With his 53-point night against the Wizards on Tuesday, Isaiah Thomas may have changed the direction of the Celtics’ offseason plans. It had been speculated that the Celtics could actually trade their best player in Thomas this summer as they would have the opportunity to draft either Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball – both point guards.
Instead, it looks like the IT-loving Celtics fans were right about their guy. It looks like you can win a championship with Isaiah Thomas as either the No. 1 or 1A guy on your team. So, it is now up to Danny Ainge to find the other No. 1 or 1A guy this offseason.
The most obvious choice is for Ainge to again target Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler. Position-wise, Butler would be a perfect fit for Boston as he could start at the 3, and give the Celtics a guard-heavy starting five, also featuring Thomas and Avery Bradley. Butler could also move to the 2 when Bradley goes to the bench.
If the Celtics do, in fact, land the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery – the ears of Bulls management would again perk up. The Chicago front office is something of a mess right now, and there’s no clear direction. Here is what the Chicago Tribune wrote this week on the status of Butler:
Even if the Bulls reach an organizational consensus on a decision to trade Jimmy Butler, it's possible, if not likely, the market won't bear fruit and Butler will be retained. In that scenario, picking up Rajon Rondo's $13.4 million option and filling in around the edges before major changes and salary-cap space in 2018 is a possible plan.
Wade and Butler are scheduled to meet with management in the coming weeks, seeking organizational clarity on direction. No organizational consensus on Butler's future has been made, sources said.
The Reinsdorfs are known for empowering their main decision-makers and only getting fully involved on major decisions. And while that likely will remain the case, they are expected to seek to promote a front-office environment in which more voices are heard, more ideas are exchanged and better questions are asked.
Last June's internal debate on whether to trade Butler could serve as a good example. The Tribune reported at the time that opinion was split on whether to accept the Celtics' offer. But the discussion on Butler's place in the franchise only began in earnest during draft week.
Ainge is the ultimate go big or go home GM, so even if he swings a deal for Butler involving the No. 1 pick, he will also be making free agency plays for the big fish: Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
The Celtics’ interest in Hayward has been well documented, but the Griffin to Boston whispers haven’t been prominent for a while. Expect Ainge to at least meet with the power forward this summer. The Celtics would present Griffin’s best shot at a title (even better than him joining forces with Russell Westbrook in his hometown). If the Celtics can swing a deal for Butler before free agency opens, how enticing would that situation be for a free agent like Griffin?
Here is what ESPN wrote about the Clips’ situation this week:
Though they're temperamentally different, [Chris] Paul, Griffin and [J.J.] Redick are each inordinately competitive. The primary question that will influence their respective decisions: "Where can I win?" In recent years, the Clippers have been a top answer on the board, even with all the heartbreak -- and in some part because of it.
The Celtics have discussed a Griffin trade in the past, so there seems to be interest there. He would also fit perfectly into the Celtics’ lineup. How does this starting 5 look?
C Al Horford
F Blake Griffin
F Jimmy Butler
G Avery Bradley
G Isaiah Thomas
Championship material to say the least.