Editor’s note (JM): This entire post is just an excuse to use Christian’s LA Times pic, because he glo’d up and now works for the LA Times. Congrats mane.
Given the rapid pace of the Pre-Draft NBA news cycle, and how quickly things have changed for the C’s, Jordan Martins and Christian Williams are still marinating their 2016-2017 Celtics Season Wrap Up. As an appetizer, C Will is giving you his thoughts on how Boston should navigate Draft Night.
Written by Christian Williams (of The LA Times), footnotes by Jordan Martins.
Many Celtics fans have felt that this is finally the year that we’ve all been waiting for. The coolers are stocked, the grills are flaming hot, and all we’re waiting for now to kick this summer off are the fireworks that General Manager Danny Ainge has promised us year after year.
Just two weeks ago Bostonians had every reason to rejoice and even be a little bit cocky. Sure, the team got ousted in an extremely uncompetitive Eastern Conference Finals, but within the very same series, the C’s earned the right to the first overall pick in the draft. Talk about a consolation prize. With that being said, it seemed all but written in stone that the highly touted Markelle Fultz was destined to suit up next to his fellow Washington alumni Isaiah Thomas next season. On paper it seemed like the perfect fit. A guard with size and shooting ability, but most importantly the ability to create his own shot off the dribble.
Outside of Thomas, the Celtics lacked another player that could take over the game outside of a set jump shot, so the marriage seemed God sent. Of course, Bostonians can never really be comfortable with conventional wisdom with Ainge at the helm, because when most GM’s zig, he zags in the most unpredictable way. He swapped the first overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for their third pick and future first rounders via the Lakers (2018, if it falls within 2-5 range) or Kings (2019, unprotected).
Ainge is once again stockpiling assets in an arms race that only he has the vision to see.1 The only logical explanation for this move is that the Boston Celtics are in fact finally planning to make additional moves towards those long awaited fireworks. You just don’t give away the number one pick. This isn’t football where moving down from a top selection to get multiple picks makes sense for your roster. You aren’t trying to fill out a team at multiple positions, but more simply you’re trying to obtain the most talented player possible. That’s what this league is all about. Not how many guys you have, but if you have the best guy on the court.
danny ainge: you never have to cash in on your assets if you keep trading your assets for assets pic.twitter.com/83pMin8TNV
— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) June 16, 2017
Ainge must believe teams want the rights to the third overall pick to select their future, via former Kansas forward Josh Jackson or former Duke forward Jason Tatum.2 Despite all of the smoke that Ainge is blowing in regards of wanting either player, the fact remains that we JUST drafted Jaylen Brown at the same position a year ago, and his future is very promising after a solid showing in his rookie year.
So, what is the team going to do? My take is that we package up an irresistible bundle of our prized assets to obtain a star player. Many instantly think of Paul George or Jimmy Butler when that comes to mind. However, George has recently put the entire league on notice that he is bound for the Staples Center by 2018, so unless you’re the Cleveland Cavaliers where a one year rental is all you need to even the score with the Warriors, that’s not your best interest long term.
For Butler, while he is on the cusp of superstardom one has to question his ability to gel with teammates. First there was the “whose team is it” nonsense with Derrick Rose that ultimately saw the former MVP sent off to New York. This past season when things got bumpy for the Bulls, Butler rode shotgun down the entitlement road with D-Wade, blasting the younger players on the team during a Chicago losing streak. Talent aside, Celtics fans should ask themselves if they want to add Butler to a Celtics roster with excellent team chemistry and unselfish guys.
Luckily enough for the C’s, there is one team just a 4 hour drive down i-95 south that is just dumb enough to make a trade that would shift the landscape of the east. I’m talking of course about the New York Knicks. For reasons unknown to the common man, Phil Jackson is hell bent on destroying all life in New York City.3 Alienating Carmelo Anthony, a.k.a the one superstar they’ve had in years? Check. Declaring that their future with emerging star Kristaps Porzingis is up for grabs? Check. Ainge would be a fool if he didn’t try to package the HOUSE for a chance at Porzingis. The Knicks have been rumored to want a player in the top 4, and are enamored with Josh Jackson.
Trader Danny: “EXCELLENT”
Knicks Fanbase: *Gasps* (but not really all that surprised)
Should the Celtics add the 7’3” unicorn to the roster it instantly solves at least three problems that the Celtics needed to address. The Latvian big man brings scoring, rebounding, and rim protection to a squad that desperately needs a boost in all three categories. And… he’s super young! By obtaining him now on his rookie deal, Boston will own both the ability to match any offer when he becomes a free agent due to him being restricted, as well own his Bird Rights. In layman’s terms… that means he could be in green for many years to come.
Outside of that trade scenario, which could involve some players to sweeten the deal for New York such as Marcus Smart or Jae Crowder, there isn’t much else out there that makes sense for the Celtics to do. I can’t see New Orleans ever parting ways with Anthony Davis. DeMarcus Cousins would’ve been ours last year if the Celtics brass really wanted him. So with that said, Porzingis is the best and probably only realistic trade move to make on Draft Day.
Outside of that the summer moves remain seemingly predictable. The team has to go into free agency wasting no time in wooing Gordon Hayward to reunite with his college coach. Should that fail, Blake Griffin is the next logical choice from a talent perspective. What if all else falls flat on it’s face and Ainge can make no moves at all? STEP 1: We draft Jason Tatum out of Duke, a player who “could be the next Paul Pierce.” STEP 2: We realize that Ainge has once again overvalued this vaunted treasure chest of assets like it’s the NFL. STEP 3: Twiddle our thumbs while we wait for the LeBron era to end, while watching with tears in our eyes as the 76ers complete “The Process” and build a dynasty led by Markelle Fultz.4 We’ll always have this memory though…
Markelle Fultz outside Celtics locker room. It's also Boston's war room and where they will phone in the No. 1 pick. pic.twitter.com/HIiV2lg0nD
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) June 6, 2017
- Note from Jordan Martins: I’ve heard different Ringer podcasters refer to Ainge’s strategy as “7D chess.” [↩]
- Note from Jordan Martins #2: We both agree that Tatum would be the better fit in Boston, and can be a key contributor off the bench, with the potential to become a stud in the future. He would reduced to a bench role if the C’s pursue a star swingman, but would start on most lottery teams. [↩]
- Note from Jordan Martins #3: LOL. Christian makes it sound as if The Zen Master has transformed into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters (1984), destroying everything in his path. He’s right though. FACTS. Deadass, B. [↩]
- Note from Jordan Martins #4: We’ll also bump a lot of “XO Tour Life” since we’ll be close to the edge, while stalking Fultz highlights on social media like that ex-GF who got away’s feed. [↩]