As we learned earlier today, the Celtics are weighing their options when it comes to Paul Pierce, and would ideally like to send Pierce to a contending team in exchange for a first-round pick. It's not clear yet whether such a scenario will materialize, but if Boston is able to shed Pierce's salary without taking any contracts back, the team already has its next step planned, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. Deveney reports that the C's have a sign-and-trade offer ready for Josh Smith, who would be one of the club's top targets in free agency.
If the Celtics hope to shed Pierce's $15.33MM salary without taking any salary back themselves, the team will have to wait until July to officially consummate a deal, since other clubs won't have the cap space necessary for such a move until after July 1st. It's plausible at that point that the Celtics could find such a deal, though I'd be surprised if they were also able to land a first-round pick and send Pierce to a contender.
One potential scenario could involve Pierce being sent to the Cavaliers for a pair of early second-round picks. In that case, Cleveland could land a veteran to go with its young core, and would avoid giving up a first-round pick or taking on long-term salary. Boston, meanwhile, would add a couple prospects, clear salary, and gain a trade exception worth $15.33MM (Pierce's salary) to make a run at Smith. However, Deveney hears from a source that Pierce-to-Cleveland is probably a "long shot," since the Cavs don't want to acquire a player that doesn't want to be there.
Of course, if the Celtics pursue this plan, it would also depend in part on Smith's desire to play in Boston for a salary that fits into that hypothetical trade exception. But given the fact that Smith is unlikely to receive any max-salary offers, and is an old friend and teammate of Rajon Rondo, it's not an outlandish scenario.
The Hawks would also have to be on board with a sign-and-trade, so the C's may have to flip those hypothetical picks acquired for Pierce. Atlanta would be unlikely to take on any unwanted salary either, so Boston wouldn't necessarily be able to unload a player like Courtney Lee or Jason Terry in such a deal. This is all my speculation though — we're still a few significant steps away from a sign-and-trade even being negotiated by the two teams.