With the reports emanating that the Celtics have promised Royce White, a college small forward, that he will be their first pick
in the 2012 NBA draft on Thursday night, once again we must revisit the prospect of the team trading Paul Pierce.
The Celtics nearly traded both Pierce and Ray Allen just before the trade deadline this year, however both trades fell through according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo
. Allen is no longer under contract, and not expected to return, but Pierce is on tap for two more seasons with double digit salary cap hits.
After not trading Pierce, and keeping him during the team's run to the Conference Finals, there is a certain element of having your cake and eating it for the Celtics if they trade Pierce now. Pierce is 34 years of age and didn't exactly help raise his trade value with some ineffective performances in the playoffs.
Of course, those performances could be viewed as a player fighting through injury for his teammates, as Pierce was struggling with a knee issue.
At the trade deadline, the Celtics had two deals lined up. The first would have sent Ray Allen to Memphis for OJ Mayo and a draft pick while the other would have seen Pierce go to the Brooklyn, then New Jersey, Nets for Mehmet Okur's expiring contract and a lottery pick.
If that situation had proved true, and not fallen to pieces as in reality, the Celtics would have ended up with Mayo and two extra picks this week. Instead, Pierce remains on the roster and Allen will leave in free agency leaving only a $10 million void in the salary cap.
Pierce is still a capable scorer who is always willing to take the big shot in clutch situations. For certain teams, that is very valuable.
While Pierce isn't guaranteed to be dealt, there is one team out there that makes a lot of sense who can offer a deal that would be more than tempting to Danny Ainge.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a really good team, however they lack that one superstar to elevate the players around him. While Pierce may not be a superstar these days, he is a leader with championship experience and can carry a team when fully healthy.
Andre Iguodala has been enveloped in trade talks for a long time. The 28-year-old is, for all extensive purposes, overpaid. However, he essentially costs the same as Pierce, but is six years younger with the athleticism that fits with the Celtics new front court.
The Celtics want to draft Royce White to play small forward because of his athleticism to run the floor with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. Having Iguodala in the starting lineup will allow White to focus on his development much like Etwuan Moore and Jajuan Johnson did last year, and Bradley the year before.
If the Celtics do acquire Iguodala, they would have two options. They could either keep him under his current deal and re-sign him in two years, when he would still only be 30 and a viable starter. However they could also try to buy out Iguodala from his contract and use the cap space as part of their rebuilding process.
Any Iguodala trade will not be a straight up swap. The Celtics will look to acquire the 76ers' 15th overall pick in this year's draft also.
The 76ers may want one of the Celtics' two first round picks as part of the deal, but they would likely take the deal without that added pick because of Pierce's fit with the team. The 76ers would not only benefit from Pierce's play on the court, his leadership and guidance should improve the other players off the court also.
In this situation, the 76ers are happy to have Pierce help them compete during the next two years, while the Celtics have three first round picks to help aid their rebuilding efforts.
With three picks in the first round, the Celtics can attack their greatest weaknesses. Fab Melo becomes a likely option with the final selection, unless a Tyler Zeller, John Henson or Leonard Meyers falls to 15th overall or the team trades up for someone like Andre Drummond.
Because the Celtics second two selections come outside of the lottery, taking the best talent available is always a possibility, but getting Royce White is likely along with a presence in the paint such as Melo.
Instead of keeping Pierce, the Celtics would have a flurry of young players to build around Rajon Rondo as they enter what is certain to be a rebuilding phase for Doc Rivers' team.Cian Fahey writes for the Guardian, Irishcentral, Steelersdepot and FFBLife. You can find him on twitter @Cianaf