In his first year as head coach, Brad Stevens showed promise for what fans hope is a swift rebuild. Stevens got a group of young players to buy in and compete every night even while the losses continued to pile up.
All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo played in only 30 games, and Gerald Wallace (and his $10 million salary) averaged just five points a night. The offense was stagnant without Rondo and any reliable offensive threat. The Celtics finished fifth worst in points per game (96.2).
With some financial flexibility this season (Boston has $56,339,250 counting against next season's salary cap with all team options exercised) and a lottery pick in tow, the Celtics look to build on Stevens' first year by adding some young talent via the draft.
General manager Danny Ainge has never shied away from a good trade, and there are plenty of opportunities for him to make a splash at the draft.
“It would depend on the player, it would depend on the risk," he said to 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston when asked about making a draft-night trade. "But sometimes you need to take some risks.” He added:
We haven’t really found out from other teams how much they want the pick, but I think it’s valuable. It’s valuable for us to use the pick, but it’s important for us to see what other teams value it as. I think there are players that can help us and play a good role on a winning team, and that’s very positive.
Here are a few potential trades where the Celtics could move up, move down or move out the last remaining piece from their 2008 championship team.
Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3 or No. 10
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie is in the assets acquisition business. He orchestrated the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel and this year's No. 10 pick. He's not afraid to shake things up.
Like 76ers CEO Scott O'Neill said via Grantland's Zach Lowe, "He will be very active (on draft night). He's an unbelievable deal-maker."
If whoever he is eyeing up at No. 3 gets snagged with one of the draft's first two selections, it's possible that he could trade back with Boston at No. 6 and acquire more picks in the process. It's possible, but not likely.
The more likely scenario is that Philadelphia trades up from its No. 10 selection, with Boston being a desirable landing spot at No. 6.
Armed with five second-round picks, Thaddeus Young and Jason Richardson's expiring contract, Philadelphia is primed for a move or two. If Julius Randle falls to No. 6 and the Celtics doesn't see much of a difference between him and, say, Aaron Gordon potentially at No. 10, they would be receptive to trading back.
Philadelphia will almost assuredly select either Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid at No. 3. While the Celtics probably covet those three potentially dominant players, they lack the assets necessary to facilitate a trade up to that spot. If they don't see anyone worthwhile at their No. 6 selection, then trading back to No. 10 with Philadelphia makes sense.
Sam Hinkie will certainly make a move or two on June 26. If Danny Ainge calls, he'll at least listen to what he has to say.
Sacramento Kings at No. 8
The Sacramento Kings and aggressive general manager Pete D'Alessandro have made it known they are interested in moving their No. 8 selection, preferably for an established veteran star. Per Shlomo Sprung of SheridanHoops.com:
We’re still looking at how important it is for us to try to get up [in the draft]. Or is it more important to move down and maybe get additional assets. And we’ve had the discussion of ‘Are there players out there that we would like, that are playing in the NBA now?’
This sentiment was echoed by Grantland's Zach Lowe, who spoke to D'Alessandro at the lottery. "D’Alessandro said the Kings are open to trading up, trading down, or moving out of the first round entirely," he said.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas will likely test the free-agent waters, leaving a big hole in the backcourt.
Enter Rajon Rondo.
This has been brought up before, as Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears reported in February, but it fell apart. This time around, a Rondo-centric package could entice the Kings to ship the No. 8 pick to Boston, giving the Celtics two top-10 selections.
Rondo has one year and $12.9 million remaining on his contract before becoming a free agent in the summer of 2015, and there have been no new contract talks, according to Ainge. If he and Stevens still see Rondo as their leader during this rebuild, then Ainge will be reluctant to pull the trigger on any deal centered around him.
Rondo's name has circulated in trade rumors for years. He has drawn the ire of his former head coach, Doc Rivers, and has clashed with teammates. It's uncertain whether or not Boston is ready to lean on him as a long-term franchise cornerstone.
If they do move the often temperamental Rondo for that additional lottery pick, then the Celtics would be wise to draft Marcus Smart or Dante Exum with their No. 6 selection, should they be available.
A Rondo trade is a more likely scenario than Boston moving back and swapping the No. 6 and No. 8 selections on draft night. Sacramento wants a ready-made star, and Boston wants young, cheap assets. Two lottery picks would be great building blocks.
Ainge and D'Alessandro will certainly be having some conversations before Boston makes its No. 6 selection.
Orlando Magic at No. 4 or No. 12
The Orlando Magic are in a similar situation to the 76ers. They are sitting pretty with two lottery picks and a general manager who isn't hesitant to trade. Rob Hennigan, the youngest GM in the NBA and a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, has a few decisions to make before fielding any calls from numbers with Boston area codes.
Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris are both entering the final years of their rookie contracts. Point guard Jameer Nelson has an $8 million team option for the 2014-15 season that will become fully guaranteed on July 15. He is very much on the trading block.
While Boston is not one of the teams who would be interested in the 32-year-old's services, there will be other suitors for the veteran point guard. That's important because his exit could pave the way for Dante Exum, whom Orlando is said to covet.
Much like Philadelphia, Orlando is likely to stand pat with its first lottery pick. If Philadelphia takes Exum at No. 3, which was reported as a possibility by ESPN's Chad Ford (more on that in a minute), Orlando would take whoever was left standing from the Embiid/Wiggins/Parker trio at No. 4. It's simply too much talent to pass up.
Who is the most likely trade partner for Boston?
The more likely scenario here, as with Philadelphia, is that Orlando attempts to move up from its spot at No. 12, making Boston a potential trade partner at No. 6. As much as Boston would like to move up, it doesn't seem realistic at this point.
Boston has made it clear that it is interested in moving up, possibly in an effort to grab one of the top three players in the draft (Embiid, Parker and Wiggins). Milwaukee and Philadelphia are firmly entrenched in the middle of a long-term rebuild and are unlikely to move their top picks, but Cleveland could be enticed for the right price.
Unfortunately for Boston, it lacks the young All-Star talent Cleveland seeks. Names like Joakim Noah, LaMarcus Aldridge and others have been mentioned as potential names worth trading the Celtics' No. 1 pick for—names that Boston simply does not have.
Sure, they have Rondo, but he doesn't intrigue Cleveland (who already has Kyrie Irving) the same way he intrigues Sacramento.
Depending on who the Celtics values at No. 6, it would behoove them to move back in a swap with Orlando's No. 12 and acquire more assets, which they need.
Other Potential Draft-Night Moves
There are some huge potential trades lying in the weeds a bit. This one is a long shot, but hear me out.
A rumor circulated this week that Philadelphia would listen to potential trade offers for Rookie of the Year and Massachusetts native Michael Carter-Williams because they are interested in Dante Exum, per Chad Ford of ESPN.
Would a deal sending Carter-Williams to Boston make sense? Well, it would first hinge on moving Rondo. For the sake of conversation, let's say he goes to Sacramento as discussed earlier. By moving Rondo, it clears room for Carter-Williams to become the Celtics' point guard of the future.
In this scenario, Boston would send a package including its No. 6 selection to Philadelphia for Carter-Williams and then would receive Sacramento's No. 8 pick for Rondo. At No. 8, Boston would be in position to select one of the explosive forward prospects (Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon), while Philadelphia could potentially land a Dante Exum/Julius Randle combo with third and sixth picks, respectively.
While I wouldn't put much stock into this scenario, there is some merit to any potential Carter-Williams or Rondo trade rumor you hear leading up to the draft.
The 76ers would need to be blown away to part with Carter-Williams. I'm not sure the sixth pick would do the trick or if Boston would even be interested in trading for the hometown kid, but you never know.
Then there's Kevin Love.
Minnesota currently holds the No. 13 pick at the back end of the lottery and would be in the market for draft picks should Love finally get dealt.
Any potential package Boston could fashion would have to revolve around the No. 6 pick and other assets, where Minnesota could draft Julius Randle or another Love replacement. At No. 13, it could take versatile guard Zach LaVine from UCLA or even Michigan State's Gary Harris, depending on how things shake out.
Boston has already been linked as a potential trade partner for Minnesota, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
"The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among many teams determined to make hard runs at trades for Love," Wojnarowski reported. "Boston and Los Angeles plan to make high-lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft available in offers for Love, sources said."
It wouldn't be the first time Boston acquired an All-Star forward from Minnesota. The last one worked out pretty well.
Salary and contract information courtesy of ShamSports.com.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.