Who are the Celtics going to trade the pick for? That is the main question you hear throughout Boston, from the fans, radio shows, and news publications. We all have a vision of the way Danny Ainge built the 2007-08 Boston Celtics and we naturally feel like he can do it again due to the treasure trove of assets he has from ridiculously smart and savvy trades.
The thing is, there is more than one way to build a team in the NBA, and although some media blowhards believe the only way to win is to trade for superstars, the truth is when you're picking in the top five, you should DRAFT AND DEVELOP a superstar(s). Yes, if a team like the Bulls dangle a young star like Jimmy Butler, and you don't have to dip into the two future Brooklyn picks, then it's worth it due to Butler's age, and the same goes for James Harden. Anyone over the age of 29? NO THANKS! When you know the picks are going to all be top ten (who's going to Brooklyn?) it makes more sense to be patient and go year-to-year with this rebuild.
Am I saying to make all the picks? Nope, not in the slightest, and to be honest, it's impossible because they aren't clearing eight roster spots for rookies. What they could do with their five second round picks is draft and stash players. although that isn't something that excites fans. It has been very beneficial for the Spurs, so if you do it right, it could be a big boost for the organization.
If Ainge is faced with the situation where he hasn't traded any of his three first-rounders, he's going to have to use those picks, and that will force them to let their current free agents walk, but it will also force them to use the young talent they've drafted (James Young, R.J. Hunter, Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey) in the rotation. James Young gets ripped by Boston fans, but when has he been given an opportunity with over 20 minutes consistently? It happened in Maine, and he was great.
Hunter can play too, he proved it last year, same with Mickey. Rozier is a find, and Boston figured this out last season when he started to get consistent minutes. It almost makes more sense for Ainge to make the picks, assuming they can't get Butler, Harden, Griffin, George, or Cousins. Danny Ainge said it the night of the lottery that he was going to draft the best player available, and that is going to be either Jamal Murray, Dragan Bender, or Jaylon Brown.
Enough with the Buddy Hield talk already; yes, he can hit threes and he'll be good, but Boston is looking for a great player, and Hield just peaked as a senior. He's J.J. Reddick and Dell Curry, two great shooters that were nothing more than that. If Hield was on the board when Boston picked at 16, then it would be a good pick, but with a top three? NO WAY. The NBA Draft is more about projecting players than any other sport because the kids are coming into the league and they're not done growing, mentally and physically. Hield is actually easy to project; great shooter, will have a career similar to the aforementioned J.J. Reddick, Jamal Crawford, Kyle Korver, and other deadly shooters. One thing he won't be- a player a team can build around. You need a guy that can do everything.
Everyone thinks Dragan Bender is going to be great, but what about that rail-thin frame? That's a gamble that might not be worth taking at three. Can Jamal Murray continue to get better? John Calipari thinks he's the top player in this draft (as do I) and teams are going to look back in five years and wish they selected him. His negative? He plays the same position as Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, but they aren't nearly as offensively gifted, and Murray has a chance to be a two-way superstar in the NBA. Has Jaylon Brown peaked already from a physical standpoint? He has the build of James Harden and he can get to the rim with ease, but how will his growth project? That is something Ainge and Co. have to figure out over the next month.
Like we stated before and we've made quite clear with articles over the last few months, we'd love to see Danny pull off the trifecta- trade for a young superstar while landing two more in free agency, but that plan might have to be adjusted. The cap room will still be there and Ainge will absolutely try to lure players here, but he'll have to sell free agents on joining the existing core while they add top end draft picks for the next three drafts. Considering that Boston is a big man and a scoring small forward away from contending in the East, it should be an easy sell; offering tons of money helps too.
One name we've thrown around a lot is Dwight Howard, and people always balk, but his numbers are still very good and he provides the rim protector they need. He was willing to go to Milwaukee last season, so it's clear he wouldn't mind playing for a young team, especially in the East where he could help lead a team to the playoffs. These guys have egos, and Howard hasn't been the man since he left Orlando. He would instantly become the man if he came to the Celtics.
Can Danny pull this off? Can he convince a couple free agents that they can contend while continuing to build with their bounty of picks they stole from Brooklyn? That is the first question.
The second question is the big one- we've seen Danny draft just fine in the teens and 20's, but we've never seen him take a top three player. Can he hit the home run Boston needs to help them become a contender for the next decade, or will he draft a player like Hield and maybe win two more games next season? My gut tells me Ainge knows who he wants in either a trade or the draft pick, and whoever it is, they'll be able to score and defend at a top level.
Follow me @ chris_simoneau