a different era that we live in. It’s easy to say conceptually, but you have to always weigh what are real opportunities.”

The Celtics aren’t very good right now, and even a best case scenario doesn’t have them as a championship level team by season’s end.  In addition to Rajon Rondo, they have the big 3 they could move.

Kevin Garnett- Final year owed $21.2 million

Ray Allen- Final year owed $10 million

Paul Pierce- 3 years, over $47 million ($15.3 this year)

Ideally Boston would be looking for picks and youth.  KG and Ray could be nice additions for teams that are pretty good, that think they can be great with their additions this season.  Let’s look at some deals that could make sense for Boston, and teams that could be trade partners.

INDIANA– Larry Bird has accumulated a lot of talent.  They could deal for any of the big 3 and have it make sense.   With Eric Gordon on the market, perhaps a deal for an expiring deal like Garnett’s or Allen’s makes the most sense, but I’d push for Pierce/Allen.  Go for broke.

Danny Granger, Paul George, and a future #1 for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce

Pacers get more experience and a legit run this year and Boston gets younger talent.

PHILADELPHIA- This is tough for two reasons: 1) It’s a division rival, 2) I am not convinced this makes sense for Philly.

Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Andres Nocioni for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen

Celtics get young building blocks and Nocioni’s expiring deal, while Philly gets stronger on the front line with KG and unloads two iffy contracts while remaining very relevant this year.

MEMPHIS- The Grizzlies are getting close, and if they can get Zach Randolph back they’ll be inching closer.

OJ Mayo and a future #1 for Ray Allen

Allen gives them a more threatening outside shooter, as the Grizz were last in the NBA in 3-pointers a year ago.


OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce

Perhaps Pierce is more ready to help them win now while Boston basically gets younger.

MINNESOTA- The Timberwolves have a ton of young players, but don’t have a ton of big salaries.

Michael Beasley for Ray Allen

For the Celtics it makes sense to kick the tires on a young scoring tweener, for Minnesota I am not sure.  Perhaps Ray can help them make the playoffs this year.  Not sure Beasley is in the future plans for Minny anyway.


Basically, what I found doing this is that there aren’t many teams that can afford to take on an expiring contract of an older player that are actually in contention this year.   I kicked around ideas with teams like Oklahoma City, Portland, Denver, the Lakers and Clippers, and the Magic and Bulls but nothing really made sense for both sides.

Ray Allen is much more movable than KG.  $21 million isn’t an easy contract to match, and for most teams in contention, giving up multiple pieces for a guy that is past his prime and can walk after the year isn’t a good idea.  Paul Pierce would be intriguing in a lot of places, but coming up with a real deal wasn’t easy.