Danny Ainge Dangles the Celtics First Pick

We all thought Fultz was a no-brainer with the first pick, but Danny Ainge is up to his old tricks again. Is it all a smokescreen? Is he really shopping the pick? Does it help Boston land a big free agent?

Just when you thought the Celtics pick was a done deal, Danny Ainge reminds us that no player or asset is ever untouchable. In the last week leading up to the draft, trader Danny has opened up talks with Philadelphia centered around Boston’s first overall pick. Is there such a thing as too many assets? Has Ainge gone off the deep end? There are a lot of possible trade scenarios at play here, so let’s break them down and try to rationalize them.

What might happen:

Celtics trade the #1 pick for 76ers #3 pick and future first.

Why this might happen:

Danny Ainge loves Josh Jackson. If you’re familiar with Danny’s draft and trade history, you know he judges players not by talent, but by their intangibles™ - a high motor, a nose for the ball, a willingness to sacrifice personal accomplishments for team success. Josh Jackson is not only the ideal Danny Ainge target, but the player he could become is a commodity in today’s NBA. If you look at the elite defensive teams in the league, their rosters are packed with players who can switch on defense and cover multiple positions. While players like Marcus Smart offer defensive versatility to switch onto a post player, the offenses around the league have expanded beyond the perimeter, and long, athletic players like Jackson can come off a switch and close out on a perimeter shooter to bother their shot or stop a drive to the basket. Basically, you can never have too many Jae Crowders or Jaylen Browns.

What might happen:

Celtics trade the #1 pick for 76ers #3 pick, Lakers 2018 pick, and Kings 2019 pick

Why this might happen:

This scenario is a more fleshed-out version of the last, and the asking prices in more in line with what I expect Ainge to look for. It’s been speculated by many that Ainge is looking for another “Brooklyn fleece deal” (which heavily implies he’s only dangling the pick instead of seriously considering a trade). Could Ainge coax Bryan Colangelo into going all-in on Fultz? A core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Markelle Fultz is enticing, but Embiid and Simmons’ injuries leave them as question marks as to whether or not they become cornerstone players (Big people with busted legs and feet doesn’t bode well with Greg Oden in recent memory). This would be great value for the Celtics if they want Jackson over Fultz, and it could keep their win-in-a-few years plan intact.

What this might happen:

Chicago gets involved.

Why this might happen:

Ainge loves Jimmy Butler (read: reasons that Ainge loves any player), 76ers want to dump Jahlil Okafor, and Chicago finally decides to go nuclear. Between Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, and Josh Jackson, there are a lot of forwards the Celtics are looking at, whilst already having Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown under contract. Jae Crowder is set to make $6.7 million next year, making his contract easy to move. Philly would get the number one pick and dump Okafor at the very least, and everything else would be gravy for them. Chicago’s asking price for Butler has been astronomically high, but it can only drop over time with less and less time left on his contract. If Ainge is confident he could land Griffin or Hayward, I could see him paying a reasonable price to add another All-Star in Butler, but I’d be surprised to see Chicago accept anything less than a high draft pick, Crowder, Smart, and another player, and I doubt Ainge gives up that much to make it happen.

What might happen:

Boston keeps their pick.

Why this might happen:

  1. The Lakers take Josh Jackson with the second overall pick, and Jackson is the only player Boston would want if they traded down.
  2. Danny Ainge was only testing the waters to see how high he could drive up the price for the first pick. Last summer we had no idea who Ainge wanted before the draft, but many suspected it was one of Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, or Buddy Hield. Even then, the Celtics and Sixers were in trade talks looking to swap picks around while Ainge also tried to negotiate a trade for Butler. Ultimately, the rumors amounted to nothing and Jaylen Brown was selected by Boston.

It all seems crazy to me, but I trust Danny Ainge and I certainly trust Brad Stevens. Whatever they’re plotting, we’ll have to wait for draft day to see what happens, given the fact that the Lakers could draft one of the players that would be necessary for the trade to happen. A deal could also fall through if teams can’t come to agreements on pick protections. It’s going to be a long five days to wait, but hey, basketball is exciting even in the offseason! Can’t ask for much more than that.

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