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Grantland: Why trade helps C's

1/15/2014

Grantland's Zach Lowe breaks down why Wednesday's three-team trade helps all sides. Here's his take on the Celtics:

The best subplot of my day: Boston fans railing on Twitter that this is a horrible deal. Umm … it’s Jordan Crawford. Do you not think the other 29 teams watch the NBA? Do you think 29 other GMs are Googling “Jordan Crawford,” seeing his Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor, and asking their owner how many first-round picks they might give up for him? Do you think those GMs are unaware Brooks hasn’t been able to get on the floor at all this season for a very bad NBA team?

There was zero chance Boston was getting a first-round pick for Crawford and Brooks. Zero. The Bulls didn’t even get a guaranteed first-round pick for Luol Deng. The Magic didn’t get one for J.J. Redick. Teams are hoarding first-round picks like Ron Swanson hoards his buried gold. And as I’ve noted before, there just aren’t many contenders or even ambitious playoff teams with a massive need at backup point guard. Crawford’s a nice little piece, but he has been very bad for most of his NBA career, and just so-so in this career year.

This is a small bounty for Boston. The second-rounder from Miami is a nice little addition, but the real prize is the first-rounder the Sixers gave Miami two drafts ago in exchange for Arnett Moultrie.

However, this is not an automatic first-rounder, and may end up as a fake first-rounder. It’s lottery-protected in each of the next two seasons, meaning the Sixers keep it if they miss the playoffs. If they miss the postseason both this year (duh) and next, the pick morphs into two second-rounders that would go to Boston.

Never underestimate the horribleness of the Eastern Conference. The Sixers will almost certainly have two lottery picks in this draft — their own and the one they acquired from the Pelicans for Jrue Holiday. That pick is top-five protected, and given New Orleans’s injury issues, it could fall somewhere around no. 8 or no. 9. Nail those picks, get Nerlens Noel healthy, and sign the requisite cap-fodder veterans, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Philly crawls into a low-end playoff spot next season — sending Boston a first-rounder in the process.

But Philly isn’t done trading. They’ve amped up their feelers on Thaddeus Young in the last week, per several league sources, and other execs view it as a lock that Evan Turner will be on the block — if he isn’t already. If Philly dumps enough veterans and opts against replacing them next season with equal quality, they could be pretty bad again.

But even three second-rounders is a nice haul for two players Boston wasn’t going to use long-term. Anthony’s $3.8 million deal for next season is the price, and in raw terms, that is more than the combined Year 1 salaries of three second-rounders. But Boston will have a solid chunk of cap space this summer after dumping Courtney Lee, and they could get something like max-level room if they find a taker for Brandon Bass before the trade deadline. Anthony cuts into that space a tad, but the Cs weren’t going to get that Philly pick without Miami (and Anthony) getting involved in the deal.

Using max-level cap space in a straight free-agency signing isn’t really even part of the plan here, anyway. Boston simply wants to remain flexible enough to take in salary via trade while piling up assets. This deal does the job. Teams are valuing second-round picks more highly than ever. They produce cheap players with some upside, and teams can structure their contracts in all kinds of favorable ways outside the rookie scale for first-round picks. Anthony himself will become an expiring contract next season, just another little trade ingredient for the Cs.

Losing Crawford will also make Boston worse this season, increasing their lottery odds. Rajon Rondo will be back soon to take over at point guard, but he’ll be rusty, and Boston just downgraded the backup point guard spot dramatically. Phil Pressey tries hard, but guys who shoot 24 percent and turn the ball over a lot are not exactly helpful NBA players.

This is something very much like a win-win-win, a small-scale move that could carry real meaning down the line for two contenders.

(Read full post on Grantland)