The Boston Celtics have been one of the most aggressive teams in the NBA when it comes to acquiring talent in recent years. We could see a similar strategy this offseason regardless of how the rest of the playoffs shake out.
While the Celtics prepare for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night, general manager Danny Ainge and the front office are first focused on the NBA draft lottery.
Thanks to last year's trade of the No. 1 overall pick, the team has a 1.3 percent chance of getting the No. 2 pick from the Lakers (through the 76ers) and a 1.57 percent chance of getting the No. 3 pick, per Rachel Bowers of Boston.com.
Assuming the Celtics aren't extremely lucky, this would leave Boston with just one draft pick (No. 27 overall) after totaling 12 selections in the last two years, two of them being No. 3 overall.
The inability to pick up cheap talent could cause the front office to be aggressive on the trade market, as Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports previously argued:
Without money or draft picks, trading is the best way to improve a roster. This immediately leads to a discussion of Kawhi Leonard, who is by far the biggest name potentially on the trade block.
"At the end of the day, Kawhi wants out," a Western Conference executive said.
An NBA agent proposed a possible trade with the Celtics for Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and a first-round pick, per Berger.
One common name discussed often for Leonard is rookie Jayson Tatum, but the Celtics won't necessarily be eager to trade the young forward.
"It's not clear Boston would do Tatum for Leonard straight up without getting a clean bill of health for Leonard and an assurance he re-signs," Zach Lowe of ESPN said of a potential trade. "Tatum is on a rookie deal for three more seasons. A max deal for Leonard would make it hard to keep guys like Smart and Rozier, even for the short term."
Considering the Celtics' success without the All-Star and his salary of more than $20 million owed for next season, plus a player option for 2019-20, trading Irving for a star of this caliber could make sense.
Still, the most likely trade chip on the Celtics roster is probably Rozier.
Although Ainge never wanted to trade Rozier in the past, his stock has grown tremendously during a postseason where he is averaging 17.4 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
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Unfortunately, minutes are tough to come by when everyone is healthy, and he only has one more season before free agency. He isn't likely to take a hometown discount either with his goal of becoming a more featured player.
"I know there's a lot of teams I can start for right now," Rozier said in March, per Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. "It'll be the right time soon enough. It'll happen for me."
It could come down to deciding between Marcus Smart—who will enter free agency this offseason—and Rozier, although Ainge has said he wants to figure out a way to keep both.
"I like both those guys," the GM said earlier this month, per 98.5 The Sports Hub (h/t Adam Kaufman of WBZ News). "They're both so different and bring different things to the table."
This is easier said than done, though, and re-signing Smart could mean the end for Rozier in a Celtics jersey. The squad could sell high in a trade and bring back multiple assets that help keep the team in contention for years to come.
Considering the team's recent success, on the trade market, in the draft and through free agency, there is no reason to doubt it will do the right thing.