The Celtics currently have the third best odds at landing LSU phenom Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Boston’s history of lottery luck is non-existent, of course, so if Danny Ainge holds pat, the Celtics will likely be drafting a guy like Duke’s Brandon Ingram, Cal’s Jaylen Brown or Providence’s Kris Dunn. Those three are fine prospects, but none of them are locks to be a superstar like Simmons.
So, is now the time to strike for Ainge? He’s been stock-piling these assets for a few years now and the Celtics have the best trade chips in the league (save for the Sixers, who don’t seem eager to make a run at the playoffs anytime this century).
Now, the gripe from those salt-of-the-Earth Celtics fans who want to “hold onto the kids” and “build this thing from the ground up” was that there was not a superstar player on the market. But circumstances have changed quickly around the league.
Ainge has been waiting for a superstar player on another team to become disgruntled in his current situation. It’s exactly how he landed Kevin Garnett nearly 10 years ago, and it might just be a better strategy for building a championship team than by waiting for the kids to “get it.” The conservative Celtics fan never, ever wanted to part with Al Jefferson, remember.
So, here’s the deal now.
Blake Griffin could be had.
With one swift swing of his right hand, Griffin’s name is now involved in blockbuster trade rumors. It’s a situation like this that Ainge has surely been salivating over.
The Celtics are currently in desperate need of obtaining a player that can be a top five talent in the league. Even if they got super lucky and hauled in Simmons, it would take 3-5 more years for him to emerge as a top five talent. And from most accounts, the Celtics would like to be back in the title picture in the next 1-2 years.
Griffin is one player who offers the chance to accelerate the process. He has averaged 23.0 points per game in his last three seasons with the Clippers and is only 26-years-old. That’s something you can build around for 10 years, so in that regard he would be an even better acquisition for the C's than Garnett was in 2007 (KG was 31 at the time of that swap).
Of course, you’ll ask. Why in the world would the Clippers do this and what in the world would the Celtics have to give up?
The Clippers are cruising right now, even without Griffin, and they want a title this year. They are built for the short-term. Griffin is out for 4-6 weeks due to his broken hand are there are major questions as to whether or not he’ll be good to go come playoff time.
LA would most certainly want Avery Bradley, as he has played for Doc Rivers before and would give the Clips a defensive-minded guard to throw at Golden State’s backcourt. LA would also want one or two of the Celtics’ other top players (say, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk). And even though the Clips are entirely in “win-now” mode, they’d obviously want the 2016 Brooklyn pick to sell the deal to their fanbase.
But Boston could hold on to Marcus Smart in this sort of swap and would still have other assets available to flip for another star player to place next to Griffin.
Remember, in the NBA it doesn’t take an army. It takes 2-3 great players to compete for a title.
The Celtics need to turn their quarters into dollars soon, and there finally appears to be a dollar available.
Follow Matt Burke on Twitter: @Burke_Metro