The Boston Celtics have a full stack of chips heading into the NBA trade deadline. But should they push those chips to the center or keep them close to their vest?
That’s the primary question facing president of basketball operations Danny Ainge ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. For those curious about just how many assets Ainge has stockpiled, here’s what the Celtics’ selections in the 2016 NBA Draft would be if the season ended Wednesday, based strictly on seeding:
Third overall (via Brooklyn Nets)
19th overall (via Dallas Mavericks)
23rd overall (own)
31st overall (via Philadelphia 76ers)
35th overall (via Minnesota Timberwolves)
51st overall (via Miami Heat)
54th overall (via Memphis Grizzlies)
57th overall (via Cleveland Cavaliers)
The cream of that crop, obviously, is the Nets’ first-round pick, which could translate into a No. 1 overall selection via the lottery and give Boston a shot at coveted LSU star Ben Simmons, who’s just about everyone’s pick to be selected first overall. Ainge has insisted no player or asset is “untouchable” as the deadline approaches but also knows that pick’s value, which won’t be fully realized until the draft lottery in May.
So are there any players who are worth the Celtics giving up the Brooklyn pick to acquire? It’s a small list, but we can think of a few names.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The latest indications are that the Kings have no interest in trading their 25-year-old All-Star center. But with the team currently 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, could Sacramento be convinced to part with Cousins if it means getting a shot in the Simmons sweepstakes? If so, Boston should jump at the opportunity. Cousins comes with baggage, but he’s exactly the rim-protecting big man and go-to scorer the Celtics need to make noise in the Eastern Conference.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
As with Cousins, the Clippers have insisted they’re holding onto Griffin, but that hasn’t stopped other teams from continuing to make offers for the All-Star forward. Ainge could up the ante by enticing old friend Doc Rivers with a deal that includes the Brooklyn pick in exchange for Griffin, who the Clippers have been just fine without over the last few months. It’s a long shot, but the payoff for Boston in a scorer like Griffin would be immense.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Ainge and the Celtics have had their eye on Love for a while now. Could the Brooklyn pick be the piece that finally nets them the All-Star forward? The Cavs reportedly aren’t interested in draft picks, but if the Nets pick is part of a larger deal, it could be enough to acquire Love, a sharpshooting big man who can stretch the floor and would fit very well in Brad Stevens’ system. The 27-year-old also would provide elite scoring in the frontcourt, which the Celtics lack.
Judging by the above list, it looks pretty unlikely the Celtics move the Nets pick ahead of the deadline, as there’s a good chance all three players stay put. But high risks can yield high rewards, and we won’t put anything past “Trader Danny” over the next 24-plus hours.
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