Brandon Bass became a hot commodity on the NBA trade market this week, when reports indicated the Suns, Bobcats, Warriors and Thunder are among several teams interested in trading for the Celtics power forward. While a follow-up indicated that Golden State is unlikely to be in the mix, it seems there’s no shortage of clubs seeking the 28-year-old with a reasonably priced contract that runs through next season. Bass is the Celtic garnering the most trade talk around the league as the deadline nears, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who initially reported the leaguewide interest. Celtics president of basketball ops Danny Ainge is usually active at the deadline, so it seems there’s a strong chance Bass will be playing for another team soon.
Bass makes $6.45MM this season and $6.9MM in 2014/15 as part of a three year deal he inked in 2012 to remain in Boston. The former second-round pick made his reputation as a physical presence off the bench for the Mavericks, and he blossomed into a part-time starter after signing with the Magic following their run to the 2009 Finals. He’s started more often than not since coming to the Celtics in exchange for Glen Davis soon after the lockout, but this season is the first since 2006/07 that he’s spent on a team seemingly destined for the lottery.
He makes sense as a role player on a contending team that needs to shore up its power forward position, and that’s apparently what the Rockets envisioned him doing for them when he was involved in Omer Asik rumors. The development of Terrence Jones would seem to have dissuaded Houston from revisiting the idea of trading for Bass. The 6’9″ Jones has a slightly larger frame than the 6’8″ Bass, and while neither he nor Jones has the three-point range the Rockets usually covet, Jones has been much more efficient. Jones has an 18.1 PER this season compared to the 15.1 mark Bass is posting. Jones is also cheaper, and while Bass could provide the Rockets with an intriguing bench option, the Rockets probably have no call for a reserve power forward who lacks an outside shot and makes nearly $13.5MM between this year and next.
Bass has been a defensive minus, as his teams have allowed more points per possession with him on the floor than when he’s been on the bench four of the past five seasons, per NBA.com. Some of that might be a function of playing when defensive stalwarts Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard are sitting, but that’s not a factor this year. The Celtics give up 104.4 points per 100 possessions with him in the game compared to 101.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s not on the court. Boston also has a net rating of minus 7.8 when he’s in there, and only the Sixers and Bucks have worse net ratings as a team this year.
His rebounding is a weakness, too, particularly for any team that envisions him as a center. He hasn’t averaged as many as eight rebounds per 36 minutes in any of the past five seasons. Still, Bass earns his minutes. His PER of 14.9 since becoming a rotation-level player seven years ago is as close at it comes to 15.0, the mark of an average player. He’d be an upgrade over most bench guys in the league, and his contract, while pricey for that job description, is not entirely unreasonable.
The Suns view him as an alternative to Pau Gasol, but he probably wouldn’t be their first option if they can’t work out a deal with the Lakers, particularly given that GM Ryan McDonough is on the lookout for stars. The Bobcats have been particularly active in trade rumors this month, having been linked to Evan Turner and Greg Monroe, among others, and while Bass would be an improvement over starting power forward Josh McRoberts, Charlotte probably has other priorities.
The Thunder’s interest is curious, since they already have an off-the-bench banger in Nick Collison. The 33-year-old Collison is seeing fewer minutes this season than in any year since he was a rookie, and perhaps Oklahoma City is looking for an upgrade to Bass, a better scorer. Collison only makes about $2.6MM this season, so the Thunder would have to add more salary to the deal to entice the Celtics to take him on and to avoid going into the tax. Both Oklahoma City and Boston are in close proximity to the tax line, so if the teams hooked up on a deal, the salaries would have to align nearly perfectly.
There are clearly plenty of teams interested in Bass, but I’d be surprised if the Celtics can wrangle too much in return. Deveney suggested that a first-round pick could be in play, but I’m highly skeptical that Ainge will be able to command that. The Celtics are probably best served targeting a deal that provides salary relief and perhaps an undervalued young player they can develop.