Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
In a maneuver that will become official today, the C’s have sent the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia for the No. 3 pick and either the Lakers’ first-rounder next year if it falls in the 2-5 range or the Sacramento pick in 2019, though a source Sunday said that choice may be protected if it’s No. 1 overall.
Without a corollary move, Danny Ainge is punting the can down the road to a value that’s hard to see from this far away. Sure, the view will be different if the Nets and Lakers grant the Celtics the top two picks in the 2018 draft, but it’s doubtful we’ll ever get to that point.
According to league execs, there is no trigger waiting to be pulled that will turn the Celts’ assets into a veteran star, but the talks begun in the past will continue. It’s important to note that when the C’s made the Allen deal in ’07, they had no assurance they would get Garnett, so Ainge, although he insists the Ray Allen move would have been good with or without KG, was making a reach. In fact, the No. 5 pick had been an important part of the Celts’ negotiations with the Timberwolves.
Let’s also take a moment here to note that, while the Celts will be looking at ways to deal for most every major name, a preponderance of league sources insist here is no way in the heat of a New Orleans summer (you know, hell) that the Pelicans are giving up Anthony Davis. It doesn’t matter what you offer, the club cannot give up its marquee player in a town where the franchise is still working for more solid footing.
But as relates to what the Celtics have to spend, it’s a bit hard to see much of a difference now than before this trade. In terms of what the Celtics have to either keep or offer, before the deal their prime draft assets were the No. 1 overall pick and the 2018 Nets first-rounder. Now they are the No. 3 choice, the Nets pick and the more nebulous value of the Lakers ’18/Kings ’19 pick.
The trade that sends the number one overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers will be officially announced today. Unless we see a DeAndre Jordan situation, the Celtics and Sixers will swap picks during Thursday night’s draft, and Boston will receive an additional 1st rounder for their troubles. Even if members of the Celtics held Ainge hostage and prevented the move (á la DeAndre in 2016), I’m not sure Danny would change his mind.
We’ve been getting hyped on Markelle Fultz for the past month. He’s everything you want in a point guard prospect… perfect for the today’s NBA… he has no weakness… He’ll fit fine with Isaiah Thomas. Celtics fans became convinced Fultz is the second coming of Bob Cousy crossed with James Harden and John Wall. He might evolve into everything people are saying, but apparently Danny Ainge doesn’t share those feelings.
We convinced ourselves that despite the team’s surplus of guards, Fultz was still the best option, and that his upside would outweigh any short-term roster overlap. Reports over the past 48 hours have not indicated that the Celtics disliked Fultz or did not think he was talented. But in the above article, Steve Bulpett notes that the team had some questions about his engagement:
“Engaged?” said one source. “Oh, he definitely had some issues with that. But I wouldn’t compare him to Pierce. Pierce was always a gamer. This kid just doesn’t understand what it takes yet. But he’s a good kid, and I really don’t think that’s going to be a problem. I think he’ll be fine once he gets it.
“He’s just a really young player right now. All these kids are. You really have to do some projecting with these guys. Or guessing may be a better way to put it. You can have an idea, but with people this young, it’s hard to really know.”
Ultimately, we don’t know how much they like other prospects over Fultz, but they obviously didn’t think he was worth the number one pick. The Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach reports that they viewed Fultz similarly to other top prospects, and unlike so many of the pre-draft scouting reports, the Celtics don’t see a clear-cut top choice. Himmelsbach also reported some strange communication issues with the Sixers front office:
At 10:14 p.m., TNT’s David Aldridge reported the finalized deal on Twitter. According to multiple league sources, this came as stunning news to the Celtics’ brass, which had yet to be notified by the 76ers that a proposal had been agreed upon.
League sources indicated that the Celtics moved on from the chance to draft Fultz for several reasons, the primary one being that they did not view the gap between the former Washington point guard and other top prospects to be large.
The Celtics have been marred in uncertainty since they moved on from Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. Yes, they’ve improved every year, consistently exceeded expectation, saw players take steps in their development, and even finished last season with a top seed. But in terms of roster construction, we don’t know if the team will go all-in for a superstar, or keep the picks for a slower rebuild, and this trade doesn’t alleviate our confusion.
Before this weekend, Celtics fans finally had some certainty. We knew Danny was picking at #1. We knew Markelle Fultz was the top prospect. And we knew this was a precursor to signing a big free agent in July. Now sitting at spot #3, we have no idea who we’ll pick or if there’s a trade looming. Sixers fans trusted the process, now they have a core of Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons. Celtics fans hold similar trust in Danny, and we’re hoping his final product will be better than the Sixers.
Page 2: Where Danny Ainge Puts His Legacy on the Line
NBA executives seem sold on Fultz. “Flat-out stud,” one exec texted late Friday, when news first broke of Boston’s interest in trading the pick. “Transformative player,” texted another. The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks – a longtime executive with the Nets – tweeted there was a “clear separation” between the first and third picks. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony tweeted that there is a “big downgrade” going from first to third.
Boston made the deal … for what? A cleaner shot at Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, two players who play the same position as last year’s first-rounder, Jaylen Brown, who was selected No. 3 overall? A chance to hoodwink Jackson-starved Sacramento into flipping the fifth and 10th pick for No. 3?
Is a blockbuster, player-heavy deal in the offing? As of now, league sources told The Vertical that isn’t the case. Boston – everyone, really – would love to get its hands on Anthony Davis. But Davis is tied to a manageable contract through 2021, and the Pelicans appear committed to giving the Davis-DeMarcus Cousins pairing a full season together.
So what gives? Theories abound. Clearly, Ainge wasn’t as impressed with Fultz as others. But why? The “they have too many guards anyway” argument is foolish. If a franchise guard is available, you don’t punt because you like Terry Rozier’s upside. One GM hypothesized that Boston didn’t think a Fultz-Isaiah Thomas pairing would work. Fine. But if Fultz develops into a 10-time All-Star, fretting over backcourt chemistry will seem silly.
Painful, too. Fultz won’t be playing in the Western Conference. He’ll be in Philly, in Boston’s division, right in the I-95 corridor. Celtics fans will get an eyeful of Fultz three or four times a year. Eventually, Fultz and Co. will be a playoff rival.
There’s potential for disaster with this trade. Today’s NBA represents the golden age of point guards, as league rules and team offenses are geared towards scoring point guards. With this trade, Danny Ainge is passing on a player who fits perfectly in the modern NBA, and might be the best “scoring guard” prospect since Allen Iverson.
And why the rush to make this trade? Seemingly, Ainge could have delayed the trade, waited until draft night, and extracted more value. When the deal was initially reported, the Celtics were rumored to receive the Lakers 2019 1st rounder (via Philly) AND the Kings 2019 1st rounder, in addition to this year’s #3 pick — that would have been a true heist. Instead, Danny settled for only the Lakers 2018 pick with the strange protections.
In the NFL, it makes sense to move back in the draft, as collecting a handful of good players is usually more important than getting one great player. The NBA is a different animal. You need the stars, or your team will have a ceiling. It makes more sense to go all in for the great player, even if it means giving up some good players.
For that reason, we don’t often see the top pick moved in the NBA. The Cavs did it three years ago when they traded Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. The Magic did it in 1993, trading the top pick (Chris Webber) for the third pick (Penny Hardaway) and three future 1st rounders. Danny Ainge, head coach of the Phoenix Suns at the time, called it “the trade of the century.” But that title actually belongs to the 1980 Boston Celtics, as they traded the #1 overall pick (Joe Barry Carrol… consensus top pick at the time) for Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.
On the surface, the Celtics aren’t receiving as great a haul as the #1 pick has historically received. They’re hoping to bet high on a prospect they like (as in 1980 with McHale) while collecting another top asset.
But there’s another low-key motive for making this trade. By moving from pick one to three, the Celtics will save about $1.1 million in cap space. Before this trade, even if the Celtics renounced Kelly Olynyk and traded Terry Rozier, they would be just short of creating a max contract slot. But after this trade down, they will have enough to offer Hawyard or Griffin a max contract at 30% of the salary cap (i.e – $30.3 million starting salary, under current projections).
To the average observer, $1.1 million doesn’t seem like a huge issue for a contract worth over $100 million. But in the NBA world of maximum annual raises, every last sliver of cap space matters, and that $1.1 million might be the difference between getting a free agent and striking out completely.
With the third pick, the C’s might take Josh Jackson. If the Lakers take Jackson at pick two, would Boston chose Lonzo Ball at three? What if the Celtics love Jayson Taytum and roll the dice with him?
Sean Deveney of The Sporting News isn’t all that intrigued by who the Celtics take at pick three, but rather what will happen after:
If Ainge comes out of the 2017 draft with, potentially, two lottery picks in 2018, plus Jackson and an acre of cap space, the feeling around the league is that he will be looking to sign a top-tier free agent this summer and leverage those picks in a trade for another major piece.
Gordon Hayward is the Celtics’ top free-agent target. Boston has been connected in trade rumors for stars like Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond, as well. A deal down from No. 1 for a future pick would seem to add to the Celtics’ arsenal of young assets as they prepare to vault into contention.
It’s possible that Ainge, who has preached the value of patience as he has gone through the process of rebuilding the Celtics, will simply hold onto his future picks and continue to build assets. That’s how one league executive summed up the Celtics’ approach earlier in the week, before the Sixers-Celtics swap talks heated up.
“I don’t know that, other than Golden State, there is a team you’d rather be running than Boston,” the exec told Sporting News. “Look at the young guys they have and all the potential they have to find ways to get better, by the draft, by signing someone, by a trade. I don’t think anyone likes taking Danny’s calls because he has been on a roll, and you feel like he is going to fleece you.
It makes a lot of sense. If the Celtics sign Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, they have two potential top five picks in the 2018 draft. Those could be used as trade assets to bring in a fourth all-star.
Celtics? Danny Ainge? Trade Rumors? It must be draft season. And for the bajillionth year in a row, Boston is at the center of it all.
The Rest of the Links:
ESPN: What’s Next for Celtics
MassLive: Paul George Rumors
USA Today: Risk for both Philly and Boston