We all knew that the Boston Celtics had to make a choice this offseason.
On the heels of an anti-climactic loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Danny Ainge and Co. inherited the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Ever since the Brooklyn Nets sold their souls to Boston for what was left of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the fortunes have been good for Beantown.
After losing the Big 3 (or 4 if you aren’t mad at Ray Allen) Boston has gathered an impressive roster led by 5’9 phenom Isaiah Thomas. They have built a roster with athletic and tough players who come out to get physical with teams every night.
The decision to be made was what to do next. Boston could have either continued to chase LeBron and make “now” moves or they could have used their No. 1 pick (likely having to move Isaiah Thomas) and depended on Markelle Fultz and Jaylen Brown to lead the Celtics to dominance in the post-LeBron Era. I don’t buy for one minute that Fultz and Thomas could or should have co-existed. Danny Ainge had to make a firm direction decision for the franchise.
For the Celtics to overcome Cleveland they need a second do-it-yourself scorer to compliment Thomas. Their roster is full of awesome 3-and-D players, but besides Thomas, other players can struggle to create offense. This is why it made perfect sense for them to trade their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a future 1st-round selection.
With the No. 3 pick, they are still in position to draft an elite rookie such as Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum. The C’s struggled in the rebounding department this past season and both are rangy athletic forwards who can help boost production in reserve minutes off the bench. They also retain very valuable assets with the pick in addition to the two additional future picks. If they call Chicago and throw the kitchen at them for Jimmy Butler, will they listen? It is a compelling conversation at the very least.
It is widely known that the Celtics will be a major player once free agency starts on July 1. The salary difference between the 1st and the 3rd pick maximizes their ability to offer a player like Gordon Hayward a max offer sheet in addition to Blake Griffin. The possibilities are endless and Boston can leverage any of these assets into a blockbuster trade.
The Celtics cannot afford to wait on a 19-year-old to come into their own to try and compete for a title. Isaiah Thomas is 28 years old and at 5’9 his game will not age well. He relies on explosiveness and speed which are both attributes that decline with age. Al Horford has few high-level years left as well, so despite all of their “assets” the window is now for Boston. This means of getting a superstar that can play now is a priority to take advantage of aging Cleveland and underperforming Toronto in the Eastern Conference.
Danny Ainge has drawn the ire of Boston Celtics fans for being unwilling to part with his assets for a big name player but this set up for the summer makes him look like the smartest person in the room. It is a rare feat to be a “rebuilding” No. 1 seed that can both compete now while still controlling their own destiny for the future. The NBA world is in Boston’s lap. Perhaps it is time to stop doubting their patience and watch brilliance at work.