The trade rumors are traveling furiously throughout NBA circles as the Draft is less than 48 hours away. It's officially the silly season as reporters across the NBA universe are claiming that their sources within the league are telling them what's what for tomorrow night and are spreading these mostly false rumors across sports radio channels, blogs, and their Twitter feeds.
"Guys, I'm hearing that the Bulls want all of Boston's first round picks through 2020, their 1986 Championship banner, and the remains of one of Red Auerbach's cigars for Jimmy Butler. I don't want to name names but my guy Joe, who works in the box office at the United Center, says this is one you can bet the mortgage on."
Here's what we think we know as of this morning. The Philadelphia 76ers have told LSU forward Ben Simmons that he will indeed be the first overall pick, news that comes about as surprising as if Donald Trump declared that he was pulling for Germany in World War II.
After that, it's a mystery. The Lakers are expected to tab Duke forward Brandon Ingram with the second pick but a year ago, in the same position, the Lakers decided at the last minute to skip over Duke's Jahlil Okafor and select Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell. If they make an eleventh hour change again, Washington forward Marquese Chriss or Croatian forward Dragan Bender could end up in Los Angeles.
Following the Lakers will be the Celtics. Boston acquired this pick from Brooklyn on draft night three years ago when they shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets in exchange for first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018 plus the right to swap first round picks in 2017. Since that trade, the Celtics have been trending upwards while the Nets have devolved into one of the worst teams in the NBA.
Danny Ainge has reportedly offered this pick to just about any team that will listen in an attempt to land his team an All-Star caliber player to add to a roster that won 48 games in 2015-16. The problem seems to be, as the rumor mill turns, that no one wants to do business with Boston for this pick or their available players.
If the rumors are to be believed in even the slightest way, Ainge has tried to trade for Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Utah's Gordon Hayward, Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, and Milwaukee's Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker. So far, no one has taken Ainge's bait.
Ainge may yet make his deal as the time draws closer for the Celtics to make their pick. However, if a reasonable deal is not to be made for a legitimate All-Star caliber player - and in my mind, Middleton and Noel don't quite fit into that category - than Ainge should hold on to the pick and select a player with the potential to reach that status.
The third pick may not have the value in this draft that it has in past drafts but it's a wiser move to keep the pick and roll the dice than it is to settle for a Khris Middleton or Nerlens Noel. Players like Middleton and Noel can be found in free agency or can be drafted and developed with late first round picks or second round picks. If they're going to move it, it better be for an established All-Star like Butler or for a player with a legitimate chance at making it to the level of an All-Star like Okafor, Hayward, or Parker.
While I changed my mind in my second mock draft, I am back to the mindset that the best option for the Celtics if they hold on to the third pick will be to draft Bender, the 7-1 forward from Croatia that seems to have every offensive skill needed to be a star in the NBA in his 18-year-old body.
Will the Celtics take Bender if they keep this pick? No one knows. Not even Mike the cashier at the Dunkin Donuts across from the Garden who says hello to Ainge every morning and therefore is a reliable source of information in today's rumor filled world.
They could take Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, or Jamal Murray and I'd trust Ainge's judgement. Maybe the player they draft will develop in a franchise cornerstone or maybe an opposing team will be enticed to trade an established star for the player after there's been time to watch the player show that they have promise in the NBA.