Most feel the only way the Celtics can trade for a superstar player like Jimmy Butler this summer is to ship out the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. That may not be the case, however, given the other players Danny Ainge will have his eyes on this summer (Markelle Fultz, Gordon Hayward) and given the fact that the Celtics own next year’s Brooklyn Nets pick as well.
Ainge said this week that he will not “punt” on the next few seasons even though the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are penciled in to the NBA Finals through 2020 in most people’s minds. If you take Ainge at his word, that means that it is unlikely he actually uses both Nets picks to select young players. The good money says that he’ll move one of the picks, and the more likely pick that he will move now is next year’s given the uncertainty surrounding that pick (what are the odds the Celtics would luck out in the lottery two years in a row?).
Nonetheless, the Bulls would be at the front of the line of NBA teams trying to acquire the 2018 Nets pick. In a potential deal for Butler, Gar Forman and John Paxson would up the stakes player-wise. It’s long been rumored that they love Jae Crowder, and to fill the 2-guard hole left behind by Butler, they would also surely be interested in landing Avery Bradley from the C’s.
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Bradley has a team-friendly deal that will expire next summer, and that type of flexibility would surely be appealing to the Bulls.
The Celtics would also likely have to relinquish one of their own future first round picks in a deal for a player of Butler’s caliber. Ainge has done a tremendous job of holding on to the Celtics’ own first round picks since 2013. With the Celtics poised to make a strong run at getting to Golden State – Cleveland level, those late first rounders now become expendable.
Something like this would absolutely be tempting to the Chicago brass:
F Jae Crowder
G Avery Bradley
2018 Nets first round pick
2018 Celtics first round pick
G Jimmy Butler
The Bulls are still playing it close to the vest as to whether they’re ready to go full rebuild but the latest whispers out of Chicago are that they curiously want to get the perfectly mediocre band that went 41-41 last season back together. An anonymous player told the Chicago Sun Times this week that Dwyane Wade “definitely sounds like a guy who’s coming back” because he’s been talking about recruiting potential free agents to Chicago. The problem, of course, is that the Bulls will not have all that much cap room to sign a game-changing free agent unless they decline Rajon Rondo’s option (and most early indications are that they want him back).
Playing it forward
Ainge and the Celtics now have great leverage when it comes to a potential Butler swap after Chicago held it at the trade deadline. It’s why the 2018 Nets pick instead of the 2017 Nets pick is now more likely in play for Ainge.
If Chicago wants a rebuild model, it should look no further than the Celtics. When the C’s traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013, they did not receive their first first round draft pick from the Nets until the following year (2014). The Celtics went 25-57 that first year after trading away their best player(s). But a quick rebuild can be done if you hold on to your own first rounders and supplement them with other team’s first rounders.
Pie in the sky
Ainge doesn’t give a damn about putting players in traditional 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 slots, but trading for Butler and adding Gordon Hayward in free agency would give the Celtics one very well defined rotation. Isaiah Thomas at the 1, Butler at the 2, Hayward at the 3 – with Fultz, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown coming off the bench.