Opinion: Forget Kevin Love, Celtics should build through the draft
Maybe you’ve seen those “Who’s next?” Celtics billboards around town the past few weeks. If you haven’t just know that the Celtics are currently trying to sell the great unknown to Boston. On the billboards are a couple of basketball-playing silhouettes, set to a green backdrop, and there’s more than a few question marks scattered about. A quick glance and you would think you’re seeing a billboard for the critically slammed, “Batman Forever.” That was the one with “The Riddler,” right?
Conspiracy-minded Celtics fans have taken the silhouettes as some sort of clue to the potential landing of T’Wolves star Kevin Love. Oh, and the cutout to the right kind of looks like Carmelo Anthony shooting!
The original intent of the billboards, however, was probably just to get fans excited for the upcoming NBA Draft (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN). The Celtics hold the No. 6 and No. 17 picks in what is considered to be the best draft class of the past five years or so.
But ever since Love spent a full weekend successfully boosting the local economy via alcohol sales tax nearly a month ago, it has become almost expected that Love (and probably someone else BIG) would be coming to Boston this week. The Summer of 2007 would take place in the Summer of 2014. That’s been the mindset here since the beginning of June, and that’s the mindset right now.
While Ainge has certainly pulled off plenty of blockbusters in the past (hard to believe that the Pierce/Garnett trade was just one year ago this week), there have also been plenty of big days with big buildup that have produced blah results. Just this past trade deadline, we all thought Ainge was going to blow things up in order for the Celtics to further tank the 2013-14 season. It didn’t happen. In fact, nothing happened.
Yes, something is going to happen this week in the form of a transaction for the Celtics. But it might not be what the masses want and expect. The absolute worst-case scenario for those seeking those promised “fireworks” would be for Ainge to trade down (or out) in the draft – something he did in 2006. The second snore of a scenario would be for the Celtics to stay put at No. 6 and No. 17.
This second scenario isn’t sexy, but it’s the most likely and it’s probably the safest way to go. Adding the likes of a Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon is the prudent thing to do.
The Celtics could even stay the course in the long run and keep their upcoming first round draft picks from the Nets. Brooklyn is in a state of flux, so much so that owner Mikhail Prokhorov is rumored to be mulling the sale of the franchise after his all-eggs-in-one-basket title shot fizzled out this past year. Chances are that those picks coming to the Celtics in 2016, 2017 (they can swap with Brooklyn) and 2018 are going to be good, if not great.
Many say that the days of building a championship NBA team through the draft are over, but few teams have had the fabulous opportunity that the Celtics currently have to actually pull it off. Ainge, by most assessments a tremendous drafter, could have four or five cracks at finding the next Paul George or Paul Pierce or Dirk Nowitzki or, dare I say, LeBron over the next few years. Landing a player of that caliber would make the Celtics contenders for the next 15 years and the C’s could eventually supplement this young stud with any sort of Tier 2 or Tier 3 free agent, given the vast cap space that would come their way if they stay the course.
Despite what you’ve been hearing for the past 25 days, this is likely Ainge’s Plan A. Plan B – convincing Flip Saunders to part with Love, giving up the truckload of future assets to acquire Love, re-signing Rondo to a max deal, and finding a way to lure a third superstar to Boston this summer using the small cap space and leftover assets remaining – won’t be anything close to easy.
So, who’s next? The odds are that it’s going to be one or two of these “boring” guys fresh from college.
Follow Metro Boston Sports Editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS