The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote a tremendous piece this week on the Celtics’ present and future – a must read for Boston basketball fans.
O’Connor’s piece revealed the franchise’s current mindset as he spoke with Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck. Both made it clear that the team is prepared to land a “superstar” player as soon as this current season, via trade, or in free agency next summer if the prices are right.
Two familiar trade and free agent names popped up in the piece, as Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler were discussed. Also this week, the Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge popped up in trade whispers for the first time. A look at all three players and their situations:
The O’Connor piece was definitely of the “pie in the sky” variety, so let’s roll with that. Durant’s 2016-17 season with the Warriors will end in one of two ways. He’ll raise a mental “Mission Accomplished” banner when he helps the Warriors to a title next June, and he’ll definitely want a new, fresh challenge following that. Or, the unthinkable will happen and the Warriors will not win the 2016-17 title. Durant won’t mesh with Golden State’s incumbent Big 3, he’ll want to again be the leader elsewhere, and he’ll take advantage of his player option – becoming a free agent this coming summer.
The Celtics were either Durant’s second or third choice this past summer, so he could be using a “wait and see” approach when it comes to the Celtics. If the C’s can reach the Eastern Conference Finals (or even reach the Finals – where they would likely meet Durant and the Warriors), Durant would surely be interested in joining Al Horford in Boston on one year delay. If all remains in place, the Celtics should again have enough free agent cash to make a run at Durant next summer.
Here’s just a guess, but I’m thinking Rajon Rondo did not handle the news of the Michael Carter-Williams trade well. Chicago will surely want to see if the former NBA rookie of the year can provide a spark at point guard – meaning Rondo just lost some of his minutes.
It’s also important to remember that Dwyane Wade has a player option next summer.
In sum, the situation in Chicago has a great chance to combust and combust quickly. The Bulls’ front office is well aware of the explosive situation at hand, that’s why they made Wade’s deal so brief. The Bulls can go into full rebuild mode at the drop of a hat – so maybe there is some method to their Midwest madness.
Of course, if the Bulls do go this route during the course of the season – their best option to get back high draft picks is a Butler trade to Boston.
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen raised some eyebrows this week when she mentioned that San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge could be on the block.
“I think there’s going to be some unusual movement [in the NBA this season],” she said on Comcast Sportsnet New England. “You’re going to see some movement that surprises you. For instance, sources were telling me the other day that LaMarcus Aldridge may not even finish the year with the Spurs. That experiment hasn’t quite worked out the way they had hoped. I think there’s going to be a lot of shifting around. That pick is going to be very very valuable because is a really good coach, but no one’s good enough to save the Brooklyn Nets – they’re going to be horrible.”
We think of the Spurs as a team that will never return to the lottery again, but if they were to trade away Aldridge - make no mistake - they would be waiving a white flag. Gregg Popovich is all about championships and he knows full well that a team centered around Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol is nowhere near good enough to win it all – particularly in a conference that features the Warriors.
Would the Spurs go full on tank like they did way back in 1996-97? It’s possible, and as MacMullan said the Celtics own what has great potential to be the No. 1 overall pick next summer.