In a recent interview with WEEI 93.7 FM, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge stated that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will be not be traded (via ESPN Boston). This comes in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.
If Ainge is truly unwilling to move his stars, he must improve the Celtics' interior.
In spite of their recent success, the Celtics have been involved in trade rumors for more than a month. The speculation grew louder when Rajon Rondo went down for the season with a torn ACL (via CBS Sports).
Through all of the drama, however, Ainge has made it clear that Garnett and Pierce will not be traded. Per ESPN Boston:
"On if he's comfortable saying that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will not be traded: 'Yeah, I think that's by far the most likely thing. Sure.'"
This has to be comforting to KG and Pierce—specifically Garnett.
Garnett was recently involved in trade speculation, as he rejected an attempted deal to the Denver Nuggets via his no-trade clause (via The Denver Post). The Los Angeles Clippers reportedly inquired about his services, as well (via The Boston Globe).
As is often the case, Ainge has stated that nothing is going to come of these rumors.
Whether or not you believe Ainge is a question its own right. The fact of the matter is, Ainge has work to do if he plans on making a postseason run through KG and Pierce.
It all starts along the interior.
The Jared Sullinger Factor
Lost amidst the warranted hype surrounding Rajon Rondo's season-ending injury is the loss of Jared Sullinger. The rookie underwent back surgery on Feb. 8, 2013 and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season (via ESPN Boston).
As a result, the Celtics are now left without a viable low-post presence.
Garnett is capable in the post, but age has forced him to become more of a spot-up mid-range shooter. Pierce thrives with his back to the basket, but he's also a small forward.
Unless we see a late-career rejuvenation from Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins, the Celtics will continue to rely heavily upon their jump shooting—the lowest percentage looks in basketball.
Should the Celtics move one of their unlimited backcourt pieces, however, they could potentially acquire a low-post presence. Who that player is remains to be seen, but Boston has a plethora of shooters.
As we all know, the three-point shot is as valued as any come the trade deadline.
If it means sacrificing a shooter to pair Pierce and Garnett with an interior scorer then that is a sacrifice that Ainge must make. Come the postseason, they will come up short against elite opponents without the ability to pound it inside.
For those who believe they are capable of surviving without Sullinger, think again.
The Celtics' rank 25th in points in the paint per game. A major reason for this is the fact that, outside of Sullinger, there are no post-oriented big men on this team.
Losing Sullinger's team-best 2.0 offensive rebounds certainly won't help their rank of 28th in said category.
Preventing Points in the Paint
So far in 2012-13, the Boston Celtics rank eighth in opponent three-point field goal percentage. They also rank 10th in opponent field goal percentage.
Unfortunately, Boston is letting up 42.4 points in the paint per game—good for 18th.
Although Garnett remains a respected leader on defense, he needs help along the interior. As solid as Brandon Bass may be offensively, he is far from an elite rim protector.
While Collins may be underrated, he too fails to provide the necessary interior presence.
This, paired with the lack of a low-post scorer, calls for the Celtics to make a deal for an interior presence. While a two-way threat is rare, the Celtics defense will continue struggle against elite slashing teams with its current personnel.
Most notably, the Miami Heat.
By flipping a shooter for interior depth, the Celtics will allow Garnett to man the paint and stretch it out. This will lessen the burden upon the 36-year-old, who will not be the only rim protector on the roster.
The question is, who could Boston move?
Expiring Contracts and Sharpshooters
Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Courtney Lee are all quality shooters from beyond the arc with postseason experience. Barbosa also possesses an expiring contract.
With those two factors in mind, one of the Celtics' perimeter players could be dealt for some help inside.
Terry is a career 37.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc. He's also a former NBA champion, Sixth Man of the Year and ranks fourth all-time in three-point field goals.
Marc Stein of ESPN reported on Feb. 1 that the Celtics were considering dealing Terry.
In that same report, Lee was listed a potential trade piece. Lee is a career 37.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc and appeared in the 2009 NBA Finals.
Perhaps most intriguing of all, Lee is a respected defender.
As for Barbosa, he owns an expiring contract and is a career 39.0 percent shooter from three-point range. Barbosa also has 75 games of postseason experience.
In other words, there are options for Ainge. The question is, how much does he value the interior?
If he's wise, Ainge will complement KG and Pierce with the proper interior help.
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