NBA Draft 2017: Breaking down Celtics' best options after trading the No. 1 pick
A look at what Boston could do headed into Thursday's highly anticipated draft
The Boston Celtics upended the NBA world over the weekend, with the Philadelphia 76ers to send the No. 1 pick to Philly in exchange for the No. 3 pick and a protected first-round 2018 pick from the Lakers (that conveys into an unprotected Kings pick in 2019). So after doing the unthinkable, dealing the No. 1 overall pick in a year with a consensus, clear-cut No. 1 pick, where do the Celtics go from here?
Here's a look at their options going into Thursday's NBA Draft.
Keep the pick and draft ...
Josh Jackson: Jackson is kind of the consensus for going third, and the guy most commonly referenced as Danny Ainge's potential target. Jackson is a curious fit on the surface with Boston. He's an athletic, gifted defender with questionable shot mechanics and a crazy-high ceiling. But most of this sounds like Jaylen Brown.
What gets interesting is when you think of converting Jackson, eventually, to a small-ball four, like playing Jackson like a modern-day Joe Johnson at 6-foot-8. He gives them a versatile defender who can guard four positions, once he learns how to defend at an NBA level, and if his college shooting numbers hold (and his shot mechanics aren't a concern), then he gives them a finisher and spot-up player who won't need the ball.
Jackson's biggest struggle may be trying to generate offense with the ball, but he won't be asked to do that in Boston, and he and Brown would be a frightful combination that could allow for some attrition defensively for Boston if it has to lose Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder down the line.
Jayson Tatum: The worst-case scenario for Tatum is that he's Rudy Gay, who doesn't create for others, doesn't defend at a high level and is just a mid-range jumpshooter.
But the best-case scenario is a dynamic combo-forward who can score off-ball in any manner of ways, is a capable defender and has some underrated passing skills that, if developed, could be great. Tatum upgrades the Celtics' offense with his versatility in scoring. He has the same wingspan as Blake Griffin, and can operate as a hybrid of Tobias Harris and Griffin (without Griffin's explosiveness). Taking Tatum is going for skill excellence vs. Jackson's versatility.
Lonzo Ball: Let's say that the Lakers take Jackson. Ball then slips to the Celtics at 3. If they were going to take Markelle Fultz to play with Isaiah Thomas, can they really not play Ball and Thomas together? He provides the same insurance against giving Thomas $200 million that Fultz does.
Defensively, it's kind of a mess, and if his shot isn't as reliable as his numbers indicate, then this combo is a disaster. The fit here isn't great. But Ball is likely the best player on the board if Fultz and Jackson are gone, and GMs almost always go for best player available.
Jonathan Isaac: Let's reach! This is Danny Ainge, after all. Isaac projects as a combo forward who could eventually play smallball five once he adds some muscle. He can stretch the floor, block shots, finish in pick and roll, basically do everything. He's 6-11 with freakish athleticism. If the injury concerns aren't legitimate, then this is a terrific fit. It allows Al Horford to play center while giving him a player that covers for his weaknesses and complements his strengths.
Ainge has always made his own path in the draft, taking who he thinks is best, and if it's not Fultz, why not Isaac?
Dennis Smith, Jr. or De'Aaron Fox: Neither of these make sense, it's just hilarious to think about Ainge drafting another point guard as a reach.
Trade the pick for ...
Paul George: This is pretty much off the table. The leak that with the Pacers and "prefers" the Lakers removes any leverage the Pacers have, and the Celtics can't deal the No. 3 pick for a guy on a one-year rental with the potential he leaves in a year. The Celtics are in a better position to convince George to re-sign next year if they deal for him than any potential suitor outside of the Cavaliers, but giving up the third pick is still too big a risk.
Jimmy Butler: This makes a little more sense. Butler's locked up on a longer-term deal with the Bulls, so the Celtics can afford the equity on trading for him. He gives them an elite defender and scorer, and by simply committing to smallball in moving Jae Crowder to four, they kill two birds with one stone. Can Butler operate without the ball effectively? He and Isaiah Thomas might struggle to share the ball, but you have to assume Brad Stevens would figure it out.
Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan: Two interesting ideas that solve their specific problems, but this is probably an overpay. If they can move down again from the 3rd pick while picking up, you guessed it, another first-rounder, then this makes more sense. Adding a shot blocker and rebounder next to Horford covers up a lot of their issues defensively, and it makes things easier for Thomas, who can't contain on the perimeter. Jordan would be a "draft-now, trade-later" situation, since he won't be available unless the Clippers lose both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in free agency.
Speaking of, an important note: taking Jackson might be the best play if they can't find a deal, since he'll have the most value in trade discussions post-draft. Ball fits in very specific situations, Isaac would be a bit of a reach and Tatum won't have the same value. But Jackson will be just as valuable in August as he is right now, and he's the only player outside of Fultz like that.
Anthony Davis: I mention this because it is constantly referenced on the internet, and I am begging everyone, please stop this. Unless Anthony Davis tells management, I want out, right now, and if you do not trade me I will publicly chide and release all sorts of negative inside info, this is not going to happen. Davis is on a long-term contract and is a player you would never, ever deal unless you absolutely had to. This madness must stop. There may come a day when Davis is traded, and when that day comes, the Celtics could indeed be the team that trades for him. But it will not happen between now and Thursday, not for the No. 3 pick, not for any combination of picks.
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