On Saturday night rumors that started kicking into high gear a day earlier seemed to reach the finish line with The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Boston Celtics had indeed traded their 2017 first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. The move all but confirmed that the Sixers, and not the Celtics, would be selecting Washington’s Markelle Fultz with the first pick.
In return the Celtics will receive the Sixers first rounder this year, as well as future picks, because that’s what Boston General Manager Danny Ainge does – he collects future first round draft picks. Now with the third pick in the draft, the Celtics are expected to take Kansas forward Josh Jackson, provided the Lakers, sitting in the number two spot, don’t swoop in and draft him instead of their expected pick, Lonzo Ball. One has to think the Celtics know something about that Lakers’ selection we don’t if they went ahead with this deal. Ainge is gambling man, but I don’t think he’s that much of a gambling man.
For a fan of the Celtics, the move shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you already went and bought a Fultz Celtics’ jersey, then shame on you. You’ve obviously learned nothing over these past few years, especially since Boston really started collecting first round picks in the summer of 2013, when they fleeced the Brooklyn Nets. In that trade, in which the Celtics traded away Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, the Celtics came away with the Nets’ first round picks in 2014 (became Marcus Smart), 2016 (became Jaylen Brown,) 2017 and 2018. From that point on, Ainge has been a hoarder of first round picks and with this latest deal, it’s a trend that looks to continue for the foreseeable future.
Let’s just start with what the Celtics got for this year’s first round pick. In addition to the Sixers’ pick, they also received the Sixers’ first round pick in 2018 or 2019. The 2018 pick is via a trade the Sixers made with the Lakers and is protected, meaning that if the pick falls between 2 and 5, it belongs to the Celtics. If it lands somewhere else, the Sixers would give up their 2019 pick, acquired from the Sacramento Kings. Luckily for the Celtics, if they don’t get that first rounder in 2018, they already have two picks to bank on as they have their own pick and one of those endless Brooklyn picks.
As for 2017, a lot of attention had been paid to the fact that the Celtics had the first pick in the draft. And while that attention was certainly warranted, you can’t sleep on the three, yes three, second round picks the team has. They have Minnesota’s pick at 37, Cleveland’s pick at 53 and the Clippers’ pick at 56. That’s quite the contrast to the 2018 draft, when the Celtics will only have one second round pick, provided that pick is before 56.
Looking ahead to 2019, the Celtics could possibly have up to four first round picks. Obviously they could have one if they don’t get the Sixers’ pick in 2018 and they’ll have their own pick. But in addition to that they could have two more. They could have Memphis’ pick thanks to a 2015 trade where they traded away Jeff Green, but only if that pick is nine or above. If they don’t end up getting the Memphis pick in 2019, they could get it in 2020 provided the pick doesn’t fall below the seven spot and if that pick gets kicked all the way to 2021 when the pick is unprotected.
The Celtics will also have the Clippers’ pick, which was included in another trade with Memphis. Of course that one is also slightly tricky. It’s Boston’s pick if it’s pick 15 or above. If not, the same would then apply the following year. Boston also has an additional second round pick from Detroit in 2019, because hey, why not?
In 2020 they’ll have their own first round pick, as well as the possible picks from Memphis and the Clippers. They’ll have an additional second pick courtesy of a July 2015 with the Heat, which helps as the Celtics’ own second round pick is only theirs if it’s pick 56 or above. Things then start to even out for Boston in 2021 and 2022, with the exceptions being the looming possibility of the Memphis first rounder in 2021 and the Clippers’ second rounder in 2022.
So to recap:
2017: Picks 3, 37, 53, 56
2018: Brooklyn’s first rounder, possibly the Sixers’ first rounder (from the Lakers,) their own first rounder and their own second round pick (if not 56+)
2019: First round picks from Memphis (maybe,) the Clippers (if 15+,) and maybe the Sixers. That’s in addition to their own pick, as well as an additional second round pick from the Pistons and their own second round pick (if not 56+)
2020: Their own first round pick, the Memphis pick (maybe,) the Clippers’ pick (if 15+ and not previously received) and in the second round Miami’s second round pick and their own pick (if not 56+)
2021: Their own first and second round picks and possibly the Memphis first round pick
2022: Their own first and second round picks, possibly the Memphis pick and possibly an additional second round pick from the Clippers
Now if the Celtics were still in full re-building mode, it would make sense to keep all the picks or even keep flipping them for future picks. But the 2016-2017 Celtics exceeded expectations, finishing first in the Eastern Conference. They have two established stars in Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford and a talented core around those two. Continuing to draft young players might not be the team’s best move at this point.
As long as LeBron James remains in the East, the road to the NBA Finals will go through him. That’s a given. But the Celtics are a lot closer to making that happen than not. They’ve already been linked to free agent Gordon Hayward, as well as Blake Griffin of the Clippers. It might make sense to finally put a package together that would get the Bulls to pull the trigger and trade Jimmy Butler to the Celtics, a rumor that has ramped up again in the past few days.
Whatever Ainge ends up doing, it’ll most likely be the opposite of what’s expected. He does like to keep people guessing it seems, as well as keep people sending him draft picks. He probably acquired one or two more while you were reading this.
The 2017 NBA Draft is on Thursday June 22nd.