Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics general manager, traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets four seasons ago. Pierce plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, Garnett retired and Ainge owns the Nets 2017 first-round pick. Since the trade, the Celtics have shown consistent improvement in its rebuild. So have the Nets, but in the loss column.
Ainge possesses one of the NBA’s most valuable draft picks in search for a star. They have a star in Isaiah Thomas, but the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors prove one doesn’t win championships. With role players Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Al Horford, the Celtics are one star away from contending for a championship. That one star is available via trade, but the demand for a star makes trading for one difficult. There’s no need to trade for one, because that star isn’t in the league yet. He plays for the Kansas Jayhawks.
Josh Jackson, the 19-year-old freshman at the University of Kansas, ranks among the top prospects for the 2017 NBA Draft. He plays the wing, a position the Celtics desperately need.
In 15 games he’s averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He’s shown inconsistencies on offense, but his all-around skill set maximizes his potential in the NBA.
Jackson is an explosive athlete who loves to run. He dominates in the transition game, moves well with or without the basketball and can pass through tight spaces. When Jackson cuts into open space and has an opening in the lane, get out of his way.
He’ll even make a pass when the defense doesn’t expect it.
But when it comes to defense, he doesn’t shy away. Jackson averages 1.5 steals and blocks per game. His physicality allows him to rebound well for his position. He’s got all the intangibles in the NBA to succeed, but needs to fix his offensive inconsistencies.
Jackson ranks sixth on the Jayhawks shooting 51.7 percent from the field. He averages 28.1 percent from three at 54.4 from the line. Those numbers need to improve, but he’s got NBA range. Foul shooting will come with time.
If NBA general managers are asking for multiple Nets picks and one of Bradley, Crowder or Marcus Smart, the trade isn’t worth it. Most stars are nearing free agency, and with a salary cap spike, they will command over $150 million. There’s no need to sign another large deal with Bradley and Thomas nearing free agency. Waiting for a guy like Jackson gives the Celtics the ability to keep their core and extend Bradley in the offseason. Thomas, Bradley, Smart, Crowder and Horford are all progressing well in Stevens system. They need to keep that core together.
Jackson’s physical presence only bodes well next to physical players. The Celtics love force turnovers and score in transition. Adding Jackson only improves that part of their game. Once he finds his shot, Jackson will turn into a star. Bradley and Smart’s breakout offensive seasons proves Stevens can fix offensive inconsistencies.
The last time the Celtics drafted a wing out of Kansas, they drafted Pierce. History and timing works well in Ainge’s favor.