It’s been speculated that Boston would shop their pick since they have the capability to win now. And this trade, which nets the Celtics the No. 3 overall pick along with the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick, proves the rumors true.
While Boston added more high picks to their arsenal, they could’ve also held pat and drafted Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, who’s good enough to be the consensus top selection.
Now, the question is why Boston decided to pass on this opportunity to move down in the draft and pick up another (potentially) high selection next year. Let’s look at four reasons why below.
No. 1: To Draft Josh Jackson
Kansas wing Josh Jackson has been linked to everybody from the Celtics at No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4. CBS Sports claims that Josh Jackson is GM Danny Ainge’s guy, thanks to his length and defensive ability. And it’s very possible that the Celtics traded down because they think Jackson will be available at the third spot.
Assuming this is true and they get Jackson, Boston pulled off a great move. Instead of just taking him with the top pick, they grab an additional asset – something that many teams would’ve given the Celtics to draft Fultz.
The downside to this move is that L.A. could still take Jackson at No. 2. In this event, Boston would be in a bind, deciding whether to take point guards Lonzo Ball or De’Aaron Fox, or go with Duke forward Jayson Tatum. One more option includes trading down again, although Ainge enters unfamiliar territory the further he goes down in the draft.
No. 2: To Trade for a Superstar (i.e. Jimmy Butler or Paul George)
By picking up LA’s 2018 selection to go along with this year’s No. 3 pick, they have more assets to trade. Packaged with Brooklyn’s 2018 pick, this presents an awfully enticing treasure trove for interested teams. And let’s not forget that Boston has a first-round pick coming from Memphis in the future.
Ainge has done an excellent job of grabbing assets. But when does it come time to finally cash in on them and become an elite contender?
That time will be now if he trades draft picks for a superstar. Both Chicago and Indiana would be surrendering their chances of winning by trading their top players. And they’ll want high draft picks in return. Boston has this – the question is whom they want to make the move for.
Odds are that they’ll go for Butler first because he’s under contract for a few more seasons. George, on the other hand, is a free agent next season and has eyes on the Lakers in 2018.
By giving up Fultz now, Ainge also gives up the chance to add another superstar to the core. It only makes sense if he’s figuring out how to turn these picks into another All-Star.
No. 3: Because Celtics Only Need Isaiah Thomas at Point
One of the biggest discussions leading up to the 2017 Draft is if Fultz and Celtics star Isaiah Thomas could share the court. After all, both are point guards by nature, and it’s likely that they’d play a lot together.
Another floated theory was that Boston would use Fultz at point if they decided not to give Thomas a max contract next offseason.
We don’t have to worry about these scenarios now, though, because there’s no way that Fultz will slide to No. 3. Going further, it seems more and more likely that Ainge is prepared to pay Thomas whatever he asks for.
This seems like a good move too because the 5’9″ guard has proven himself again and again. He not only led the Celtics to an East-leading 53 wins last season, but also averaged 28.9 PPG and 5.9 APG. Earning the nickname “King of the Fourth,” Thomas has proven that he can deliver in the clutch.
Boston could be one established player away from becoming a bonafide contender – something they don’t look to be now after being beaten by Cleveland 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Fultz wouldn’t be the player they needed for another 2-3 seasons….and that’s before we get into him playing the same position as their top scorer.
No. 4: To Wait Until the Cavs are Done Dominating the East
By trading down, Boston could be waiting out King James’ reign in Cleveland. This allows them to take a really good prospect in 2017, another one in 2018 (in addition to Brooklyn’s pick), and/or use the Kings’ 2019 selection to add more talent.
To clarify, Boston gets the Lakers’ 2018 pick if it’s between No. 2-5. If not, Philadelphia keeps the selection, and the Celtics acquire Sacramento’s 2019 unprotected pick instead.
Either way, Boston is in an enviable position where they can stay competitive now while continuing to add young players who’ll help in the future. By the time the draft picks mature in the early-to-mid 2020s, Boston is set to take over the East because LeBron will be in his late 30s.
What’s more is that the Warriors might finally lose their grip on the league by then. As it looks now, Golden State is poised to win 4 titles over the next 5 seasons – as Klay Thompson’s dad, Mychal, declared. And this isn’t just some LaVar Ball-sized prediction – it actually looks to be accurate right now.
Why should the Celtics work so hard to become a contender now if this is the case?
Danny Ainge has proven to be an unpredictably good GM so far. And we may have no idea what he’ll truly do with his draft pick(s) until June 22.