The 2014 NBA Draft is just less than two months away, and for the Boston Celtics, June 26 has been circled on their calendar for months. With two first-round draft picks, one in the top 10 (actual spot will be determined after the draft lottery on May 20), and one at the 17th spot (via Brooklyn), Boston has the chance to bring top level talent to their rebuilding squad.
While drafting one of the elite players coming out in this year’s much hyped draft would give Boston someone to build around for years, would trading their high selection for an already established NBA star be a better move?
While this year’s draft class is loaded with some of the best talent since the famous 2003 draft, which saw LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony enter the league, there are no guarantees in the NBA draft. What is more of a guarantee, however, is bringing in a proven NBA star, who may not come with the same amount of risk as a college player.
Looking into the past, it’s not out of the question for the Celtics to be in talks for trading their pick. They’ve done it before, most notably in 2007 where general manager Danny Ainge swung a deal sending their fifth overall draft pick (Jeff Green) in a package deal to land All-Star guard Ray Allen. It’s also been made clear that Ainge isn’t falling for the hype that everyone else is regarding this year’s draft:
“There aren’t any game changers in the draft. There are a lot of nice players and players that we’ll be excited to work into the development, but they’re not going to come in and turn our team around in one year or two years.” (h/t Comcast Sportsnet)
While that doesn’t set anything in stone saying Ainge will trade, it certainly adds to the idea that Boston could. Trading their top 10 selection isn’t as bad when you consider they also have the 17th overall selection, acquired in the blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. With that pick, they still have the ability to draft that young rookie that they can develop, especially in such a deep draft class like this years. Grabbing a player like N.C State’s T.J. Warren, or UCLA’s Kyle Anderson would give Boston a young, dynamic player who would be able to contribute immediately.
As far as what the Celtics could get back in a deal, we can use last year’s New Orleans Pelicans-Philadelphia 76ers trade as an example. On draft day in 2013, New Orleans sent the sixth overall draft pick (Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected 2014 draft pick to the Sixers for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, as well as the 42nd overall pick (Baylor’s Pierre Jackson). Holiday came off of a season in which he was 22 years old, and averaged 17.7 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game en route to an Eastern Conference All-Star appearance.
If the Celtics were able to get someone of Holiday’s caliber would be great, but maybe, they could get even more. The Celtics are in position to land the fifth overall pick. After the lottery, however, they could have a higher or lower pick, but for the sake of the argument, we’ll use No. 5 as an example.
Not only would the fifth overall pick be higher than the No. 6 that New Orleans traded, but it’s in a much deeper draft. Let’s not forget the fact that when Nerlens Noel was traded to Philly, he was recovering from a torn ACL, and didn’t carry the full value of what he may have been worth.
Boston has another trick up their sleeve as well, and that’s an enormous stock of future draft picks, including two first-rounders in the 2015 draft. Packaging another first-rounder in a deal with this year’s pick could bring in an even larger haul than what New Orleans received, especially if Boston was willing to throw in the $10.3 million dollar trade exception they received in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade last summer.
Now, time for the fun part; what player could Boston target in a trade? The one that immediately comes to mind, and has been thrown around in trade talks for over a year now, is Minnesota’s Kevin Love. At this point, it’s not if Love decides to leave the Timberwolves, it’s when, so trading Love might be a good call for Minnesota, so they can at least get back some young talent.
Bringing in a player like Love would give Boston another star to pair with point guard Rajon Rondo, and it give’s them an immediate game changer, something that can’t be found in the draft (or at least according to Danny Ainge, it can’t).
Having a team built around the 25-year old All-Star Love, the 28-year old All-Star Rondo, and the supporting cast of Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Avery Bradley would give Boston a team that could compete with the top teams in the Easter Conference immediately.
A lot could change in the two months leading up to the draft, and it’s impossible to predict the moves a team may make, but maybe trading their top pick isn’t the worst of ideas for the most storied franchise in NBA history.
Shawn McFarland covers the Boston Celtics for HoopsHabit.com