The Boston Celtics raised their record to 6-9 on Sunday, led by Paul Pierce's 34 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He even pitched in three steals. That's good news for the Celtics in more ways than one.
Pierce now seems fully recovered from a heel injury that has hampered him in the early part of the season. However, Pierce's return to form belies the fact that his team is in rapid decline. As Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus astutely points out today, of the Celtics' six wins, three have come at the expense of the hapless Washington Wizards.
If Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge wants to begin the rebuilding process in earnest, he should start with trading Pierce and getting good value in return. Pierce's contract is relatively friendly; he is owed about $48 million through 2014. Pierce appears to be close to fully recovered, so it behooves Ainge to trade him while Pierce's value holds and before another injury befalls the 34-year-old small forward. Though most of these trades might entail including other ancillary players, here are the central pieces to five trades that best fit Pierce and the Celtics:
1. Pierce to the Atlanta Hawks for PF Josh Smith
Smith is an athletic and versatile forward. He is a big-time rebounder and shot-blocker and can defend multiple positions. He can handle and pass for a big man while also being able to step away from the basket and knock down the perimeter shot. However, there is a problem with their team chemistry. Smith desperately needs a veteran coach like Doc Rivers to get him to play hard, help him with shot selection and drive him to be the best player he can be. The Hawks would benefit with the addition of a player of Pierce's veteran stature. Frankly, the Hawks need a star, a go-to player who is not afraid to be the face of the franchise.