Celtics Shake Up Roster with Deadline Moves

BOSTON - If you thought standing pat was the best thing to do for the Eastern Conference’s best team, Danny Ainge would beg to differ. He was ready to wheel and deal on Thursday, and he wound up giving the Celtics something they hadn’t had all season long: flexibility.

The Boston Celtics drastically shook up their roster this afternoon with various trade deadline deals that will alter the short- and long-term outlook of the franchise. Boston made a total of three trades today that will immediately infuse youth into the roster while also giving the team roster flexibility this year and into the future.

The largest trade of the day breaks up Boston’s core starting five unit, which had never lost a playoff series together when healthy. Ainge made a splash by sending Kendrick Perkins, along with Nate Robinson, to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for one of the top young wingmen in the game, Jeff Green, as well as Nenad Krstic and a future first-round draft pick.

The trade solidifies Boston’s bench with an athletic wing player who had averaged 15.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG this season as the third wheel on Oklahoma City’s roster behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Boston had been struggling to find a wing player to back up captain Paul Pierce since Marquis Daniels went down with a spinal injury earlier this month.

Green, in his fourth season out of Georgetown, was originally drafted by the Celtics with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft before being included in the team’s massive trade for Ray Allen. Interestingly enough, Boston now has every player who was involved in that trade on its current roster, with the exception of Wally Szczerbiak. The rest of the players involved in that trade – Green, Allen, Glen Davis and Delonte West – will now come together to play a major role in Boston’s pursuit of Banner 18.

Though he has started 261 of his 289 career games, Green will serve as a reserve on Boston’s roster and handle the primary role of backing up Pierce at small forward. He’s also sure to eat up minutes at the power forward position, which was his consistent role in Oklahoma City, and give Doc Rivers plenty of options in terms of rotations.

In addition to Green, the C’s also replace Perkins with a 7-foot center in Krstic. Krstic has averaged 10.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG in his six-plus years in the league and is known for having a soft touch on his jumper. He is a career 49.2 percent shooter from the floor and is also shooting a career-best 80.3 percent from the free-throw line.

The acquisitions of Green and Krstic didn’t signify the end of the Celtics’ deadline shakeup. Boston also went on to trade three more players in exchange for the rights to two future second-round draft picks. Rookie big men Semih Erden and Luke Harangody will wind up in Cleveland in exchange for one of those picks, and Daniels has been sent to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for the other pick.

Those two trades are less about what is coming back than they are about how many players are going out. All in all, the Celtics have shipped out five of their players and taken back only two. That means three roster spots are now open and free for Boston to fill with any veteran free agent that becomes available, a ability the C’s simply did not possess before these deals were brokered.

The first step toward filling those holes will come with the signing of Chris Johnson, whom the C’s have signed to a 10-day contract. Johnson, who was in training camp with the Celtics back in September, has been running ramped on the NBA Development League this season with his 16.9 PPG and 9.6 RPG in 33 appearances for the Dakota Wizards.

The signing of Johnson will certainly be the least publicized move that Boston makes today. The Celtics’ other moves have shaken up the league and left many wondering what the underlying plan might be. Ainge is typically a man who has his second, third and fourth steps planned before he takes his first, so we’ll have to wait and see who, if anyone, will fill these final roster spots.

But needless to say, the savvy President of Basketball Operations has given the Celtics some breathing room to make moves for the present and future.

In acquiring Green, Boston now has the opportunity to hold onto an emerging player to run alongside Rajon Rondo in the future. That’s a great opportunity to have, especially considering that we’ve already seen what kind of player Green can be alongside an All-Star point guard who can’t even be compared to Rondo in terms of passing ability.

More importantly, though, Ainge can now sculpt the final pieces to this year’s Celtics puzzle with a freedom that he previously lacked. Boston has used that opportunity to its fullest in the past by signing veterans like Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown and Michael Finley. The list of available players this season is not yet known, as players have until March 1 to be waived by their current rosters and retain their playoff eligibility, but you can be sure that the Celtics will explore all of their options when they become available.

Until then, the Celtics can bask in the notion that they have taken a load off of their captain’s shoulders while adding a premier talent for the future. That’s a substantial claim to make, especially for a team that can now strut its flexibility off to every attractive free agent that the NBA has to offer.