The Boston Celtics may be in the most ridiculous position of any team in NBA history. The Celtics are the youngest No. 1 seed ever with an average age of 26. They defeated Washington in a thrilling game seven on Monday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. And, they landed the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft via Brooklyn during the NBA’s Draft Lottery.
Back in 2013, the Celtics made an extremely tough decision to package Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, DJ White, and Jason Terry in a trade that netted them Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks (2014, 2016, 2018), and the right to swap picks in 2017. Still, no one expected this would happen. At the time, it was thought the Nets would be competitive with the roster they put together with that trade for at least the next few seasons. Instead, they were dispatched in the second round by Miami in 2014 and in the first round by Atlanta in 2015. The Nets have been in the lottery the last two seasons and that trend could quickly cycle into three if they don’t drastically improve over the offseason.
Pierce decided to retire after his 2017 season concluded with the Los Angeles Clippers but that didn’t stop him from reminiscing on his last gift to the Celtics.
Boston has been absolutely perfect at managing how to compete with the current core and how to build toward their future. The number one pick gives them so many options. I’m sure Danny Ainge can’t help but smile, he knows that he has the rest of the league at his fingertips. Ainge can dangle the pick towards teams that have struggled and have disgruntled stars. Naturally, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Indiana’s Paul George are likely the top targets as they’ve been linked to the Celtics numerous times. Another interesting avenue would be New York's Kristaps Porzingis if he becomes available.
If the Celtics can’t iron out a trade, they’ll just use the pick. Markelle Fultz seems to be a near lock for the number one pick. Interestingly enough, Fultz and Isaiah Thomas already have a bit of a relationship. Both of them played at Washington and they’ve communicated with each other in the past. Recently, Fultz said that he thought the Celtics were a good fit for him and would participate in a private workout with them if they wanted him to. Get this man in the gym ASAP please, Danny! Outside of Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Josh Jackson, and a plethora of other prospects could be fits if the Celtics fall in love with them. But personally, I think Fultz is just a head above everybody else in this draft.
The decisions and negotiations will likely last all the way up until the draft itself, hopefully, Danny Ainge can pull off another excellent move. The number one pick will command a salary of $7.026 million during their first year in the NBA. That means the Celtics would have about $79 million committed in salary money during the 2017-2018 season. The NBA salary cap is projected to rise to $101 million, so Boston would have about $22 million available to spend in free agency unless they waive players or make a trade.
Gordon Hayward is likely to be the biggest fish that Boston will chase this summer due to his ties with Brad Stevens. Hayward also fits a need for the Celtics. He could be the third star alongside Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. Plus, the team needs another scorer who can consistently put up baskets next to IT. Hayward has six years of experience, which means he’ll command a max contract of $25.8 million. His current team, the Utah Jazz, can offer him a longer contract with more raises than the Celtics. It’s going to take a fantastic presentation on all fronts if the team is to land Hayward, but first they’ll need to shed a couple million in salary.
Regardless of the direction, Boston has quite a few decisions to make that will unfold over the next few months. It’s easy to sleep at night when Danny Ainge is running the show.