The most interesting off-season in the history of the Boston Celtics is nearly here.
There are so many different routes that Danny Ainge can go in, and we’ll highlight a few here.
Plan A: Go for it all
When the Paul George and Jimmy Butler rumors were flying around the trade deadline in February, the Celtics were unable to offer the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft because the lottery had not occurred yet. Now that it’s a sure thing, Ainge holds all the cards when it comes to a potential deal for George or Butler.
The big question here is, does Ainge think that George or Butler are good enough alone to propel the Celtics into Golden State – Cleveland territory. I would say no.
Ainge is the definition of a go big or go home GM, and he knows full well that just adding one of those two to the team wouldn’t be enough. It’s why I believe you can’t rule out Ainge potentially trying to get both George AND Butler. They’d have to give up both Nets picks, some of their own future first rounders and key players like Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and possibly Jaylen Brown – but a team that can start Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Paul George and Jimmy Butler is one that could hang with the NBA’s Big 2.
Plan B: Stay the course
The most conservative plan, and the one I’m most in favor of, is drafting Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and pushing hard to sign Utah free agent and former Brad Stevens pupil Gordon Hayward in free agency. The C’s should also attempt to sign Isaiah Thomas to a new contract this summer and hope that he and Fultz can co-exist on the same floor. That’s not out of the question as Fultz is 6-foot-4 (6-foot-5 on a good day) and is the definition of a combo guard.
The Celtics haven’t been in a position to draft someone this talented since taking Len Bias No. 2 in 1986 (Paul Pierce fell to them at No. 10 in 1998), so they should just go ahead and make the pick.
The last time the Celtics had a championship level team, it was of the quick fix variety. The Pierce – Garnett – Allen trio had a window of about four years. Fultz could be one of those rare players who gives the Celtics a title window of 15 years. You simply can’t pass that up.
Plan C: Take a step back
No one will like this plan, but you’d better believe it’s on the table for Ainge.
The Celtics could potentially draft Fultz and trade Isaiah Thomas for future assets. They could allow Fultz to grow as the centerpiece of the next great Celtics team and they could also wait out LeBron James’ prime and hope the Warriors have some sort of divorce.
In 2020 or so – all assuming Fultz pans out – the Celtics could then look to assemble their own superteam.
Which way will they go?
I believe that right now there’s a 40 percent chance Ainge goes with Plan A, a 40 percent chance he goes with Plan B, and a 20 percent chance he goes with Plan C.
What made that 2013 Nets heist possible is that Ainge is a master at waiting for an offer he can’t refuse. If some team is dumb enough to give Ainge the world, he will pull the trigger.
If the offers he receives for the No. 1 pick aren’t strong enough, then he will pass and simply pick Fultz.