DISCLAIMER: If you have no imagination and you're a pessimist, this might not be the best article for you to read.
THE summer that Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics have been waiting for is fast approaching, and the closer we get to the most important offseason in almost a decade, the more things seem to be lining up in Boston's favor. With a likely top-four pick, over 40 million dollars in cap space, and two extremely movable contracts (Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko) that aren't guaranteed and are perfect filler in a deal for an established star, Boston is exactly where they wanted to be when one of the NBA's best players becomes available, Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant. The Celtics are also good this year, battling for a top four seed in the East and showing continued growth as the year has gone on. To put a cherry on top, Boston boasts the best young coach in the league, and the rumor is players want to play for him.
Do people really think the cold is going to stop people from wanting to join a winning situation? I don't think so.
Today we are going to look at "Scenario One" and get an idea of how the Celtics could look come draft night and beyond. There is no one formula, it is going to come down to many factors when it comes to obtaining multiple star players to push this team from good to title contender. OK, enough of my rambling, let's get to the good stuff.
Scenario One- Celtics sign Kevin Durant and Al Horford; trade Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Marcus Smart, James Young, Brooklyn 2016 1st Round Pick, Dallas 2016 1st First Round Pick, Boston 2016 1st Round Pick, and the Brooklyn 2018 1st Round Pick to Houston Rockets for James Harden and Corey Brewer.
Clearly this is the dream scenario for the Celtics, but so wasn't acquiring Allen and Garnett in 2007. When Boston acquired those two future Hall-of-Famers, that was a shock, but they made it happen through persistency and creativity. If they land these guys, everyone will be stunned, but this is what they have to do if they truly want to compete for a title. From a salary standpoint, it will work. Boston will have roughly 40 million dollars to spend on two max players- Durant, and Horford, who I'm not keen on giving a max deal to but that might be needed to coerce Durant into coming.
The James Harden deal is not as crazy as some may think; if Dwight Howard opts out of his deal, which he'll most likely do, then it makes sense for the Rockets to move Harden, obtain a top-four pick along with three more first rounders, and take on the non-guaranteed contracts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko. That way the Rockets have the choice to release them and open up a good amount of cap space, or keep them because they are serviceable players. They'll be in a rebuild stage, but they'll be doing it with some good players, and they may find someone that develops and fills Harden's void with the Brooklyn pick.
Trading Smart isn't ideal for the Celtics, but Avery Bradley has the same defensive ability and he brings more offense, so if you are trying to win a title, he's the one they should try to keep. Boston must also try and sign some veteran free agents to team friendly deals, and one target that could be a big help, assuming he's recovered from his injuries, is Joakim Noah. Noah is making $13,400,000 this season and his last contract was lucrative, but he isn't going to get anywhere near the deal he got last time and could be a strong candidate for the mid-level exception. Noah is only 31 years old, so he still has plenty of tread on the tires, but Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls are looking to run-and-gun, and Noah doesn't fit into that category.
Boston may want to re-sign Tyler Zeller even if they go after Noah because he provides good depth. With good depth at every position, and guys like Evan Turner, who can play three positions, Boston will have excellent balance within their 15-man roster. After the trades and free agent moves, here is how the 2016-17 Celtics roster would look:
PG- Isaiah Thomas
SG- James Harden
SF- Kevin Durant
PF- Al Horford
C- Kelly Olynyk
G- Avery Bradley
SG- Corey Brewer
PF/C- Jared Sullinger
SF- Jae Crowder
SG- Evan Turner
C- Joakim Noah
C- Tyler Zeller
PG- Terry Rozier
PF- Jordan Mickey
SF- R.J. Hunter
There is a good crop of free agents, but after Boston makes their big splash and adds two max free agents, they'll want to take care of their own (Jared Sullinger-RFA, Evan Turner- UFA, Tyler Zeller-RFA) and although they can go over the cap to sign their own players, they don't want to end up paying a crazy luxury tax. They have their mid-level exception, which is what they would have to use on Joakim Noah. If Boston could ever pull this off, which I'm sure they will try, they would be the favorite in the Eastern Conference and a legitimate threat to contend for years to come. Boston would still retain the Brooklyn pick in 2017, a pick where they get to swap their own for the Nets, and they also acquired a first rounder in 2019 from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green. Boston would still have an opportunity for high picks while owning maybe the best roster in the league.
Like I stated in the beginning, the chances of this all coming to fruition are minimal, but these are the franchise-transforming moves that Danny Ainge is trying to make. If I wrote an article in 2007 stating Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett would be coming to Boston to join Paul Pierce, it would have been laughed at. Well, it happened, just like something VERY big might happen this summer.
Be sure to check in tomorrow for "Scenario Two", where we will put together another series of moves that would make the Celtics immediate contenders.
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