WALTHAM, Mass. — Now that the ping-pong balls have decided the Boston Celtics’ 2017 NBA Draft fate, it’s time to focus on what’s next for the C’s. And what’s next is a plethora of options for president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Now that Ainge knows he has the No. 1 pick, he can use that as trade bait to acquire a star like Paul George or Jimmy Butler, or he can stand pat and pick from what’s considered to be a loaded draft.
The thinking as of May 16 seems to be that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick, while UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Duke forward Jayson Tatum likely will round out the top four in some order.
If the Celtics are looking for a quick way to boost their championship prospects, the obvious choice would be to trade the pick for a star. They have been linked to both George and Butler in the past, and this asset could be exactly what Ainge needs to pull off an ideal trade.
The Celtics went for the quick fix back in 2007 when they acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and they got an NBA championship as a result. But due to the ages of those stars, the Celtics had to start over in 2013, which of course put them in the enviable position they’re in now. But it took a few years of rebuilding.
George and Butler (both 27 years old) are younger than Garnett and Allen were in 2007, but George can opt out after next season, while Butler can become a free agent following the 2018-19 campaign.
So there’s a certain amount of risk with both players, especially considering the reported interest George has in the Los Angeles Lakers. If you could get the players to agree to an extension, then maybe this route makes more sense.
The flip side is the Celtics already have a team that’s competitive and fun to watch. The Celtics were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference this season, and they still can make their team better now and in the future by picking up another free agent and drafting a top lottery player, as they did last season by selecting Jaylen Brown and signing Al Horford. This year those players could be Gordon Hayward and one of the four top prospects mentioned above.
And if you go the Hayward route, the only thing it will cost you is money. You get to have the best of both worlds while you wait a bit longer for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ window to close.
Both options have pros and cons, but if you want the Celtics to be great for more than a five-year window, the better option might be taking the long-term approach and keeping the pick.
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