Friday, January 23, 2015

With So Many Draft Picks, What Is Danny Ainge To Do?

Once Danny Ainge decided to break-up the core players that led the Celtics to a championship in 2008 and a return trip to the NBA Finals in 2010, he focused on adding as many draft picks as he possibly could in an effort to rebuild the team in the chase for the franchise's 18th NBA championship.

I will spare you the details of who owes them what picks they have the rights to because it's a long and complicated list but if you must know, click here to see the details.

With as many as 17 draft picks over the next five years, it is time for Ainge to turn some of them into players that can help the Celtics in the immediate future.  One way that Ainge could cash in his chips for a potential cornerstone is to seek out a talented young player that is struggling to find his way with his current team.

To me, no player better fits this description than DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings.  The 24-year-old post player was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Kentucky and slipped to the Kings only because of reports he had a bad attitude and was not a hard worker.

While those issues continue to be associated with Cousins, he has posted excellent per-game averages of 18.4 points and 10.5 rebounds in his career, highlighted by his current season averages of 24 points and 12.7 rebounds.

Cousins should be the perfect "buy low" candidate for Ainge.  I fired up the ESPN NBA Trade Machine to find a match for Boston and Sacramento, adding in Oklahoma City as a third team to facilitate the deal.

In this deal, Boston would add Cousins from the Kings and Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson from the Thunder.  The Kings would pick up Gerald Wallace (for salary purposes) and Jared Sullinger from the Celtics, along with Boston's first round picks in 2016 and 2018 as well as the Clippers first round pick in 2015 that is currently owned by Boston.  Sacramento would also add forwards Mitch McGary and Perry Jones from Oklahoma City.  The Thunder would receive Marcus Thornton, Brandon Bass, and Tyler Zeller from Boston.

The Kings get a reset on their franchise, adding three future first round picks as well as the emerging Sullinger and the hope that McGary and/or Jones develop into contributing players.

The Thunder beef up their rotation for a playoff run while shedding Jackson, who is not happy in his current role with the team.  Thornton can team with recently acquired Dion Waiters to replace Jackson's bench scoring, Bass is a veteran forward who can score, rebound, and defend, and Zeller is a young skilled 7-footer who would provide interior depth for the the Thunder.

Boston would add a potential franchise player, who would hopefully recognize the opportunity to play in a better organization and for one of the game's bright young coaching stars in Brad Stevens. Perkins would be brought in as both a mentor to Cousins - kind of like how Kevin Garnett once mentored him when he was a young Celtic - and as an expiring contract this summer.  Jackson would get a glorified try-out for Boston while trying to improve his image before becoming a free agent this summer.

Adding a player like Cousins would give Ainge the building block he needs to get the Celtics back to the level of championship contender.  Marcus Smart, James Young, and Avery Bradley are a promising nucleus in the back court and the versatile Kelly Olynyk would, on paper, be a nice complement to Cousins offensively.  Ainge would still have several first round picks, as well as a lot of salary cap room, to add pieces around Cousins to make the Celtics a possible contender in the East as soon as 2016 or 2017.

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