Danny Ainge enters the offseason with a bundle of assets at his disposal and a number of different paths that he could explore in an effort to improve his roster. The Boston Celtics president of basketball operations has expressed his desire to be "in the game" this summer by leveraging the value of the assets he has been hoarding. How he chooses to cash in those chips will determine if he's winning this game or if the game is merely playing him.
The Celtics are currently slotted to pick at No. 16 and No. 28 (the pick acquired from the Clippers) in this year's draft. Ainge has proven capable in the past of finding value in the middle of the draft, so the Celtics could certainly walk away with a solid rotation player with their own pick. Maybe they'll strike gold with that Clippers pick, or take on a young project that could help down the line. Neither option fills either of the team's primary needs - an explosive scoring threat and a rim protector.
This could lead to the Celtics looking to make some draft day trades to move around the board. Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald recently discussed how the league's growing cap figure could lead to an active trade market this summer, which the Celtics expect to be a factor in. We know all about the collection of future draft picks that Boston can cash in on, but one player on the roster that could bring them even greater value is James Young.
"Look, Boston still doesn't know what they have in James Young," a general manager told Bulpett. "But what we do know is that if Young went back to school for another year, we'd be talking about him as a top-10 pick in this draft."
Young made little impact with the Celtics as a rookie, but he flashed his potential in the D-League by scoring 21.5 points per game, while knocking down three-pointers at a blistering rate of 44.2 percent. He has the potential to be a great scorer with his sweet shooting stroke, but he entered the league as a raw 19-year old that the team knew would take time to develop. That was fine when they seemed to have a long rebuilding path ahead of them, but an unexpected playoff berth may have Ainge looking to speed up the process.
If Young actually is considered on par with a top-10 pick, perhaps Ainge could use him to move up the board. Would a lottery team willing to be more patient want to take a chance on Young's upside by surrendering their pick? Does he have enough value to net a top-10 pick? If the Celtics package him with one of their own picks, could that get them into the top-5? Moving into that range could potentially allow the Celtics to draft a more NBA-ready talent that can contribute sooner than Young will.
There could be other teams outside the lottery willing to dangle an impact player in hopes of acquiring a top pick. If they find those efforts futile, perhaps Ainge can swoop in by convincing them that Young is an appetizing consultation prize.
When it comes to making trades, it takes two to tango. (Ok, so trades can actually involve more than two teams, but have you ever tried to tango with multiple partners? It's... complicated). As Bulpett has learned, there is at least one team that sees Young as having considerable value and it's doubtful that this anonymous GM is alone in this view.
The Celtics will have options this summer. If Young's value is as high as some seem to think it is, trading him for an impact player that will help accelerate the rebuilding process is one option they should explore.