The Boston Celtics have the ability to accomplish both objectives by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline: compete for a championship in the short term and stay competitive well into the future.
How would C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge accomplish all of that?
Well, let’s focus on the short term first.
Sure, the Nets are the worst team in the league and this pick could be the No. 1 selection in what experts are calling a fantastic draft. But, the Celtics already picked No. 3 overall last year and got a really good young player in Jaylen Brown, plus they own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018, which also is likely to land in the top five.
Brown has good offensive potential, but his greatest upside is on defense. His absolute ceiling is a Kawhi Leonard-type of player. Brown could eventually replace Jae Crowder as Boston’s perimeter shutdown guy. This allows Crowder, and his extremely team-friendly contract, to be moved before Thursday’s deadline. If the Celtics got Butler, losing Crowder’s excellent defense wouldn’t be an issue because the Bulls star also is highly skilled defensively.
Avery Bradley was a first team All-NBA defense selection last season, has dramatically improved offensively since his rookie season and is on a very team-friendly deal. His value probably will never be higher, so it makes sense to move the veteran guard now. He’s eligible for a massive contract extension this summer even though his current deal ends after the 2017-18 campaign, and tying up a good-sized portion of the salary cap by re-signing Bradley doesn’t make much sense when Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier could soon take his place.
To recap, a package of the 2017 Brooklyn pick, Crowder and Bradley should be pretty enticing for teams with superstars who could be traded. A potential No. 1 pick in a loaded draft and two really good players who both are underpaid and not rentals isn’t bad at all.
The Celtics could part with those assets and remain competitive long term with next year’s Brooklyn’s pick, the two draft-and-stash first-round picks taken in 2016 and a collection of good role players such as Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Green, Smart and Rozier. Not to mention a pair of legit stars in Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
Boston could keep all of its Brooklyn picks, but Thomas and Horford are ready to win now at 26 and 31 years old, respectively. By the time this year’s Brooklyn pick is ready to be a star on a title contender, Thomas and Horford could be past their primes, or not on the team at all.
The Celtics must cash in one of these Brooklyn picks in a package for a star player. The Eastern Conference is winnable with the Cleveland Cavaliers battling injuries to J.R. Smith and Kevin Love, along with LeBron James leading the league in minutes played.
Luckily for the Celtics, they had a Nets pick last year and have another one next year. They can use the 2017 pick swap, which is quite valuable, and still keep an eye toward the future with the other two selections from Brooklyn.
This is why there’s no excuse for Ainge not to bring in a major star to help the Celtics compete for banner 18 right now. Ainge wisely has been patient with these assets, but it’s time to strike.
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