Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ fan base should no longer be in a rush, because for the 29 teams in the league that do not reside in the Bay Area and do not have four potential future Hall of Famers in their starting lineup – the 2016-17 NBA season was basically canceled on Fourth of July weekend. No one is beating Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors next season, so if Ainge is smart he will sit back, relax, and try to build a superteam the old fashioned way – by drafting players that could eventually be the next Durant, LeBron or Steph Curry.
One of the first ideas that popped into Celtics fans’ heads, after the news broke that Durant would be taking the easiest possible path to a title, concerned a possible trade for the leftover superstar in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook instantly became the hottest name on the trade market when Durant bolted, and the Celtics are basically the only team in the league that can offer Thunder management what it wants (high draft picks, young players) and can offer Westbrook what he wants (a chance to get to the NBA Finals).
There are several issues with “Westbrook to the Celtics,” however. The first is that the Celtics would no doubt have to trade away next year’s Brooklyn pick (which will surely be a top five pick in a loaded draft) and a young player like Marcus Smart to simply rent Westbrook for one season – a season in which they would have no shot at beating Golden State and winning it all anyway.
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Westbrook can become a free agent after next season and he will certainly want to hold a Durant-in-the-Hamptons –like free agent slurpfest. The Celtics would simply be foolish to mortgage their future in hopes that a guy with zero Boston ties ends up liking clam strips and Kelly’s Roast Beef. Even for a roll-the-dice kind of guy like Ainge, that is a gamble probably not worth taking.
Also, not that the Celtics should be in a position where they’re being picky about landing superstar players, but they kind of already have a point guard in Isaiah Thomas. It’s a small-ball league now for sure, but Westbrook and Thomas on the court at the same time would make for an odd pairing.
Ainge will no doubt inquire about a Westbrook trade. He’s tried to trade for him before, in fact, as in 2011 he offered Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green to OKC in exchange for Westbrook (and Kendrick Perkins). It’s clear that Ainge likes him. But OKC GM Sam Presti will reportedly ask for the world in exchange for Westbrook.
“You’re not going to beat Sam Presti in a deal like this,” The Vertical’s Chris Mannix told 98.5 FM’s Toucher and Rich. “[Presti] is like the Ice Man of general managers, he just wears people down and is going to wait it out as long as he has to wait it out to make something like this. I would think it’s going to take most if not all of the Brooklyn picks, the swap [with Brooklyn] next year, probably Marcus Smart as well. It would take a Godfather deal.”
The Celtics should just stay the course and keep using those Nets picks to draft potential superstars, because it looks like it’s going to be awhile before anyone can even compete with that dream team in Oakland.
Durant killed a boatload of basketball hopes and dreams across the league when he made his decision on Monday. He may have also indirectly killed the urgency in Boston.