It hasn't quite been a year, but there's plenty of evidence in already to evaluate what is widely regarded as one of the worst trades of Danny Ainge's tenure with the Boston Celtics -- the deal that sent center Kendrick Perkins away.
Last February, Ainge traded away the C's scowling big man to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Nate Robinson (who fans frankly don't care about anyways) in exchange for forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic.
Perkins, who returns to TD Garden for the first time since being traded away on Monday night, went on to average 5.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 17 games with the Thunder, who advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing. This season, Perkins' numbers have dipped a little bit, as Perk is averaging 5.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in 13 games.
Meanwhile in Boston, Green would average 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 games with the Celtics after the trade. In the postseason, he went on to average 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in nine games for Boston, which lost in the semifinals. Green is currently an unrestricted free agent, but is recovering from heart surgery that ended his season.
At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer. Oklahoma City won the trade, hands down. It just wasn't a smart move by Ainge, and the Celtics are hurting because of it. Yet it isn't that simple. There are other factors to consider.
JEFF GREEN'S ABSENCE PUTS DAMPER ON EVALUATION
As apparent as it may seem that the Thunder got the better deal, there are other factors to consider in the trade. One of which is the health of Jeff Green, who recently had surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that will sideline him for the whole year. There was nothing Green could have done, or the Celtics for that matter, could have done to change that.
Still, it's not like Green didn't have time to establish himself. Green played 26 regular season games with the C's and played in nine postseason games. It's not a lot of time, true, but it's time nonetheless. In those games, Green didn't live up to the billing, at least for the most part. That much is true, but one can't judge his entire body of work on 35 games.
Green, who re-signed with the C's for one year prior to his season-ending heart ailment, was poised to be Boston's top option off the bench and would back up Paul Pierce and maybe even give Kevin Garnett some rest at the power forward position. He was going to play an important role on this team. Due to his heart problem, he was robbed of that chance.
So how can we possibly know how Green would have done? If he provided the kind of punch that Brandon Bass had in the first few games of the season, fans would be right back on the Green bandwagon. Alas, through no fault of his own, Green can't prove his worth with the Celtics now that he's an entire summer to work with his Boston teammates.
With this in mind, we have to hold judgement on the Green experiment in Boston. Aine withdrew the qualifying offer from Green that had him pegged to return this season, making him a full free agent. If Green doesn't return next offseason, then we can close the book on the judgement of this trade. But if he does, it's only fair to give him the length of that next deal to determine whether or not the Perkins-for-Green trade was a success or not in Boston. Patience, everyone.
FACE THE FACTS: PERKINS PROBABLY WASN'T COMING BACK ANYWAYS
The argument at the time of the trade from Ainge and the Celtics was that, because Perkins had rejected the Celtics contract offer in recent weeks, he likely wasn't going to return to the team in the next season. Perkins was in the last year of his contract with the Celtics and was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. Translation? Big, big payday.
Perkins was and is one of a handful of quality centers in the NBA right now. Quality centers just don't grow on trees anymore. It's clear that Perkins was going to seek a big payday upon reaching free agency, and deservedly so. Perkins got his money with the Thunder, putting the pen to the paper on a four-year, $34.8 million deal -- that's about $12 million more than the Celtics could have offered him. Loyalty was important to Perkins, definitely, but so was making money.
If you were in Ainge's shoes, what other choice would you have had? Keep Perkins, and he may help you in the playoffs, but then you'll lose him in the offseason. What would the Celtics have gotten in return? Nothing. Instead, Ainge did what any good executive in his position would have done -- cut his losses and get the best possible deal he could. Green may not be a top tier player, but he was and still is a talented player with upside. Heck, the Celtics even drafted him.
In response to this argument, people will insist that, had the Celtics had Perkins, they could have contended for the title last season. Wrong, sorry. Even with a healthy Perkins (remember, at the time of the trade, Perkins was still working his was back from the same injury that sidelined him or Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals), there's no guarantee the Celtics could have beat the Miami Heat. Hey, even if they had the roster from 2008, they still may not have. Miami was great.
The fact is, Ainge did the smart thing. Perkins wasn't coming back, so he had to do what any good business man should -- plan for the future. It may not have benefitted Boston in the short term, but if Green returns, there's still a chance it will help out in the long run.
BOTTOM LINE: Right now, it looks like a bad trade for the Celtics. But again, there's more to it than that. Green may be back, and if he is, then the book still isn't closed on this trade. But for now, the Thunder got the best of this trade.
When Perkins returns on Monday night, there's no doubt he will be greeted with a roaring ovation. After all, he was the starting center on a championship team in 2008 and almost another two seasons later. It will be an interesting night (even if the Thunder win, which they probably will), one way or another.
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