You're going to hear a lot of draft pundits tell you that the Boston Celtics don't have enough valuable assets to trade up into the draft lottery, but that's anything but the truth. With a mountain of draft picks and a handful of developing young players, the Celtics have more than enough assets to make a move.
The real questions are: Do any lottery teams want to trade down? And if they were ready and willing, would Boston be willing to accommodate their demands to complete a trade?
That's an impossible question to answer, but the Celtics aren't going to be shy about getting answers. Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said today after the team's second pre-draft workout, "One thing no one's ever accused us of is being afraid to make calls, so we definitely will talk to a lot of teams," per MassLive.
With four picks, the Celtics could be active setting up potential deals before the draft begins on June 25, and on the night of, if the stars align, there will be a lot of movement.
Here are various hypothetical scenarios that could realistically be discussed behind the scenes or even become a reality:
If the Celtics move into the Top 10 their obvious target is Willie Cauley-Stein. He's a potentially elite rim protector with massive length paired the lateral quickness a guard. Cauley-Stein might have questions about his mental makeup, but he thrived when surrounded by a positive, defensive-oriented Kentucky team last season, which would also be the case with Brad Stevens and the Celtics.
Other options could be wings Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, or Mario Hezonja. Winslow and Johnson might be immediately impactful on defense, but their offense will come along more slowly. Hezonja's case is the exact opposite: he's ready to come in and score in bunches from day one, but his defense isn't quite where it needs to be. Kristaps Porzingis is also a possibility.
More Likely: #8, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons haven't made the playoffs since 2009 - back when Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson were on the team. And in 2015 Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince were both playing heavy minutes, despite being older than dirt. They need some youth at wing position.
Greg Monroe is a free agent to be and it might not make sense to retain him, considering Stan Van Gundy's love for stretching the floor at power forward. While the Pistons have a talented core, one piece isn't going to push them over the hump. Maybe the Celtics can come in and offer a package involving Kelly Olynyk and the #16 pick to move up to #8. The Celtics could probably afford to overpay a little bit and include the #28 or #33 pick, or even a future pick instead, though that might not be necessary.
Second Option: #9, Charlotte Hornets
Many of the comments on the Pistons apply here. The Hornets need more than one piece and the Celtics could comfortably package a player with#16 pick. The #9 pick (Trey Burke) was traded in 2013 by Minnesota to Utah for #14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and #21 (Gorgui Dieng).
Less Likely: #6, Sacramento Kings
This would take a large haul, but consider this: the Kings are trying to accelerate their rebuild before they open their new arena in 2016 and they need to keep DeMarcus Cousins happy, so trading the pick isn't out of the question. They desperately need outside shooting. Pairing a stretch-big next to Cousins makes sense, but Porzingis isn't ready to move the needle as a rookie and Frank Kaminsky might be a reach at #6.
The Celtics could offer a significant package highlighted by #16, Olynyk, and James Young. Other pieces would likely need to be added. The Kings would get their floor-stretching big to pair with Cousins, Young provides depth and shooting off the bench, and at #16 they could grab the best player available to add depth in the front court (Montrezl Harrell or Bobby Portis come to mind as options if George Karl wants to grab a Kenneth Faried type of energy big man).
As for the Celtics, they'd be in a prime position to grab whoever they have their sights set on. Maybe that's Cauley-Stein. Maybe it's Winslow. Maybe it's someone else. This is a long shot, so don't get your hopes up, but don't rule it out either.
Moderate Moves to the Late Lottery
The Celtics have done this before. In 2013 they packaged #16 and two future second-round picks to grab Kelly Olynyk with the #13 pick. If one of the targets in the above section falls here, he would be a target, but there are a few others of note.
Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner both stand out, though they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Kaminsky is ready to contribute right away as a playmaking big man, something the Celtics value. Turner is years away from making an impact, but could become one of the best players in the draft as a three-point shooting big and rim protector. There's always a chance the Celtics just want to assure "they get their guy," even if he could be there at #16, whomever that could be.
#10, Miami Heat
The Heat are targeting NBA-ready talent, according to Chad Ford, but Jonathan Givony said in his latest mock that a trade is also an option. Givony's logic makes sense, since the Heat likely won't have a first round pick next year, since it's top 10 protected and their chances of making the playoffs are relatively strong.
With that in mind, the Celtics have the bullets to package something like #16 and one of their three 2016 first round picks to move up to #10. This would give the Heat a pick in both drafts, as they prepare for the post-Wade era, and the Celtics could grab the player they're targeting.
#13, Phoenix Suns
Former Celtics assistant general manager and current Suns GM Ryan McDonough said today that he'd consider trading up or out of the #13 spot. Boston could offer virtually the same package they did to acquire Olynyk.
Non-Lottery Sneak Attacks
Stevens hinted (or let it slip) last year that James Young was ranked #11 on their personal draft board, but they selected him at #17. There's always a chance a player they consider a lottery talent slips to the #18 to #25 range of the draft, and they may want to move up for him using the #28, #33, and #45 picks; and future picks are always an option.
The 2012 draft night transaction between Cleveland and Dallas could resemble a deal Boston could try. Cleveland packaged #24 (Jared Cunningham), #33 (Bernard James), and #34 (Jae Crowder) to move up to Dallas' #17 for Tyler Zeller. With three picks in the same range, the Celtics are in a relatively similar position.
There are too many potential targets to list, but six names that come to mind who are fits for the Celtics are: wings R.J. Hunter and Justin Anderson; forwards Trey Lyles and Kevon Looney; and big men Robert Upshaw and Montrezl Harrell.
Dallas (#21) and Portland (#23) don't have their first round draft picks in 2016, so trading down while acquiring a pick in a future season isn't a bad idea. But the Celtics probably wouldn't want to risk one of those picks becoming a lottery pick, because dealing a lottery pick in 2016 for a pick in the 20s is not good value.
It's more likely the Celtics attempt to do something as outlined in the example above, with #28 and #33 packaged for a pick slightly higher. In that case, Cleveland at #24 could also make sense as a possibility.
The bottom-line is that it'd be stunning of the Celtics wake up on the morning of June 26 with four new draftees ready to be introduced to the media.
Make no question about it: the Boston Celtics have positioned themselves to react to any level of opportunities that may arise this summer. They have far too many assets that something needs to be unloaded, whether it's in a trade for a player, a big-time trade up into the lottery, or a minor move elsewhere in the draft.
If you can't get enough of the draft, I highly recommend pre-ordering my 2015 NBA Draft Guide that will be released in June. Last year's guide had a lot of success and this year will be even better.