Robb: The Brandon Bass Conundrum
BOSTON (CBS) – As the 2014 offseason winds down, it’s painfully evident that the Boston Celtics’ depth chart is a little too crowded for their liking right now.
Currently, the Celtics have 17 players signed under contract and Evan Turner will soon become the 18th once his new deal is finalized. With this logjam in place, Danny Ainge would surely like to clear out some bodies via trade before the start of the 2014-15 season since the team can only carry 15 players on opening night anyway.
One way to reduce numbers for Ainge would be moving players without guaranteed contracts such as Chris Johnson and Chris Babb, but that move might not be the most logical one. Babb is a long shot to make the roster, but the Celtics are big fans of Johnson’s play and have him signed to a favorable long-term deal at minimum money. If Ainge can clear the space for him, it sounds like the team wants to keep him.
With another rebuilding season seemingly on the horizon, another potential solution to the problem is clearing out some veterans that may not be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
As has always been the case with Ainge, he’s not going to make a deal just to make a deal. The team needs to receive value in any trade they make but finding that value has been tough with the team’s current roster. According to a report from Zach Lowe of Grantland.com last week, the Celtics have been working hard to move Bass in a deal this summer.
Ainge testing out the market on Bass makes plenty of sense. In addition to needing to clear roster space, the Celtics are still loaded with bodies at the power forward position despite losing Kris Humphries this offseason. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are locked in place at the power forward spot and will be battling for minutes next season.
A 29-year-old Bass probably won’t be around for the next stage of the Celtics rebuilding project so it makes sense for both sides to move on now and handing the keys to the PF spot to Sullinger. The problem for Ainge? Bass doesn’t appear to have much value on the open market, according to Lowe’s report.
“The Celtics have tried like hell, but they can’t get anything of value on the trade market for Brandon Bass and his $6.9 million expiring contract,” Lowe wrote on August 5th.
At first glance, this development seems a little ridiculous. Bass averaged 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a game for the Celtics last season. He’s reasonably paid at $6.9 million dollars per season. He only has a year remaining on his deal, so he won’t clog up future salary space for any team. He’s a versatile defender and by all accounts he’s a fine citizen in any NBA locker room. Knowing this, why can’t the Celtics get anything for him?
There appear to be a couple of reasons for this in my estimation. First off, most playoff teams have found cheaper alternatives to Bass this offseason via the draft or free agency. Why trade for Bass when you can get a similar player like Humphries in free agency for just $4.5 million per year? Bass may be paid reasonably, but today’s NBA free agency market is putting the squeeze on role players like him in the frontcourt that don’t have 3-point range.
Boston’s pool of potential trade partners is also somewhat limited. Rebuilding teams don’t want Bass for the same reason the Celtics don’t need him. They are looking for younger, inexpensive players with potential, not guys that will soon be on the wrong side of 30.
That means all that’s left for Bass trade partners are potential fringe-playoff teams, and the returns from them in a deal would likely be slim. First round draft picks are becoming pretty hard to come by and it’s unlikely the Celtics would be able to fetch one for Bass in what would likely just be a one year rental of the power forward by said team. The Celtics are not looking to add more bodies to their roster anyway, so unless the deal is one-for-one involving a younger player, options are severely limited.
All of this leaves the Celtics in a pretty tough conundrum with Bass.
For now, instead of selling low, Ainge will likely be forced to wait it out and hope another team develops a void at power forward in the coming months. Otherwise, the Celtics will be stuck having to look elsewhere to relieve their roster crunch.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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