The whole developing situation seems to have taken the Boston Celtics a little bit off guard, but they’re not completely in stun mode. If they can trade away Paul Pierce and his $15 million contract, they’ll try and sign Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks via a sign & trade.
But the situation is a lot more complicated than it seems. First of all, the Celtics need to decide where they’re headed from here – trying to become a contender as quickly as possible, or entering a long rebuilding process with Rajon Rondo as point guard. With Josh Smith entering the fray, regardless of Kevin Garnett’s situation, it heightens the expectations, but doesn’t necessarily improve the team by much, especially with Paul Pierce leaving.
The key to the whole thing is Pierce, with his $15.3 million deal for next year. The Celtics can buy him out, taking a $5 million cap-hit, but that can only be done by June 30. The problem with moving Pierce on a trade is his contract, and the few teams that can actually enter a deal with the Celtics.
The two most mentioned teams in this case are the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. On the other hand, Pierce wants to play for a contender if he’s no longer in Boston, which means the Cavs and the Bucks are out of the question. The Cavaliers have already mentioned that they don’t want Pierce if he doesn’t want to play for them.
And as for Milwaukee? They actually tried acquiring Josh Smith back in February, but that didn’t work out too well. Smith is willing to sign as a free agent with the Bucks, and while he does have his offensive issues, mostly regarding taking too many jumpers without any reason to, he’s a better long term option than Pierce, who’s decline from his current form is just around the corner.
Pierce might join Doc Rivers in Los Angeles if he’s released from the Celtics, which is probably the thing he’s looking forward to the most – having a free choice to choose his next team, hoping to sign for someone who is going to play for an NBA title next season.
As for Smith, the Celtics have been interested in him for quite some time. The Hawks talked with the Celtics not too long ago about a Pierce-Smith trade, but in order to acquire Smith, the Celtics need the trade exception from sending Pierce somewhere else.
Josh Smith was a high school teammate of Rajon Rondo, although it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d love to play with each other again, especially with all the uncertainty and feeling of abandoning ship surrounding Boston at the moment.