Although I was a little bit upset that the Celtics fell to the number 6th pick in the NBA draft lottery, I do not think it is as big of a deal as others seem to. It stinks that we can't get Embiid or Wiggins, but Ainge has set the franchise up beautifully to where we have tons of options. I'm going to play the role of armchair GM for a little bit and roll with a few ideas I have been considering:
1st: Win Now - In this situation, the Celtics swing for the fences over this summer and try to compete immediately in the weak east. My first trade proposal: the 6th and 17 picks in this draft, the clippers 2015 pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers pick (1st or 2 early ends) Sullinger, Bass, and Gerald Wallace. I know it sounds like too many picks, but the last 2 are basically just throw ins to make the Twolves able to stomach taking on Gerald Wallace's contract. Without those picks, we instead have to give up Green while maintaining $10 million per year of dead weight while we are trying to contend. My 2nd trade proposal: 2015 Celtics lottery protected pick + our TPE for Asik. We should be out of the lottery by adding Asik and Love to Rondo and Green, so the Rockets would probably receive that pick next year. 3rd trade: Kelly Olynyk, Keith Bogans, and the 2016 Brooklyn 1st round pick for Aaron Afflalo. These trades are all realistic and would probably make Paul Pierce consider rejoining the Celtics for a farewell tour on an actual contender. Then we resign Bradley, Bayless, and Humphries for a combined $10ish million per year. This gives us the following lineup.
Green/Paul Pierce/Chris Johnson
Kevin Love/ Humphries
I'm not sure if this team is a contender, but it is definitely an upper echelon team in the east. Afflalo proved that he's capable of being a primary scorer, so I think he'd be even better playing with Love and Rondo as the 2nd option. Rondo would have 3 players that perfectly complement his game (can run in transition and hit 3s). I also think Green would be surprisingly good in this lineup being the 3rd option like he was with KG and Paul Pierce. When he played with them, he looked like a borderline all-star, and I think the space this team would give him combined with the fact that he wouldn't be a primary concern of every defense would allow him to get back to playing strong efficient offensive basketball. This team would be REALLY good offensively. Possibly one of the best offenses in the league. On the other end, we shouldn't be that bad off either. With Asik in the middle and Rondo, Afflalo, and Green (3 athletic defenders) on the wing combined with a strong, heady defensive minded coach, this defense could actually flourish. We would rarely give teams 2nd chance points, and we would also be able to get a fair share of our own. We would be able to score in transition or the half court as well as defend in transition or the half court. This team could be surprisingly dangerous especially in the east. With Paul Pierce, Humphries, and Bayless coming off the bench, we would have a nice dynamic of scoring and defense in the 2nd unit. We would also still have cap space to work with, so filling out the bench shouldn't be that difficult. This team could be a top 3 team in the east and could contend if "playoff Rondo" shows up in the playoffs and Kevin Love and Afflalo could handle the big stage.
Although this is an appealing option to impatient fans who were unhappy with how this year went, we also have the option of going in the complete opposite direction. I'm not nearly as big of a fan of this route because it involves us trading my favorite player Rajon Rondo. On the other hand, I am really high on Olynyk and Sullinger, and I would like to see first hand if one of them reaches their ceiling. If we could trade Rondo to move up a few spots in the draft, I think I would do it if we decide to go this route. I have heard rumblings that the Orlando Magic are interested in competing next year and may go after a star PG as well as David Lee. A trade that makes sense for the Celtics going on with a long rebuild would be: Rondo and the 6th pick for the 4th pick and the 12th pick. It may seem ilke a lot to give up, but that 4th pick could be used to snag Dante Exum to take Rajon Rondo's place. If we were to pull off this trade, I could see the Celtics drafting Dante Exum (or Wiggins/Parker/Embiid if they fall) with the 4th pick. We could then either pick Jusuf Nurkic with the 12th pick and Stauskas, Young, Warren, Lavine with the 17th pick to take care of PG,SG, and C for the time being. Or we could put the picks together to try to snag Vonlah. I think he could end up being on of the top 2 or 3 players in this draft. He plays PF as it stands, but he has the athleticism to play 3 if his shot is as advertised and he improves his handle. He could also play small ball center next to Sully or Olynyk since he's athletic and long. It isn't ideal, but I think this guy could end up being a lot like Kawai Leonard who was similarly long with big hands and raw coming out of college. If this did happen, we would probably be bad for another year which would be hard to bare until next year's draft comes around. Even if the lottery is merciless against us again next season, we could grab an elite center prospect with our pick and than they have solid SGs projected to go later in the draft (select them with the 2nd pick). Then you add in the fact we could probably trade the lesser of Olynyk/Sullinger at some point to get yet another young prospect at a position of need. Add in the 2 picks the year after that (possibly 2 more lottery picks, ours and Brooklyns) and you start to see that the Celtics could really build something special if play the patience game. I'm not saying to keep tanking, I just think that with the way the new CBA regulates spending, its hard to build a sustainable winner by just trying to throw together a makeshift big 3. The Spurs have been so good for so long because they constantly have an influx of young talent joining the other guys that USED to be the Spurs young talent. By keeping a clean cap sheet and building around a core of a ton of young cheap players, we could wait to strike at the right moment and allowing them to develop, a team that's willing to pay the tax can use the bird rights of those players to theoretically build a 5 star roster.
Basically what it comes down to is that Danny Ainge has set the Celtics up to perfection. We can dive right in and sacrifice our assets (but not our future since the guys we would be acquiring would be a 25 year old Love, a 28 year old Afflalo, and a 28 year old Asik - all under 30 and our whole lineup would enter its prime together with Rondo and Green at 27 and 28) and build a legitimate playoff team with championship upside. On the other hand, he could tear it down and build from the bottom up. I know drafting isn't an exact science, but Danny Ainge is one of the best in the business at getting value in the draft where there isn't any (say hello to Rondo, Bradley, Sullinger, and Olynyk). Watching him take a stab at the hoards of draft picks we already have plus watching him be able to pick high in the lottery for a coupe of times would be a joy because I firmly believe he would fill the team up with young studs in the making. I'm on board with whichever path Danny chooses because I believe in what he's done for the franchise. This year was as rough for me as it was for other fans, but I am here for the long haul. I've been a diehard Celtics fan since the age of 12 (2002), and I would say half of those years have been fantastic where the other half were necessary evils to get us to that legendary 2007 trade. I am willing to sacrifice a few more years if it means that get to watch Celtic developed talent slowly rise up the rankings and eventually take home banner number 18. And I'm happy we have Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, and a good ownership group that I think is capable of getting us there. Plus, even if Rondo is traded, he will always be a Celtic in my mind. He's my favorite player, and wherever he goes (if he goes) will be acquiring a new fan along with him. I would prefer to see Rondo lift up banner number 18 after all of the bashing he has received as a Celtic, but if it was easier for him to win a title somewhere else while also making it easy for us to get back to playing at a championship level, it is a win win for all of my fellow Celtic/Rondo fans.