Treasure trove. Stockpile. Bounty.
All have been used to describe the Boston Celtics’ current collection of assets, suggesting they’re in a pretty high position of leverage to make a trade. That’s certainly true: The C’s have been in the thick of trade rumors for what seems like forever, and they’re on the hot seat once again as Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline approaches.
But what exactly are those “assets” at president of basketball operations Danny Ainge’s exposal, and how valuable is each one?
With precious hours remaining before the deadline and Boston at a major crossroads, let’s break down the players and assets that will be coveted the most around the league, and how the Celtics can use them as trade chips.
1. 2017 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick
This a no-brainer. The Nets by far are the worst team in the NBA, meaning you’re virtually guaranteed the best shot at the No. 1 overall pick in a loaded draft headlined by Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. The Celtics now can protect the Nets pick in trades, but the 2017 draft is deep enough outside Fultz and Ball to make this one of the most valuable assets in the NBA, period. The only way Ainge gives this up is if he’s getting a superstar in return — Jimmy Butler or Paul George, anyone?
2. Jaylen Brown
The next-best thing to a lottery pick is a recent lottery pick with tons of upside — just ask the New Orleans Pelicans, who just turned sixth overall pick Buddy Hield into DeMarcus Cousins. The Celtics have something in Brown, a versatile 20-year-old swingman who’s used his extended minutes this season to flash some serious potential. It seems very unlikely Ainge would move a guy he just spent a No. 3 overall pick on, but if the trade target is good enough, all bets are off.
3. 2018 Nets first-round pick
Newsflash: Brooklyn isn’t getting better any time soon. The only reason this asset isn’t No. 1 or No. 2 is the uncertainty of the 2018 draft class (and the extremely thin chance that the Nets somehow aren’t the NBA’s worst team again). This pick also is unprotected, and an opportunity to land the No. 1 overall pick in any draft is something coveted by any club. The Celtics seem most willing to move the 2018 pick, and any deal involving a “big fish” should include this pick or the 2017 pick — or both.
4. Jae Crowder
Crowder has proved the doubters wrong in Boston, developing into a solid two-way player and a “glue guy” on this Celtics team. He also comes at excellent value — he’s locked in until 2020 with an average salary of just $7 million per year, a relative bargain for a starting swingman averaging 13.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. There’s a good chance a team like the Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers target Crowder in return for Butler or George.
5. Avery Bradley
Bradley is the Celtics’ best pure scorer outside Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, and he also happens to be one of the NBA’s best defenders. That two-way effectiveness is rare, and Bradley has value both to title contenders looking for a lockdown defender and to other clubs seeking a quality scoring sidekick. He’s a free agent in 2018, though, and likely will demand a significant raise from $8 million per year. Still, if Boston pulls the trigger on a blockbuster, expect some combination of Crowder, Bradley and the Nets picks to be at the center of it all.
6. Marcus Smart
Smart’s scoring ability still is in question, but he can do just about everything else. A tenacious defender, strong passer and relentless worker who’s still just 22 years old, Smart should draw serious interest in teams who can get their scoring elsewhere. He’s another guy Ainge might be more reluctant to part with, but the Celtics are deep in the backcourt, and if Boston can keep either Bradley or Smart while landing a perennial All-Star, that seems like a great deal.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images