The Boston Celtics weren’t able to trade for Paul George. They didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler. They might not sign free agent Gordon Hayward.
Once again, a long-rumored target of Boston’s went elsewhere Friday night when the Indiana Pacers dealt George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package the Celtics reportedly beat pretty easily with their offer on draft night.
Despite these perceived failures — and Hayward still might come to Boston, too — the Celtics remain in the best spot of any NBA team for long-term success besides the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
The Celtics can continue to play the short and long games as currently constructed.
Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Avery Bradley and other veterans led Boston to 53 wins, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and a berth in the conference finals last season. That’s probably a lot more than the Celtics envisioned they’d accomplish when they traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets in that famous 2013 trade.
There’s no reason why the C’s can’t replicate their 2016-17 success next season. And what’s more, they can do that and still pick in the lottery because they own the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, in addition to owning the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder (if it lands between Nos. 2 and 5).
So, the Celtics could have two top five picks, plus their own, in 2018. Regardless of how it shapes out, they still are in a great position to deal away assets — the C’s have six first-round picks over the next two drafts — for a superstar if one becomes available. And there are plenty — Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and others — who might.
Does anyone think the New Orleans Pelicans will win a title with Davis? If the Celtics gave up prime assets for George, Boston might not have the ammo to make a trade for Davis. With constant rumblings of George’s desire to play for his hometown Lakers next summer, risking the team’s flexibility for a likely one-year rental didn’t make any sense for Boston.
The Celtics probably wouldn’t have traded for Garnett in 2007 if he didn’t sign an extension as part of the deal. Giving up all of those assets — which took years to acquire — without KG committing would’ve been silly. The same applies now with George.
The hot takes from local radio and television personalities over the next few weeks will be on Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s “failure” to land a huge star. Well, that alleged failure has the Celtics set up better than any team to dominate the East once LeBron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers or his skills diminish.
By the way, the Warriors aren’t going anywhere, either. They should be able to keep their four-superstar core intact for the foreseeable future, and even if the C’s landed George and Hayward this summer, they weren’t beating the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Patience is tough. It’s not easy playing the long game when the Celtics already were three victories from the NBA Finals just three seasons after winning 25 games.
But with an impressive core of recent first-round picks in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic expected to hit their primes when the Warriors’ and Cavs’ reigns should be over, the Celtics are in a fantastic position to compete in the later part of the decade and early into the next one.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports