Monday, June 20, 2016

Celtics Thoughts

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cavaliers have delivered the City of Cleveland their long awaited championship and while the individual exploits of James and Irving are to be remembered forever in highlights of the NBA Finals, this space is ready to move on and dream of plans that will deliver the Celtics their 18th NBA Championship.

The Celtics have what seems to be a infinite list of assets at the disposal of Danny Ainge.  This year alone they have eight draft picks, including 5 of the first 35 picks.  They also own the right to switch picks with the Nets next year, have the Nets pick to themselves in 2018, and possess the Grizzlies first rounder in 2019.  Ainge also has assembled a roster of cheap young talent which has created a sizable amount of salary cap space.  To top it all off, the Celtics have one of the best coaches in the business in Brad Stevens.

This year's draft is on Thursday and then free agency will begin on Friday.  Ainge has many options and here are a few that could help the Celtics improve significantly next season.

Option #1 - Trade for Kevin Love

The Cavaliers are coming off a title and normally a team that's looking to defend their title doesn't look to trade away a three-time All-Star in the prime of his career, especially to a team that is trying to compete with you for a championship.

Love is an interesting case however.  After two years in Cleveland it's clear he doesn't quite fit with James and Irving and the Cavs would be wise to move him to add complimentary pieces and draft picks, which they currently lack.

Cleveland could use perimeter players who can shoot.  Boston could use a player to significantly upgrade its roster.  These two teams make for a good trade fit.

The Celtics could send the 16th pick and Jae Crowder to the Cavs for Love or send Avery Bradley and the 23rd pick for Love.  In both trades, the Celtics add Love, who would immediately be their best player, and the Cavaliers get a perimeter player who can contribute to their quest for back-to-back titles while also adding a first round pick.  Amir Johnson would have to be added by the Celtics for salary cap purposes and the Cavs could either not pick up his contract option or keep him as a nice complement to Tristan Thompson as a big who can rebound and block shots.

Option #2 - Swap Picks with the Suns

The Celtics are in position to land a potential star with the third pick but could flip that pick to the Suns, along with the 16th overall pick and the 35th overall pick, to get the 4th pick and the 13th pick.

The Celtics would still be able to land a potential impact player with the 4th pick and by moving up from 16 to 13, improve their chances at drafting a second impact player.  The Draft is an inexact science and any player they potentially pick at 16 could be better than the 13th pick but by moving up they do improve their odds at a better player.

Phoenix does this deal to make sure they get the player they want and Boston doesn't make a deal with another team while also adding a high second round pick to pair with their own high second round pick at 34 overall.

Option #3 - Pay The Price for DeMarcus Cousins

Usually teams choose to build around a soon to be 26-year-old center that is coming off of consecutive All-Star Game appearances and consecutive selections to the All-NBA 2nd Team.

Most teams are not the Kings.

Sacramento has been a dumpster fire since "Boogie" came in to the league in 2011.  In that time period he's played for five head coaches and has been surrounded with a virtual pu-pu platter of players that are best described as poo-poo.

Cousins has also gained (earned?) a reputation for being a malcontent.  Go ahead, Google it.  That reputation plus a desire by the Kings to hit a the proverbial reset button could open the door for Ainge to add a player coming off a season in which he averaged 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds.

This is a deal that will not come cheap.  Boston will have to offer up the 3rd pick and 16th pick this year, the Nets pick in 2018, and the higher of their picks (between their own and Memphis') in 2019. Marcus Smart would make sense for the Kings and Amir Johnson would be added to make things work under the salary cap.

Four first round picks and a young guard with a reputation for being a bulldog on defense is an expensive price to pay but if it's even enough for the Kings - and it may not be - it's certainly worth the gamble for Ainge to take on a rare talent such as Cousins.

Option #4 - Trade for Jahlil Okafor

This deal was proposed on and I have to admit that I was shocked at how little the Celtics would have to pay for a 20-year-old center who can score and rebound.

In ESPN's scenario, Boston would ship Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, RJ Hunter, and the 16th and 23rd picks to the 76ers for Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, and the 24th and 26th picks.

Losing Bradley would hurt but the 76ers desperately need guards.  Marcus Smart could slide into Bradley's role as the lead defensive guard and by keeping the 3rd pick, Ainge could target a guard/wing player from the pool of Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, or Buddy Hield.

Okafor would be a tremendous upgrade inside over the current group of post players.  Having him develop into a 20-10 guy to pair with Isaiah Thomas would not lead to a title in 2017 but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

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