When the Sixers are playing in the 2020 NBA Finals, the team should throw a huge party for Sam Hinkie to thank him for setting this team up. He should be around for this. I have no idea if he is sitting at home mad he doesn’t get to be a part of this or if he is smirking, having know all along how this was going to play out.

Barring something drastic change of heart or some formalities going wrong, the Sixers and Celtics will finalize a trade Monday that will send the #1 pick in the 2017 Draft to the Sixers in return for the #3 pick and either the Lakers’ 2018 pick, with protections or the Kings’ 2019 unprotected pick. The Sixers will convey the Lakers’ 2018 pick to the Celtics if it falls between picks 2 and 5. If it is number one or six or later, the Celtics will give the Kings’ 2019 pick.

The Sixers had obtained the Lakers’ pick through the Michael Carter-Williams trade. Carter-Williams is a former Rookie of the Year, but coming from a weak draft class, the Sixers decided to move him when he had value knowing that without a jump shot, there was a slim chance he would become an elite player. With the way his career has progressed, this move looks even smarter now. You would be lucky to get more than a second round pick for Carter-Williams today. The Sixers came very close to getting the Lakers’ pick conveyed this year, but who knows if the Celtics would have done this trade if it had. The Lakers could potentially overhaul their roster with a Paul George trade, but with the most likely scenario being they add Lonzo Ball or Josh Jackson with the second pick in the draft, they will more likely go after George in free agency next year rather than give up assets. Unless the Lakers’ prospects take giant leaps forward, the Lakers will be finishing at the bottom of the standings again next year. Some rosters may look very different in a few months, but it is tough to imagine the Lakers finishing any better than bottom five in the league. The protection on the pick is very creative and really does look out for the best interests of the teams. This makes it so the Sixers do not risk losing out on a first overall pick and makes sure the Celtics didn’t just trade their pick for a #3, and say a #20 if Paul George went to the Lakers and they became a playoff team.

They obtained the Kings’ pick from a trade that was essentially a salary dump for Sacaramento with the pick as a sweetener. That pick became a lot more valuable when Sacramaneto traded DeMarcus Cousin this past year. A lot can change in two years but where things stand now, it seems likely that the 2019 pick will fall in the top five. Because this was almost a free pick for the Sixers, they probably felt a little better about sending it out. The Sixers are ready to compete now so adding a top prospect was worth giving up the extra pick. I am a little surprised that the Sixers were able to make this trade while only giving two picks.

The Sixers did this trade for one reason: to get Markelle Fultz. For the past year, Fultz has been considered the top prospect despite playing on an awful team in college. The biggest knock on him is that he was not able to elevate his team. I have watched a lot of tape on Fultz and to me, he is so much further ahead of any of the other prospect in this class. He can do everything. With his biggest weakness being his lack of effort on defense, yet all the measurable to be a great defender, I would not be surprised to see him step up on that end of the floor once he has some of the pressure of being the focal point of the offense taken off him. Fultz is a point guard, but with his shooting stroke and size, he can play off the ball on offense while Simmons in running the point. We have known a while that Brett Brown plans on playing Simmons as a true point guard on offense, but it was safe to assume he would not be guarding most point guards while on defense. Fultz gives Brown someone who can play a variety of roles on offense while picking up opposing point guards on defense.

The fit with Fultz on this team could not be any better. A lineup of Fultz, Covington, Simmons, Saric and Embiid is drifting away from the trend of small-ball lineups, but the athleticism of that lineup makes them able to switch everything on defense while being one of the lengthiest teams ever. That lineup is this year’s number one pick, last year’s, the two current Rookie of the Year finalists, one of whom looks like a generational talent, and Covington, the perfect fifth option on a team who is the perfect three and D player. That is with Okafor, who may not fit in today’s NBA but is talented nonetheless, McConnell, Holmes, TLC, Anderson, Stauskas, and over 50 million in cap space. That is unreal! The Sixers may not draw in any big free agents this year, but with Embiid being the only core piece up for an extension after next year, they can go after more next year as well. The Sixers most likely will wait until after the season to extend Embiid. They will wait the year to see if he stays healthy. If he does, he will most certainly getting a max contract. Even if he does not stay healthy, he still will probably get a max but there is a chance he takes less. I doubt it but possible. The Sixers may just decide to not go after any big free agents and build from within. They know that their own will need to get paid in the coming years so keeping their books clean in preparation. Besides this great core of a team the Sixers have put together, the Sixers still have plenty of draft picks in the coming years. Losing one of the extra picks in this trade hurts, but they will still have one extra likely lottery pick from the other, along with all their own picks for the foreseeable future, another first round pick from OKC, and what seems like ten second round picks in each draft. The Sixers have their core of the team set and their incoming picks will just help them fill out the roster with role players on cheap contracts. If they can hit big on the whatever pick they hold onto out of the two involved in the trade, expect a dynasty in Philly.

For how great this all sounds and looks on paper, nothing about the roster is guaranteed. We all know about Embiid’s injury history. In three seasons, he has yet to play even half a seasons worth of games, but when he did, he looked like a potential top five player in the NBA. If Embiid not playing the second half of the year was more cautionary, there is less worry but until we see him play 65 games in a season, there is reason to worry. We also still have not 2016 #1 overall pick Ben Simmons play in a game. He was considered one of the best prospects of the past few years, but the lack of a jump shot combined with the injury concerns, is another question mark. Fultz is not even officially a member of the Sixers yet. He has a high floor and out of Simmons, Embiid and himself, to me he is the safest prospect, but probably the lowest ceiling of the three. That is not an insult to him, more that Embiid and Simmons are two of the most unique prospects ever. I feel very confident about this team, but especially because they genuinely seem to like each other. Embiid is one of the most entertaining athletes in sports and Philly is in love with him. Simmons and Fultz have less outgoing personalities, but between how excited the current players seem to be about Fultz and the social media love they are giving him and Fultz making a few comments over the past couple months about how he would like Philly, the chemistry on this team should be pretty good. It helps they are all young and will grow up and turn this team around together. Golden State has shown us just how important chemistry is when putting together a team.

From Boston’s perspective, I am shocked they made this trade. They are ready to compete now and have a deep roster, so you would think the chance to add a top prospect to an already good team would be too much to pass up. We should find out in the next couple weeks what Danny Ainge was thinking in regards to this. The general consensus is that he either thought of Josh Jackson as the top prospect and knew they could probably get him at three while still picking up more assets or that they are picking up multiple picks in an effort for a blockbuster trade. If the Lakers’ pick in conveyed in 2018, the Celtics will have three first round picks, with at least one in the top five, with the Nets’ pick likely top five as well. Would the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler for those three 2018 picks, while the Celtics still get to add Jackson this year? What about Paul George for the return the Celtics just got for #1? If the Celtics can add a star in free agency and make one of these moves after, which would be tough salary cap wise, they may be in a position now to compete this year, and still have what should be good draft picks moving forward.

The next few weeks will be telling in what direction Danny Ainge wants to go. We could see him draft a player, only to ship him out later in the summer after free agency, similar to what the Cavs did with Andrew Wiggins a few years ago. We could see the Lakers take Jackson on draft night leaving Lonzo Ball available at #3. If the Celtics wanted a point guard, they would have likely stayed at #1 and taken Fultz, so I doubt they would be excited about having Ball fall to them. A bidding war could pop up between two other teams who really like Ball and the Celtics could end up moving the pick. Would Sacramento trade #5 and #10 for Ball? What about Zach LaVine or Kris Dunn and #7 for Ball? The Celtics could take Jayson Tatum or Jonathon Isaac and let Ball slip to the Suns at four. They would still get a top tier talent, and be set up to get two or three more next year in the draft. Butler and George are the big names being talked about as potential trade targets, but could Boston go after someone else? Could the Celtics put together a monster package for Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Russell Westbrook or Klay Thompson? It is highly unlikely any of those players are moved but there is at least some reason to believe they could be. If Blake Griffin or Chris Paul leaves L.A., DeAndre Jordan could become available and his two main skills, rim protection and rebounding happen to be Boston’s biggest weaknesses. The fact that the Celtics passed on a point guard likely means that they will extend Isaiah Thomas next summer, so he must be pretty happy the teams has faith in him.

It is unheard of for a team as good as the Celtics to have so many assets.

Star Players

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Al Horford

Quality Defensive Minded Veteran

  • Jae Crowder (Best Contract in NBA IMO)
  • Avery Bradley

Young Prospects

  • Jaylen Brown (#3 Pick in 2016)
  • Marcus Smart (#6 Pick in 2014)
  • Terry Rozier (#16 Pick in 2015)
  • Guerschon Yabusele (#16 Pick in 2016)
  • Ante Zizic (#23 Pick in 2016)
  • Abdel Nader (#58 Pick in 2016)

Cap Space

  • Can go after a max free agent this offseason while still being able to retain key free agents in the coming years due to either Bird Rights or Restricted Free Agency

Draft Picks’

  • #3 in 2017
  • #37 in 2017
  • #53 in 2017
  • #56 in 2017
  • Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first round pick, likely top 5
  • Lakers’ 2018 first round pick if it falls 2-5 or Kings’ unprotected 2019 first round pick if it Lakers’ does not convey. Lakers’ pick guaranteed top five, Kings’ pick likely top five
  • Clippers’ 2019 first round pick, lottery protected
  • Grizzlies’ 2019 first round pick, protected 1-8 in 2019 and 1-6 in 2020
  • Pistons’ 2019 second round pick
  • Heat’s 2020 second round pick
  • Only owe two highly protected second round picks in 2018 and 2019 that will likely not be conveyed

Coach and GM

  • Brad Stevens is regarded as one of the best and also youngest coaches in the NBA
  • Danny Ainge is committed to this team and have been able to bring together these players, coaches and draft pick

The situations both of these franchises are in are so enviably to other owners and general managers in the NBA. If both GM positions became available, I think candidates would be split 50-50 on which was the better situation. The Celtics were just the #1 seed in the East, yet still have all of this to work with. The Sixers are coming off one of the worst ever stretch of professional sports ever record wise but have three legitimate prospects who are or were regarded as the top in their respective classes, minus injury concerns. But those injury concerns are there and there is no guarantee that they will all live up to their potential. With the Celtics, they will remain a top seed in the East but when their young prospects and assets hit their primes, will Horford and Thomas be too old and expensive? The primes of the two generations of the Celtics may just miss each other and though competitive, never reach championship-caliber. This whole rebuild would have been for nothing if you truly are championship or bust. The Celtics have more guarantees to them, but more questions about their direction whereas the Sixers know their direction, but much less certainty. The Sixers know what their next few years will most likely look like; develop their core, draft players that fit around them, and bring in mid-level free agents who can also fit around the core. Since we know this I am not going to do a step-by-step for them as it is too tough to predict what random free agents they will sign, or who they will take with picks in the teens and twenties in 2018 and on. I am going to give a step-by-step on what I think the next moves for the Celtics will be. This is what I would do, not what I think they will do. I am going to assume option A works out when moving onto the next scenario.

  • 2017 Draft
    1. If he is available, draft Josh Jackson. The duo of Josh Jackson and Jaylen Brown give the Celtics two of the most athletic wings in the NBA.
    2. If the Lakers take Josh Jackson, the Celtics should try to trade #3 to Sacramento for #5 and #10, and include this year’s second round picks if need be. With the 5th pick, the Celtics should draft whoever is left of Ball, Jayson Tatum, and De’Aaron Fox. They should then package the #10 pick and the Clippers pick for the best 2018 draft pick they can get. The Celtics will be short on roster spots as is and by drafting only one player at #5 will get them much closer to max cap space. Adding a fourth 2018 pick (third if they do not get the Lakers pick) will set them up to make a huge trade at the next draft.
  • 2017 Free Agency
    1. If the Celtics have a shot at Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, they should renounce the rights to Olynyk and cut or trade Tyler Zeller, Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey, all of who have non-guarantee contracts. Depending on exactly where the salary cap is set, they may have to make one or two moves or hope that Griffin or Hayward will take a tiny bit less than max. Hayward would be target A and Griffin target B.
    2. If they cannot get one of those two, I would prefer to keep Zeller, Mickey, Jackson and resign Olynyk. These contracts will come in handy later to make salaries match. I would also bring over Zizic, Yabusele and Nader. These three, plus whomever the one player they draft, plus those under contract and those they retain would put them at 15 players. If the Celtics have chance to sign someone such as Taj Gibson or resign Amir Johnson, I would release Mickey to do so.
  • 2017 Trades
    • If the Celtics sign Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, it will be tough to make salaries match to trade for another star. They would have to include some combination of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and the #3 pick to have salaries match. The two most likely candidates to trade for are Jimmy Butler and Paul George. Butler has two years remaining on his contract and there are no indications he would not sign or at least consider an extension. George told the Pacers he would prefer to play elsewhere, with his likely destination being the Lakers. It is no secret to executives that George has his heart set on playing for the Lakers regardless of who he plays this season with. Teams know that he will probably only be a year long rental so most would not want to give up too many assets. The Lakers also don’t feel like they need to waste any assets trading for him when they could just sign him the following year. If the Celtics could match salaries easier, they could just send perhaps the Grizzlies’ and Clippers’ and their own 2019 picks. Three first round picks sounds like a lot but there is a good chance that they will all fall outside the lottery and at that point, the Celtics won’t have three roster spots anyway. This is not ideal for the Pacers but they will not be getting too many better offers and probably are regretting not moving George at the deadline. For the Celtics to match salaries with George, there is a solid chance Bradley and Crowder would need to be involved. Without a commitment from George, I am not trading Crowder and Bradley for a year rental of George. If the Celtics do not sign a star, chances are the will retain Zeller and could possibly sign and trade Olynyk so it would be much easier to match salaries. Trading these two along with the 2019 picks for what could be a year rental would not be nearly as bad. If the Celtics were able to come together and make the Finals, George might be willing to sign a 1+1 and give it another run with the Celtics before leaving for L.A. Butler makes much more sense for the Celtics to trade for, but will also cost a lot more. This could be part of the reason Ainge made the trade to begin with. He is collecting more trade asset in an attempt to pry Butler from Chicago. They have enough but maybe he is trying to hold onto players and would prefer to send more picks. Crowder was supposedly a holdup before. If they could send Bradley, Josh Jackson or whoever they draft at #3 and a few fillers to match salary, with a collection of picks, the Bulls would have to consider it. If I can find a star in free agency and find a way to match salaries for George, and be able to get him on a very low offer, like the 2019 picks, I am doing it in hopes of convincing him to stay. For Butler, whether or not they pick up a star I am going to try to get him, but am not willing to send out Bradley, Crowder, and the Nets’ and Lakers’ 2018 picks and I think that is the least the Bulls would accept. They would probably want #3 this year as well. If the Celtics cannot land either of Butler or George, they should think about moving Avery Bradley. He had a great season last year but is on an expiring contract. He will likely command over 20 million in free agency next year and the Celtics cannot afford to pay both him and Thomas and all signs point to them going with Thomas. Without another star, the Celtics are not competing this year so should get some value for him. Teams like Miami who will have cap space to pay him could offer a first round pick and an expiring contract for him. The ideal scenario would be to trade Bradley and their collection of 2019 picks for another lottery pick in 2018. This time next year they may be able to get Butler much cheaper and having those picks will allow them to trade for him while also picking up a rookie. There is close to a zero percent chance this would happen but I would offer the Pelicans Crowder, Bradley, Smart, the #3 pick, their own 2018 pick, the Lakers’ 2018 pick and the Grizzlies and Clippers’ 2019 picks. This seams like a ton for one player but if you could start a lineup of Thomas, Hayward, Brown, Davis and Horford, you do what it takes.

I really do feel the best way for this team to go is to hold onto their picks, sign Hayward or Griffin, trade Bradley and resign Thomas and Smart. Their potential 2017-2018 would have a lot of players that are positionless. Hayward, Jackson, Brown, Smart, Nader and Crowder are all pretty interchangeable between the 2, 3 and 4. Their roster at the start of 2017 would look like this:

Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier

Shooting Guard: Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart

Small Forward: Jaylen Brown, Josh Jackson, Abdel Nader

Power Forward: Jae Crowder, Guerschon Yabusele

Center: Al Horford, Ante Zizic

The return for Avery Bradley

The chance to add multiple top prospects with their 2018 picks

The way this works out, the Celtics will be a top three seed for the playoffs but will be setting themselves up to have a great combination of young prospects and two All-Stars in their prime. The Celtics’ 2016 draft looks like they got three, maybe even four prospects, who can play huge parts for this team. If in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 draft they can add those four, Jackson, and two top five prospects, ideally Michael Porter Jr, Mohamed Bamba, DeAndre Ayton or Luke Donic, they will be set for the next 10 years. The Sixers may have more star power right now but being able to add seven players in three drafts that are all great prospects, there will be no complaints from Celtics fans. Hopefully the Celtics are not kicking themselves for letting Fultz go to Philly but with their extra assets, there should be more moves to come. Although I said that I would not do too many trades, I think Ainge is going to and either Butler or George will be a Celtic next year.

 

 

 

 

Image from: https://clutchpoints.com/markelle-fultz-possibility-drafted-76ers/