The Celtics are in quite the pickle and no one even knows about it yet. Everyone laughs at the 76ers current situation. They went 3 straight years drafting a center with their first pick on draft night, and now they are realizing their fate.
Nerlens Noel was pushed completely out of the rotation on Sunday by coach Brett Brown, making it even harder than it already was for the 76ers to trade him. The rest of the NBA is just waiting to try and steal Noel from the 76ers for a cheap price, knowing they can’t keep him on their roster forever. The Sixers got themselves into this mess, but they were just picking the best player available on draft night. Noel, Embiid, and Okafor were all thought to be potential #1 picks going into draft night, and the Sixers were just trying to make the most of their pick. Taking a player with substantially less upside than another with a top 3 pick in the NBA draft is the more dangerous proposition for a team in need of a superstar. Which brings us to: The Brooklyn Pick.
Currently, the Brooklyn Nets hold the 2nd worst record in the NBA, which should grant the Celtics a very high pick come draft night. The problem comes when you look at the names at the top of the 2017 class. Players like Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball, and even Frank Ntilikina and Malik Monk are the ones you’ll be hearing scouts raving about all season long. The problem when it comes to the Celtics is… they’re all guards. With a backcourt of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics are stacked at the position. The only non guards in the top 5 of some big boards are Harry Giles and Jonathan Isaac. Giles is the biggest question mark in the draft after a 3rd knee surgery in 3 years sidelined him for the first 11 games of the college basketball season, and Isaac has significantly less upside than almost everyone else mentioned. The big fish in this draft are Fultz, Jackson, and Ball, and since all 3 are guards, it means the Celtics need to learn from the 76ers situation and get out in front of this before it’s too late.
This is the same problem that kept the Celtics from drafting Kris Dunn last year. Some thought the Celtics would draft Dunn and try to deal him after the draft, and teams were salivating at the opportunity to give the Celtics the ‘76ers treatment’ and wait until they had to trade Dunn for a lesser offer. The Celtics stayed away from Dunn, in spite of the fact that some regarded him as the best player in the draft. If the Celtics trade Avery Bradley before the trade deadline they can still get full market value, but wait until draft night and teams will catch on, and offer significantly less than he’s worth.
Of course all of this is a mute point if the Celtics end up packaging their picks for a superstar, and I’m not saying they should dump Avery Bradley. In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite. Avery Bradley is having the best season of his career, and he’s at peak value. Trading him now could prove beneficial, as he may swing a big return. Something like this would be a perfect trade for the Celtics to make:
Nuggets get: Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller, Grizzlies 2019 first round pick (top 8 protected pick), Celtics 2018 first round pick
Celtics get: Kenneth Faried, Will Barton
Barton replaces the scoring Bradley brought to the team, while Smart can supply the defense. Meanwhile Faried can help to fix the Celtics glaring rebounding issue.
Waiting until draft night isn’t an option. Teams are always looking for an angle, and a way to win a trade. Doing this now is the best way to ensure the Celtics get the most out of their assets. The reason I’m pegging Bradley as the odd man out instead of Smart is not just because Bradley has more trade value, but also because the Celtics should be looking to free up a starting spot for their incoming rookie. Fultz, Ball, and Jackson are all extremely highly regarded. These players aren’t like your Victor Oladipo’s of draft days past, they are all potential #1 picks in any draft. We’re talking James Harden, Jason Kidd, and Tracy McGrady type upside. The Celtics are likely going to be in a position to take 1 of these players, and when they do they should be penciled in alongside Isaiah Thomas as the starting backcourt for the 2017-18 season. You’re in an envious position Danny Ainge, don’t mess this up.
Photo Credit: (Sports Illustrated)