Will The Celtics Be In Win Now Mode?
As the NBA postseason enters its final stage, the offseason will soon take center stage. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge will have his hands full, as he will determine the future of the franchise. It's well documented and well-known that the C's hold the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and an abundance of assets and cap space.
Ainge holds all the cards, and can really determine the direction of the franchise with the snap of his fingers. If Ainge elects to keep the first overall pick, the C's will most likely look to build for the far future, rather than for now. However, if Ainge elects to move the pick then he is certainly going 'all in' for the immediate future.
This Celtics team is not on the same level as Cleveland, Golden State, and San Antonio. But, it isn't a far stretch to say that the Celtics are the fourth best team in the NBA. Being the fourth best team in the NBA realistically means nothing. However, it does show progress, and shows how brilliant Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have been these past couple of seasons.
The one million dollar question for Ainge this offseason is to figure out how big of a gap is their between Boston and the championship contenders. If the gap is too much to overcome, then the C's can draft their desired player first overall, and build for the future, as the draft pick and Jaylen Brown grow. That path can take about four to seven seasons. Markelle Fulz is the favorite to go number one overall. The 6'4 guard does have some upside, but still is years away from actually leaving a mark.
The general consensus from Celtics fans seems to be to take the slower approach due to the fear of a thirty-two year old LeBron James, an ageing Spurs team, and a soon to be cap logged Golden State Warriors team. Celtics fans seem to have fallen in love with the Markelle Fulz without really knowing much about him. Fans see his stat line, and start to foam at the mouth. But, C's fans must have missed his games, because Fultz only led Washington to 9 wins, and led them to a 2-16 conference record. A guards job is to make players better around him. Did Fultz make anyone on his team slightly better? The answer to that question is not a chance. How can Fultz be a 'transformational' player if he can't even elevate in the Pac-12? Fultz has some upside and some potential, but I do not see him as someone who can single handedly lead a franchise. Fultz can not be the "number one option" on a championship team.
If I were Danny Ainge I would move the first overall pick, and build for the immediate future, instead of building for the post LeBron James era. Danny Ainge should take advantage of the weak Eastern Conference and go 'all in.' This team is closer to being true contenders than people think. Not to mention, the competition in the East is not as superior as it once was.
So, if Ainge ultimately decides to trade the pick, who should be his first target? If the C's get the assurance from Paul George that he would resign next offseason, he could be a potential trade target. George who just turned twenty-seven is still young, and at the prime level of his game. The cost for George should be relatively minimal compared to what it once was. The first overall pick, and an additional player should get the job done. George is an established well-rounded star who can help put an end to the LeBron James' reign. The addition of George would be pivotal and would help shorten the gap.
Paul George will get Cleveland nervous but it still will not be enough to become a legitimate championship contender. However, if the C's are able to land free agent Gordon Hayward, they can become the team to beat in the East. Hayward who will be a free agent this offseason has developed into a star, and led the Jazz to the playoffs. Hayward who averaged more than 21 points per game played under Brad Stevens in college, at Butler. Isaiah Thomas (28), Avery Bradley (26), Paul George (27), Gordon Hayward (27), Al Horford (30) can be become the next Celtic great team. This starting five could bring an end to 'King James' and bring another potential banner to Boston.
This can all be possible if Ainge is willing to part ways with the enticing first overall pick. Even if the C's decide to deal the pick they still have a bright future with the young Jaylen Brown. The C's also possess the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first round pick, which should be a high pick for the third straight year. So, the future is not destroyed or changed by much. In reality, do the Celtics have to decide if they rather 'draft' Paul George with the number one pick, or draft the nineteen year old from Washington, Markelle Fultz.
The Celtics control their own destiny, they determine their fate. But, I believe this should be the NBA offseason where Danny Ainge finally creates some fireworks, and creates something truly special.