- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Earlier in our Celtics Summer Forecast series, we explored how NBA rosters almost inevitably morph over the course of a season. Much of that change -- or at least the most noteworthy of it -- tends to come in mid-February, when teams overhaul their rosters at the trade deadline.
Contenders become buyers; pretenders become sellers. Bodies are moved as quality teams bolster their rosters for a playoff run, while struggling squads turn their eyes toward future seasons (and maybe more so this year than any other with a potential lockout looming).
While the Celtics have been relatively minor players at the trade deadline during Danny Ainge's tenure as president of basketball operations, often leaning heavier on veteran free-agent signings late in the season rather than a swap, the team did make a big-splash move last season in shipping Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker to the New York Knicks in exchange for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry.
But examine Boston's previous trade deadline history, and you'll find few eyebrow-raisers. For the 14th installment of this year's Celtics Summer Forecast, we asked our panel of 18 writers from eight of our favorite Celtics blogs whether Boston would make a deadline move during the 2010-11 season.
Admittedly, it's an unfair question. It's asking our panel of Celtics observers to not only predict how the first four months of the season will play out, but gauge what the Celtics' needs will be at that point and what the market will look like around the league.
But here's one telling sign: Nearly our entire panel thought the team would make some sort of move, most pointing to the wing position, where a lack of depth still concerns most of our observers. This shouldn't necessarily be construed as a lack of faith that this roster, as currently constituted, can't get back to the NBA Finals. Rather, it's likely a reflection that our panel believes this team will be a championship contender again and therefore in the market to upgrade for the stretch run.
Here's my take: As always, Ainge's deadline maneuvering will be dictated by the team's needs when February rolls around. Few would have predicted the Celtics would be desperate for a shake-up last season after a sizzling 23-5 start that culminated with a triumph in Orlando on Christmas Day.
Around the same time, Paul Pierce's knee developed a freak infection; Kevin Garnett got kicked in his surgically repaired knee causing a hyperextension and lengthy absence; and the Celtics began playing the sort of pedestrian basketball that dotted the final half of the regular season. All of that, coupled with a need to bolster the guard position due to Marquis Daniels' thumb injury, forced Ainge to send a little wake-up call by shipping out locker room favorite (yet struggling shooter) House for Robinson.
Boston's lack of a true backup point guard was obvious last season and it could have been expected that the team would make a move to add depth at that spot. As our panel stresses below, it would seem the wing position has the potential to be likewise thin this year, and -- even before the trading deadline -- it would seem Ainge would be monitoring the market for a player that could back up Pierce, particularly if Daniels struggles or is injured like last season.
I agree with our panel: A deadline move is likely, unless Boston's roster is clicking from top to bottom or the team decides to stick with past precedence and simply add a veteran body that becomes available late in the season. What's more, Boston's frugal summer means there's a handful of movable contracts that could open trading avenues.
Check out our panelists' responses below, keeping in mind that some were made before the addition of Delonte West earlier this month.
The Celtics are clearly vulnerable at the wing, lacking depth at a position that features perhaps the most injury-prone player on the team (Marquis Daniels, who is serving as the primary backup to Paul Pierce). Put two and two together, and I can definitely see Danny Ainge shopping in the clearance rack come February, also perusing the latest round of buyout candidates for some help at the spot. It's obviously been a hit-or-miss endeavor the last three years, but there's no doubt Ainge will try to address this need, if it lingers.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge certainly has a track record for making some sort of deadline move, so I'm willing to bet he does this year. I think he'll still go after Rudy Fernandez (or that elusive wing player). It's imperative that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen play fewer regular-season minutes, but relying on the health of Marquis Daniels is not a viable option.
As the roster stands now, the Celtics don't make a deadline move. If the injury bug hits them badly and they don't feel as though they have what it takes to get far in the playoffs, you may see some trading going on, but nothing major. I guess there's a chance they could want to shake things up if the team isn't performing up to snuff, but I don't envision that being the case. Boston is built for a championship run already; this roster hasn't been put together with the idea of getting stronger at the deadline and before the playoffs. With the addition of Delonte West, the Celtics seem to be already set across the board.
It's tough to predict an answer to this question right now, only because we have yet to see how the roster, as currently constituted, performs in NBA games. If the team experiences chemistry issues with any of the new players or suffers another bout of injuries similar to last season, I can see it making a move to try to alleviate the issue. A lot will depend, however, on which area the team feels it's lacking in as the season progresses. I worry about a lack of trade chips for the Celtics, however, as each player who is set to crack Doc Rivers' rotation should be key to the team's success. I worry about Ainge shipping out a player like Glen Davis in order to bring in perimeter depth, because that clearly depletes the surplus of frontline depth that will be so important for the Celtics this season. I think the most realistic scenario right now will be for the Celtics to sign a veteran player who ends up being bought out by another franchise.
My best guess on a deadline move is no, but if Kendrick Perkins returns healthy in February as projected, Shaquille O'Neal could be expendable. If Shaq has caused any locker-room problems, he may be traded for some wing help. Shaq, at his current contract, could be attractive to another contender in need of a center, like Atlanta or Dallas.
I think the Celtics do make a move. I'm not sure exactly what that move would be, or who it might include, but I think they do make one, and most likely for another wing who can help provide some relief off the bench for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. It will probably involve a team that failed to live up to expectations and has very little chance of making a playoff run.
If they do make a move, it will be dumping a big for a guard, possibly a proven shooter. I was on board the Rudy Fernandez train last month, but Boston didn't have the right combination to pry him away from the Blazers.
The Celtics will make a significant deadline move to add a wing scorer on par with last year's bid for Caron Butler. Obviously, 2012 is the light the Celtics brass have at the end of the tunnel for this iteration of the Celtics, and I doubt the team will do anything to change that. But adding talent at the deadline will be a must if the C's want to compete through the playoffs against teams that can defend and score on the wing for 48 minutes. A lot of who will be available will depend upon how various teams perform, but also the sway an impending lockout may have over teams out of the playoff hunt and facing a lot of red ink on their balance sheets in the next 12 months.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann