After months of speculation, the NBA Draft is here, and push will finally come to shove for the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge has been accumulating assets since the trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, and as it stands, the Celtics own three first round picks and five second round picks, including the number three overall pick. Now that we are here, let’s look at all the possibilities that may unfold draft night.
The possibilities break up into two subgroups: keeping the third overall pick and trading the pick. So let’s begin with keeping the pick.
The Celtics Keep The Third Overall Pick
Though there have been reports that the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers could take a player other than Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram with the respective first and second picks in the draft, don’t expect that to happen. Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, in some order, will be the first two players taken off the board.
So where does that leave the Celtics?
There is a group of six players that the Celtics will consider with the third pick.
PG Kris Dunn- Providence
SG Jamal Murray- Kentucky
SG Buddy Hield- Oklahoma
PF Dragan Bender- Maccabi Tel Aviv
SF Jaylen Brown- California
SF Marquese Chriss- Washington
The Celtics making the number three pick would likely mean the Celtics will continue on the path of player development. Though this is not the “fireworks” that fans are hoping for, this would be the smart move if the right trade for a superstar isn’t on the table. The worst thing the Celtics can do is to make a big trade for the sake of making a trade.
If the Celtics do end up selecting a player with the third pick, they should choose the best player available, rather than the best fit. The Celtics number one need is a top 10-15 player in the NBA that is capable of being the best player on a championship contender. Making the pick probably means that the path to a championship will take a few years, and that most of the players on the current Celtics team won’t be here when Banner 18 is raised. That is why the Celtics should be drafting their best chance at a superstar, rather than what this current team lacks.
That is why I am taking Kris Dunn with the third pick. He may be redundant because of the presence of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, but he is probably the best player available at this point in the draft, and the Celtics best chance at a superstar. Trading Avery Bradley to make room for Kris Dunn is the best course of action if the Celtics make the third pick.
The Celtics Trade The Third Overall Pick
The Celtics are aggressively trying to trade the third overall pick. I believe that there are three scenarios in play if they do indeed trade the pick: trading down in the draft, swapping it for a promising young player, or trading for an established star.
Scenario One: Trading Down In The Draft
Since there are six players in the group the Celtics could consider with the third pick, that means at least one of these players will be available as low as the number eight pick.
Here are the teams with picks four through eight.
- Phoenix Suns
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Denver Nuggets
- Sacramento Kings
If one of the teams mentioned above falls in love with one for the players in the group of six, that team could trade up to the third pick to ensure they get that player. In return, the Celtics would receive that team’s top eight pick, as well as either a young player or a future draft pick.
For example, say the Timberwolves fall in love with Dragan Bender, but fear the Suns will take him at number four. They could trade with the Celtics to get to number three and secure Bender, while the Celtics would still get a top five pick, but also get one of Minnesota’s young players, like Gorgui Dieng.
This is a way for the Celtics to maximize their trade assets and be in a better position to make a trade in the future.
Scenario Two: Swap For A Promising Young Player
If there is a team out there that falls in love with a player available at number three, they may be willing swap one of their young players for the Celtic’s pick.
Here are some of the players who fit this mold who could be available.
C Jahlil Okafor- Philadelphia 76ers
C Nerlens Noel- Philadelphia 76ers
PG D’Angelo Russell-Los Angeles Lakers
SF Jabari Parker- Milwaukee Bucks
SG Khris Middleton- Milwaukee Bucks
We are already well aware that Okafor and Noel are very much available for a top six pick, and the 76ers have fallen in love with Kris Dunn, according to reports. A deal centered around Okafor or Noel for the third pick is a very realistic option.
There have been rumblings that the Lakers would consider moving Russell to acquire another pick in the top five, but I find this scenario unlikely.
Danny Ainge has liked Parker ever since the 2014 NBA Draft, and would love to make a deal for him if he was available. If the Bucks do not see Giannis Antetokounmpo as a long-term point guard, they could look to use Parker to trade for the third pick and draft a guard. However, this scenario is also unlikely.
Perhaps the Bucks would rather part with Middleton, who has had his name come up in connection to the Celtics in recent days. Middleton is young and gives the Celtics the scoring option they lack. Greg Monroe has also mentioned as possibly involved in the trade, so the Celtics could potentially land two solid NBA starters for one pick.
Scenario Three: Trade The Pick For A Superstar
These are the scenarios that Celtics fans dream of, though it is tough to tell how realistic this scenario is. We thought that possibly Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers could be available, but Doc Rivers has already come out and said that he would not be moved. DeMarcus Cousins has been the subject of trade rumors, but it has been reported that newly hired Kings head coach Dave Joerger wants at least one year with Cousins before discussing a trade.
So where do the Celtics turn for a superstar? Two options come to mind.
SG Jimmy Butler- Chicago Bulls
I believe that of the teams interested in acquiring Butler, the Celtics will end up having the best offer on the table. But, is that offer enough to make the Chicago Bulls willing to part with him? The Bulls are at an organizational crossroads, with both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah potentially leaving as free agents and Derrick Rose entering the final year of his deal. The Bulls could consider pushing the reboot button on their team, starting with trading their best player in Butler.
A deal for Butler likely begins with the third pick, Jae Crowder, and either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart. The Bulls could ask for picks sixteen and twenty three in this year’s draft as well, and the Celtics would have no problem including those picks. The sticking point for me is the Brooklyn picks coming up in each of the next two years. If the Bulls ask for those picks, as well as the package mentioned above, the Celtics may decide that the price is too high and hold off on a deal. It remains to be seen if the Bulls are even considering trading Butler.
PF Kevin Love- Cleveland Cavaliers
Though the Cavaliers are coming off an NBA Championship, it seems they will be looking to unload Love two years into his time in Cleveland. Love has not had the impact the Cavaliers had hoped for when they traded Andrew Wiggins for him in 2014. The Cavaliers will be looking to find Love a new home, and that home may be Boston.
The Celtics have been enamored with Love since the summer of 2014, and have been interested in acquiring him last summer and the trade deadline. Despite Love’s struggles of late, I believe the Celtics would be excited with the opportunity to take a hot on him. The only problem is that Cleveland will most likely not be interested in the third pick. The Cavaliers are a team built to win now and would rather have an established player come back to Cleveland in any Love trade. This is why a trade sending Love to Boston would likely be a three team trade, with the Celtics draft assets going to a third team, and the third team sends Cleveland the established player the desire.
The Celtics do not want to make the pick at number three, and will try their hardest to trade it for an established superstar. I believe that the Bulls will elect to hold onto Jimmy Butler for the time being, and that the Celtics will instead look to Philadelphia to make a deal for Jahlil Okafor. Given the 76ers love for Kris Dunn, a deal makes too much sense not to happen. I believe that by the time the draft is over, Jahlil Okafor will be the newest member of the Boston Celtics.
Celtics Targets For Later Picks
The Celtics will probably not be able to trade all of their picks, so with any remaining picks, the Celtics should target boom or bust prospects. The Celtics need a superstar, and with so many stable roster pieces already present, they can afford to take some risks with the later picks. These are four players who I believe the Celtics should target with picks other than number three
C Skal Labissiere- Kentucky
C Thon Maker- China
SG Malachi Richardson- Syracuse
C Zhou Qi- China
All four of these players have plenty of risk attached to them, but if the Celtics can strike gold with one of the later picks, the franchise will have taken a great step forward.