Postgame Spread
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Friday, June 29, 2007

Allen Trade, Revisited    

More thoughts collected in my travels:

  • There is zero consensus on this trade.  Zero.  Opinions range everywhere from "new Clippers" (oh assholes, Peter May came up with "Clippers East" like 15 years ago) to "smelling like roses."  It's a true love-it-or-hate-it proposition.
  • Apparently the sticking point in the Ray Allen trade as originally configured was... Robert Swift!!!  Seattle was insisting on Rajon Rondo instead of Delonte West, but Ainge was insisting right back on Robert Swift.  Ainge won.  [via CelticsBlog]
  • Simmons went off the deep end last night, comparing this to the Webber/Richmond trade.  Not even in your wildest dreams, moron.  A Webber redux is precisely what Ainge AVOIDED... Jefferson for Allen would have corresponded.
  • This reader poll on pretty much sums up the local response.  As of 6 PM today, it's effectively a three-way tie: 34% like it, 30% hate it, and 36% only like it if it leads to another trade.

As you can tell, I'm still on board with the deal, for all the reasons I mentioned overnight.  Jefferson's still here, Gerald Green's still here, Pierce is still here, and Wally Szczerbiak isn't still here.  Hooray for me!!!

Not everybody agrees.  The common thread amongst the "Celtics just embarrassed themselves" arguments is that Ray Allen is old and just had surgery, that they shouldn't have traded away young prospects, and that doing this to placate Pierce is stupid.  That's one way of looking at it, one that I don't agree with at all.  I think Ainge took the lesser of, like, eight evils in a can't-win situation, and minimized his losses on every front.

I have a strong suspicion that the "this trade sucks!" reactions are mostly the result of not living up to the hype.  We've spent a month hearing about the draft, how deep it is, how much top-tier talent is out there.  Plus, we've spent the last week or two hearing about KG and Shawn Marion.  The draftees are assumed to be can't-miss success stories, and the trade expectations are off-the-charts.  Then Ainge lays up, instead pulling off a pretty clever trade.  And everyone goes ballistic.  Ray Allen isn't going to get people dreaming about #17.  Doesn't make it a bad trade.

I'll address the claims of the prosecution one by one:

1. Ray Allen is cooked, because ankles never heal and old 2-guards are worthless

I'm not going to stand here and declare the guy healthy, discount the importance of ankles to a jump-shooting guard, or deny the existence of the mid-30s decline amongst 2-guards.  The concerns are entirely legitimate.

However... the eulogies are a little premature, aren't they?  He's having bone chips out.  Al Jefferson did it prior to last year, and he looks fine to me.  Why has the extreme worst-case scenario for Allen been assumed?  Has anything in Allen's career, physically, motivationally, or whatever, made people think that his immediate collapse is a fait accompli?  (Oh, I forgot, it's 1943, and he'll never walk again without a cane.)  Until proven otherwise, I think a normal-sized guy like Allen with no history of fragility should be fine.

Attached to this is the notion that acquiring Allen just in time for his decline is stupid.  Indeed, he is not likely to average 26 points a game again.  But Allen's inevitable decline does not make the deal much worse.  If Allen spends the next three years injured, then sure.  Except he's not having reconstructive surgery or anything like it.  Bone chips!!!  No big deal!  He'll be fine.

Allen's not 40 yet, people.  Not even 35.  Save your bile for when he actually is old.

2. They traded youth for a guy who'll give a few good years and then suck

Oh, the humanity!  Hey, look what I found... it's the rest of the Celtics' eight-man rotation:

Al Jefferson (22)
Gerald Green
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kendrick Perkins (22)
Ryan Gomes (24)
Tony Allen (25)

Naturally, any intelligent person looks at that list and thinks, "good lord, they're not young enough!!!"

Please.  The Celts have five players older than 25: Pierce, Allen, a guy who's basically retired (Theo Ratliff), a guy who never plays anyway (Michael Olowokandi), and the incomparable Veal Scalabrine.  They're plenty young.  More kids is NOT the answer.

The answer is to convert that youth into sure things.  Like they just did.

Let's go back to who the Celtics gave up for a moment.  Was Delonte West ever going to be a 20 ppg guy for them?  He's got that potential, but his biggest skill is still knocking down the open jumper.  Get in line.  As for Jeff Green, given that Pierce and Jefferson play his positions, what's the likelihood of him emerging, under a mercurial coach?  Fat chance.  Whatever those guys do in Seattle, I assure you they would not have done likewise with the Celtics.  And they aren't likely to produce what Allen can.  It's a better match on both sides.  Isn't that kind of the point?

Have I mentioned that Doc now has fewer youngsters to spin into and out of his rotation willy-nilly?  Taking options away from a serial fuck-up is always a plus.

3. Don't just placate Pierce and his ridiculous demands.  Stay young and start over, because you can't win with Pierce.

Pierce is second-tier, so don't even try.  Just roll over and die, so we can watch LeBron play HORSE against the Pistons for another four years.  Yup.  That's the spirit.

First of all, that whole position is based on slighting Pierce, which I disagree with in its entirety.  That dude is as competitive as they come, and plenty talented on the scoring end.  Give him a real team, with a real coach, and watch him blow up.  Abandoning him due to his weaknesses is a ridiculous idea.

Second, what's the alternative?  Given the constraints the Celtics are operating under (fucked by lottery, stuck in low-lottery hell for foreseeable future, Pierce's trade value criminally low), what is the proper course of action?  Let Pierce go for more rookies and picks, so Jefferson's prime years can be wasted too?  Keep Pierce, but keep going young anyway, and pin the team's championship hopes on Jeff Green being even better than he seems?  Blow up the team out of principle?!?  Good God.  If this roster looks shitty now, just wait until they trade Pierce for some jackoff like Peja Stojakovic or Andrei Kirilenko.

The only way to get better is to start cashing in chips.  Which they did.  They're in a better position now with Pierce and Allen than they'd have been in with neither of them.

Of course, if they'd acquired KG, and coughed up the Jefferson/GG king's ransom the Wolves requested, Ainge would not have caught this kind of flak... because it's KG!  You're telling me Ray Allen, a guy who has never been physical, is a lock for injuries thanks to some bone chips, but the lanky 7-foot freak who's been going toe-to-toe with widebodies since he was 18 is gonna be fit as a fucking fiddle into his old age?  Really?  Sorry, but if we're playing the "educated guess" game, I'm taking Allen's health over KG's.


Here's my thing...

The Celtics got the best player in the trade, hands-down, and didn't give up anything they needed.

They had depth and youth, but lacked star power.  Seattle had the star, but lacked depth and youth.

The Sonics wanted get Allen's cap number off the books a year or two early.  The Celtics don't care about payroll, because cap space is meaningless when nobody wants to sign with you anyway.

Nobody mortgaged the future.  None of the truly high-ceiling guys are gone.  And they added a pretty excellent basketball player.

The rumored KG/Marion trades, meanwhile, would have tossed the last four years of rebuilding down the toilet in one fell swoop.

So where's the problem?

Maybe Seattle ends up with the better end of this one, and the Celtics aren't that much better.  Big deal.  The bottom line is that the Celts didn't give up any key pieces to a championship rotation, so who cares?  Allen may not be enough to land us #17, but his arrival isn't grounds for castration either.


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