At 12-23 and going nowhere fast, the Boston Celtics pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans over the weekend to help build for the future. Green was the centerpiece of a five-player deal over the weekend that will officially be made on Monday and should also bolster the Grizzlies’ playoff run.
Boston will send Green to Memphis as the Grizzlies move veteran Tayshaun Prince and a future first-round pick (per reports, likely in 2019) to the Celtics. In addition, the Celtics will also pick up Austin Rivers from New Orleans. Memphis will send Quincy Pondexter and a second-round pick to the Pelicans for guard Russ Smith as part of the trade as well.
Add it all up, and it looks like this:
Loses – Jeff Green
Adds – Tayshaun Prince, first-round Draft pick, Austin Rivers
Loses – Tayshaun Prince, first-round Draft pick (TBD), 2015 second-round Draft pick, Quincy Pondexter
Adds – Jeff Green, Russ Smith
Loses – Austin Rivers, Russ Smith
Adds – Quincy Pondexter, 2015 second-round Draft pick
As a result, here’s what we know.
Memphis Gets Stronger
The Grizzlies get immediately stronger. Jeff Green is obviously the key player in the trade and brings nearly 18 points per game. While the move helps Memphis now, it also strengthens them for the future if they can keep him. He has a player option of $9.2 million for next year and that’s the final one of his contract. Green is only 28 and if Memphis can re-sign him, he can be a contributor for many more years.
In the short term, Memphis also doesn’t give up too much, either. There’s the second-round pick in this year’s draft, but while Prince and Pondexter were in the Grizzlies’ rotation, both are fairly marginal players incapable of making the kind of impact that Green can. Green will be a significant upgrade over Tony Allen (8.0 ppg and 3.9 rpg), assuming he takes his spot in the starting lineup.
Boston Continues Rebuilding Project
We already knew the Celtics were officially moving into the rebuilding stage with the recent trades of Rajon Rondo and Brandan Wright. The Green move, though, just further cements a complete makeover. With two players over the age of 30 (none older than 32), Boston is one of the youngest teams in the NBA. They add Prince in the deal, but this was more about unloading Green, obviously, and continuing to stockpile draft picks.
It also seems to be about adding Rivers to make a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. That would allow him to play for his father and former Celtics coach, Doc Rivers. If that sounds odd, it should. Rivers, by some accounts, forced his way out of Boston’s rebuilding situation and the Celtics playing nice with the Clippers here to accommodate the elder Rivers is mildly intriguing.
Pelicans Unsold on Rivers/Smith
New Orleans had a minor role to play in this deal, but the takeaway here is that they were willing to trade both Rivers and Smith — two young guards in which they made an investment. Both were considered potential backcourt players of the future for the franchise as the team drafted Rivers in the Lottery in 2012 and traded for Smith last year after the Philadelphia 76ers took him in the second round.
Neither has impressed all that much, however. Rivers has averaged fewer than seven points per game in three seasons, shooting poorly at under 40 percent for his career. The point guard also has a meager assist-to-turnover rate of approximately 2:1. Smith has played considerably less, appearing in six games and averaging fewer than a point, rebound, and assist per contest.
The Pelicans’ dealing both young guards so early in their careers for a roleplayer like Pondexter and a second-round pick really speaks to how unimpressed they had to be with them.
The winner in a trade isn’t always the team that adds the best player. In this case, however, it has to be Memphis. The Grizzlies view themselves as serious contenders to win an NBA title and adding Green without giving up all that much in the short-term makes the team significantly stronger.