Boston trades: Rajon Rondo (to Kings), Brandon Bass (to Pistons), and a 2015 1st Round Draft Pick (via the Clippers to the Pistons)
Detroit trades: Josh Smith (to Kings) and Greg Monroe (to Celtics)
Sacramento trades: Rudy Gay (to Pistons), Ben McLemore (to Celtics), and a 2015 1st Round Pick (to the Celtics)
The Kings get Rondo and Smith to pair with with DeMarcus Cousins. That's not a title team in the Western Conference but it's definitely a playoff team with a bright future.
The Pistons get Gay as a wing player to build their team around with Andre Drummond as well as Bass, a good shooting power forward who would complement Drummond's low post game. The first round pick is also a nice asset.
The Celtics get a skilled big man in Monroe as part of their rebuilding process and McLemore, a shooting guard with potential, to help with that as well. Danny Ainge also picks up yet another future first round pick, replacing the one he'd be sending to Detroit.
Boston would be taking a step back but Monroe is a good player with a good future in front of him. He just turned 24 and has career averages of 14 points and 9 rebounds per game. While more suited for power forward, at 6-11 and 250-pounds he can handle the duties of center. Adding him to a front court of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk is promising for the future.
McLemore is another piece for the future. His rookie season wasn't anything to boast about (8.8 points per game, 32% shooter from 3-point) but he's only 21 and given some time to develop his game and body (6-5 but only 190-pounds) he should also be a nice player in the near future. Remember, he helped carry Kansas to the national championship game as a freshman in 2012-13, averaging 16 points a game and shooting 42% from 3-point land as a Jayhawk.
Future is the key word for the Celtics. Ainge has been stockpiling draft picks and adding young talent as he tries to build the next Celtics title team. With a poor history in free agency, Ainge is likely going to have to acquire those players through the draft and trades so adding players like Monroe and McLemore either give him pieces of the puzzle to win a championship or assets to use in future deals to add those championship pieces.
Here would be the Celtics roster based on this trade:
PG - Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey
SG - Avery Bradley, Ben McLemore, Marcus Thornton
SF - Jeff Green, James Young, Gerald Wallace
PF - Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk
C - Greg Monroe, Tyler Zeller
Thornton and Wallace would be unhappy veterans sitting behind younger players but the goal of 2014-15 for the Celtics if they do in fact move Rondo will be to develop their young players with an eye on the future.
This deal would definitely put the Celtics in the 2015 Draft Lottery, with an eye on adding another young piece. In his first "big board" for the 2015 draft (Insider account needed) ESPN's Chad Ford has several centers listed in the top 10, including Duke commit Jahlil Okafor and Texas commit Myles Turner.
This might not be the trade that Celtics fans want for this season but it would put Ainge in a good position to develop a championship contender for 2017, 2018, or 2019.
The "Derek Jeter Appreciation Night", also known as the All-Star Game, has come and gone so its time to share some thoughts on the Red Sox and make some predictions for the second half of the baseball season.
Red Sox Random Thoughts
1. While there's no news to report on a new contract for Jon Lester, there are rumors of the Red Sox being interested in Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. Like Lester, Hamels is a 30-year-old lefty with an impressive career to date. What Hamels has that Lester does not is a contract for the next couple of years. While Lester is facing free agency this offseason, Hamels is under contract through 2018 for $90-million.
Is Hamels the team's backup plan if they don't plan on retaining Lester?
Let's hope not.
Don't take that as a shot at Hamels. He is an excellent pitcher. In his ninth big league season, all with Philadelphia, he has a 102-79 record and a 3.35 ERA. A three-time N.L. All-Star, Hamels also was NLCS and World Series MVP for the Phillies in their championship season of 2008.
My issue with the possibility of adding Hamels as a precursor to losing Lester is the cost to the Red Sox. It makes no sense to trade two (or three or four) top prospects to gain a pitcher the team basically already has.
That's right. Lester is also in his ninth season, has a career record of 109-63 and an ERA of 3.66. Lester has no individual postseason hardware to boast about like Hamels but he does have an extra World Series ring to his name. While not identical, Lester and Hamels have had about as similar of careers as possible to this point.
What the Red Sox need to do is pony up the dollars for Lester. He has earned a big payday and the Red Sox have the resources to be the team to give it to him. I'm not necessarily opposed to the Red Sox adding a pitcher of Hamels' ability but it is a bad decision to let Lester leave as a free agent while giving up valuable prospects for Hamels.
The Red Sox have other holes to fill that will probably require the use of prospects in a trade (cough, Giancarlo Stanton, cough) so they should not be used in a move to replace Lester when they really should not be in a position to have to replace Lester.
2. While I do appreciate Derek Jeter, his All-Star Game tribute was bittersweet for me in that it reminded me of the career that didn't end up happening for Nomar Garciaparra.
Nomar and Jeter were contemporaries and although Jeter had the World Series rings to his name, Nomar was the better player when they were younger.
From his Rookie of the Year campaign of 1997 through 2000, Nomar was building a resume comparable to some of the greatest hitters in baseball's history. Four straight top-10 finishes in the A.L. MVP ballot, finishing as high as second in 1998 (which, ironically, was the only year he was not an All-Star in that period). Consecutive batting titles in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372). He even carried, along with Pedro Martinez, a less-than-average Red Sox team to the ALCS in 1999. In short, Nomar was the guy who was going to end Boston's long and tortuous World Series drought.
Then the injuries started happening, a wrist injury costing him almost the entire 2001 season. Then the Red Sox spent mega-bucks on Manny Ramirez. Then David Ortiz and the 2003 Red Sox almost broke the Curse, with Nomar's help (he finished seventh in the A.L. MVP vote in 2003), but not strictly because of Nomar.
Then came the offseason of 2003-2004. The Red Sox attempted to deal Manny Ramirez (and an unknown Single-A pitcher named Jon Lester) to the Rangers for shortstop Alex Rodriguez, a move that would have led to Nomar being traded to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. Neither trade happened but Nomar obviously wasn't feeling the love from the Red Sox, who also "only" offered a 4-year/$60-million contract extension that spring in anticipation of his impending free agency, another source of discontent.
At the start of 2004, Nomar was on the disabled list with an Achilles tendon injury. The Red Sox front office had put a lot into the 2004 season, adding Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, knowing they had a legitimate shot at finally winning the World Series before Nomar, Pedro, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek became free agents. Nomar returned in June but was not the same and with the team struggling towards the end of July, Nomar was traded to the Cubs in a multi-team deal that brought Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz, and the 2004 World Series title to Boston.
That's right, when the Red Sox finally won a World Series after 86 years of waiting, Nomar Garciaparra was a Chicago Cub.
Nomar suffered through a few more injury plagued seasons in which he continued to hit, just not at the clip he did from 1997-2000. As a Dodger in 2006 he hit .303, made the All-Star Game, and finished 13th in the N.L. MVP race. It was the last good season for a guy who at one point looked like he would be his generation's Joe DiMaggio.
Since he left Boston, the team has won three World Series titles and become known as one of the most successful franchises in the sport. That success has made it easy to forget Nomar as if he were a lost star from the 1950's. For those of us that watched him, Nomar will always be known as a terrific hitter and leader of the Red Sox revival of the late 20th Century that led to the championship years of 2004, 2007, and 2013.
The 24-year-old left fielder is the type of hitter that the Red Sox should be willing to pay a premium price for, both in terms of prospects in a trade and then a long-term contract extension, because he can be the foundation of the team's offense for the next decade.
In his first four seasons he has averaged 29 home runs and 73 RBI. He is on pace for over 40 home runs and over 100 RBI this season. His power is jaw dropping and watching any clips of his mammoth home runs (like the one below from Monday's Home Run Derby) give a Red Sox fan the opportunity to dream about what he'd do with the Green Monster just 315 feet away from home plate 81 games each season.
If I were Ben Cherington my initial offer to the Marlins would be based around my top two prospects, Xander Bogaerts and Henry Owens, and then I'd be willing to add an additional pitching prospect and positional prospect. Stanton is worth a premium price and Cherington should be offering to pony up the pieces to add him to Boston's lineup.
A Stanton trade would obviously cost the Red Sox their top guys, another reason why the team should pay up for Jon Lester and not make a trade for Cole Hamels.
Predictions for the Second Half A.L. Playoff Predictions
East - Toronto Blue Jays
Central - Detroit Tigers
West - Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card - Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles
Wild Card Game
Athletics over Orioles
Tigers over Blue Jays, Athletics over Angels
Tigers over Athletics
N.L. Playoff Predictions
East - Washington Nationals
Central - St. Louis Cardinals
West -San Francisco Giants
Wild Card - Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card Game
Dodgers over Braves
Nationals over Dodgers, Giants over Cardinals
Nationals over Giants
Tigers over Nationals
A.L. MVP - Mike Trout, Angels
N.L. MVP - Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
A.L. Cy Young - Felix Hernandez, Mariners
N.L. Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
A.L. Rookie of the Year - Jose Abreu, White Sox
N.L. Rookie of the Year - Billy Hamilton, Reds
A.L. Manager of the Year - John Gibbons, Blue Jays
N.L. Manager of the Year - Bryan Price, Reds