The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers , with the Celtics shipping the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft to the Sixers in exchange for Philly’s No. 3 overall pick this year, plus another first-round pick — either the 2018 Lakers pick if it falls between No. 2 and No. 5 overall, or the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-rounder if it doesn’t.
With this year’s No, 1 pick, the Sixers are expected to select Markelle Fultz. The trade reportedly will be finalized Monday.
As for the Celtics, this is a monster move, and it looks like Danny Ainge doesn’t consider Fultz to be the absolute lead-pipe franchise player a lot of people do; if he did, he would keep the pick and take Fultz. When it was reported Boston was seriously considering Jackson at No. 1, we weren’t sure if it was pre-draft posturing. It looks real now. The Lakers reportedly are tied to Lonzo Ball, which would mean the Celtics can still get their guy in Jackson, only with the added bonus of an extra first-round pick from Philly.
If the Lakers pass on Ball and take Jackson, however, then this would get quite interesting, because Ball and Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt would be dangerously soft defensively, not to mention the problem of both guys needing the ball to be effective. Plus, Boston’s loaded backcourt is in Ainge being willing to pass on Fultz, so selecting Ball wouldn’t make a ton of sense. .
The Celtics are clearly hoping the Lakers will take Ball. They want Jackson, and think they’ll get him.
After that, it’s up in the air, but Boston seems to have more moves in mind. Ainge has tested Boston fans’ patience during this rebuild — if we can call the No. 1 seed in the East a rebuilding project — for his unwillingness to parlay one or even a few of his many assets into a big-name player. He has sat tight, compiling young talent and high-leverage draft picks. Now, Boston looks set to seriously cash in.
Without once compromising a very good, financially stable roster, Boston, in addition to the No. 3 pick this year, has six combined first-round picks in 2018 and 2019. Think about this: The Celtics very easily could end up with a pair of top-five picks next year if that Lakers pick falls right, because remember, they still have the Brooklyn Nets’ first-rounder from that 2013 heist. By adding the extra pick in this deal with Philly, the Celtics are in position to offer, say, the Chicago Bulls a potential top-five in next year’s draft, in addition to Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, for Jimmy Butler.
At this past trade deadline, it was reported that Ainge stopped short of dealing for Butler because he wasn’t ready to part with Crowder, but if they were to land Jackson, Crowder would become more expendable, and they could do this and still have a top-five pick left over for themselves.
Seriously, if this works out like the Celtics hope, and it’s looking like it might, Ainge could be considered a genius.
Oh, and don’t forget about Gordon Hayward. A free agent his summer, how can Hayward look at what this Boston team is putting together and not be seriously tempted the leave the Jazz? It is not at all unreasonable for the Celtics to be running out a starting lineup next season of Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Josh Jackson and Al Horford. All of this with six first-round picks, including a potential top-five pick, over the next two years still in the bag. That is no joke.
Of course, there are ways it could not go Boston’s way. Maybe the Lakers take Jackson and Ball doesn’t fit with Thomas. Maybe the Bulls want Thomas in a deal for Butler, and Ainge remains steadfast on not giving in. Maybe Hayward stays in Utah.
Or, maybe it all breaks right for the Celtics. It’s looking pretty good so far.