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.
NBA Mock Draft 2017: Updated After Celtics-Sixers Trade No. 1 Pick
Heavy breaks down how the Celtics-Sixers trade impacts the rest of the NBA in our latest mock draft.
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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 a pick to bank on, 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. Oddly enough, the Celtics currently don’t have any second round picks next year, but I’d say give that one time. It’s sure to change.
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 have Memphis’ pick thanks to a 2015 trade where they traded away Jeff Green and they have the Clippers’ pick, which was included in another trade with Memphis. In 2019 they also have an additional second round pick from Detroit because why not?
In 2020 they’ll have an additional second pick courtesy of a July 2015 with the Heat.
So to recap:
2017: Picks 3, 37, 53, 56
2018: Brooklyn’s first rounder, possibly the Sixers’ first rounder and their own first rounder
2019: First round picks from Memphis, the Clippers and maybe the Sixers, in addition to their own, as well as an additional second round pick from the Pistons
2020: Miami’s second round pick
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.