By now you've probably heard that the Boston Celtics tried desperately to move up in last month's NBA Draft to select a potential franchise altering player. Justice Winslow was one of their targets, so when he started to slide down the board further than expected, Danny Ainge was ready to pounce with an offer to move up to the No. 9 spot held by the Charlotte Hornets.
We had been told that the offer to the Hornets was significant, involving a bundle of first-round draft picks. As details of the offer have leaked out, we have learned from Grantland's Zach Lowe that the offer may have been even more staggering than initially thought.
"Boston put Charlotte on the other end of a quantity-for-quality pitch," writes Lowe. "The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from No. 16 to No. 9: that 16th pick, No. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks."
Wow. Now that is a Godfather offer to move up a mere 7 spots. That unprotected Brooklyn pick alone could potentially become a higher pick than the 9th pick Boston was looking to trade up for! You would think offering that tantalizing asset with their own No. 16 pick would have been enough, but apparently not for Charlotte.
Lowe goes on to explain that some members of the Hornets' front office liked Boston's offer, but they were overruled by owner Michael Jordan. Why? That would be because Jordan was enamored with Frank Kaminsky and didn't expect him to still be available if they moved back that far in the draft. It would all make sense if they were unwilling to give up the chance to draft a surefire superstar for a bundle of lesser assets, but there are few that actually believe Kaminsky will be a star. Except MJ that is, who happens to have the only opinion in the Charlotte organization that matters.
Jordan has a history of overvaluing the wrong prospects and making poor draft choices, from Kwame Brown to Adam Morrison. It remains to be seen if Kaminksy will join them by being labeled a bust, but it's unlikely he develops into a star worthy of passing up the package Boston was offering.
The details of this offer pose more unanswered questions. What were the Celtics going to give Atlanta for the 15th pick? If that deal was contingent on a deal with Charlotte, does that mean Ainge knew he was overpaying Atlanta in order to get it done, so that's why he didn't make that deal anyway to end up with both the No. 15 and 16 picks? Would the Hornets get their choice between the Memphis and Minnesota picks? The Memphis pick won't come until at least 2018 and has some protections that decline each year, while the Minnesota pick turns into a pair of second rounders if it falls within the top-12 next year. Would Charlotte have to pick between them now, or could they wait and see if the Minnesota pick is conveyed as a first-rounder? We may never know all the answers to those questions, but those answers could potentially reveal a much steeper price that Boston could have paid.
From the Celtics perspective it may be a blessing in disguise that Jordan rebuffed their offer. Following the draft Ainge admitted that he may have gone too far with the offers he was pushing and may have regretted going through with it. With the war chest of draft picks at their disposal, Boston can afford to overpay to exchange quantity for quality. They almost have to at some point given that they have more incoming picks over the next few years than they'll have roster spots for, while they still need to find a star to lead their young core.
Winslow could have been that future star they crave, but it's too soon to tell. Perhaps they will strike gold with one of the picks they would have had to sacrifice in the deal to get him. In the end, Jordan may have saved Ainge from making a costly mistake.
Yet if Kaminsky doesn't turn into a star, then who is going to save Jordan from himself?