The hot stove rumor mill is starting to sizzle for the Boston Celtics. Former Providence head coach Tim Welsh reported on CSN's Sports Tonight that the Philadelphia 76ers are pushing to complete a trade for Boston's third pick before Thursday's NBA Draft.
"Philly has told Kris Dunn's camp and his agent they are trying to push the buttons to have this happen before the draft," Welsh said. "They've been in Providence locked in to the city talking to everyone that's ever encountered Kris Dunn. They are putting the full court press on the Celtics to acquire the third pick. It could go down in the next two days, so we'll see. Boston has the upper hand in knowing what Philly wants."
A #WelshBomb might not carry the same weight as a #WojBomb, but this is intriguing. Welsh was one of the first to report Philly's interest in Dunn, and given that he has been connected to Dunn since before he committed to Providence, it's apparent he's plugged into the situation.
Welsh said the Celtics prefer Nerlens Noel to Jahlil Okafor in a trade package, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Noel is simply a better player in the positionless NBA.
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Noel has tremendous potential on defense as a rangy shot blocker, and he's an explosive leaper who would give the Celtics a serious lob threat.
Okafor is a potential star low-post scorer, but he doesn't exactly fit Boston's style as a lazy defender and rebounder. One advantage to Okafor, however, is he has two more years than Noel on his contract.
At face value, this potential trade makes sense. The Celtics might see Noel as a player that can take their defense to an even higher level. But as good as Noel already is, he doesn't have the upside that Jaylen Brown or Dragan Bender does. He'll also be a restricted free agent next summer and could earn a max contract.
Anytime you're talking about Danny Ainge and the Celtics, you have to think big. The Celtics have dreams of signing Kevin Durant this summer, and acquiring Noel or Okafor doesn't exactly move the needle towards making that happen.
But Jimmy Butler would.
Butler's name has been involved in rumors for months and the Celtics' interest goes back even further. Chicago's frontcourt is a barren wasteland, so it'd make sense if they have interest in Noel or Okafor. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are past-their-prime free agents. Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic are merely role players. Bobby Portis is unproven.
Throw in a name like first-team all defensive guard Avery Bradley, and maybe you spike Chicago's interest. Add in more draft picks from Boston and/or Philly, and maybe they're willing to pull the trigger.
Though Butler is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, building around a disgruntled superstar might not be the best course of action when Chicago is about to enter a transition phase.
What's intriguing about Welsh's report is the sense of urgency from Philadelphia to complete a trade before Thursday's draft.
It'd also make sense for the Celtics to escalate negotiations since the completion of a blockbuster deal would send a signal to Durant and other free agents that Boston is on the rise. But if the Bulls are actually involved in talks—keep in mind, this is just speculation—then there's really no incentive for them to push it.
The offer would probably have to be overwhelming, but the Bulls are at least willing to listen. They said so themselves.
"I think John (Paxson) made it pretty clear we've got to take a look at everything," Bulls general manager Gar Forman told the media in April when asked Butler being an untouchable player. "We've got to explore all options and I don't think there's anything that's off the table when you have a disappointing year like this."
Even if the Celtics do make a trade they'll still have plenty of picks, so get yourself ready for Thursday using my 2016 NBA Draft Guide.
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