We are mere hours away from the 2016 NBA Draft and the Boston Celtics are still sitting on a bounty of assets. The brightest of all the gems in Boston's treasure trove is the No. 3 overall pick in tonight's draft, which Danny Ainge is desperately trying to cash in for an established veteran that can push the Celtics to the next level.
The problem is, most of the teams they are talking to don't seem to want their pick. Chicago? They want to build around Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee? No thanks, they like their young core. Utah? Seems their front office isn't as enthusiastic as we are about reuniting Gordon Hayward with his former Butler coach, Brad Stevens. Any one of these teams could change their mind as the draft approaches, but what if they aren't simply playing hard-ball? What if the third pick in a draft that many consider to have only two surefire stars isn't all that valuable?
Well, there's one team that seems to want that pick. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Philadelphia 76ers are making a push to acquire the pick from Boston, which would give them two of the top three picks in tonight's draft.
League sources tell @chadfordinsider and me: Philadelphia is ramping up its efforts to acquire tonight's No. 3 overall pick from Boston.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2016
They have reportedly already promised the No. 1 pick to Ben Simmons, but that means adding to an already crowded front court. The ideal scenario for them would be to add Simmons, then trade one of the other big men on their roster for the No. 3 pick, which can be used on a guard, such as Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield.
The rumor mill has been swirling all week with a scenario where the Sixers would send Jahlil Okafor to Boston for the number three pick, but Ainge is apparently underwhelmed by that offer. Our own Kevin O'Connor also recently discussed the reasons why Boston would be better off keeping the pick instead of settling for Okafor. Now it seems Philadelphia is trying to use new bait to entice the Celtics, with Nerlens Noel being the more likely big man to be dealt.
Numerous rivals describe Philly as the most active team in circulation ... with a trade involving Nerlens Noel looking more and more likely— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2016
Noel would certainly solve the Celtics rim protection problems, and his versatile defense would be a good fit in the lineup. How many guys can say they average 1.7 blocks and 1.8 steals for their career? He's still only 22 and still improving, but keep in mind that he missed his rookie year due to injury and has only played in 142 games through two seasons. He's also in the last year of his rookie deal before hitting restricted free agency, so if the Celtics plan to give up the No. 3 pick for him then they had better be willing to pay the man amidst a skyrocketing salary cap.
If the Celtics were to entertain an offer from the Sixers, they will probably want more than Noel. If Philly is willing to include Robert Covington, a career 36.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc, then perhaps we're on to something.
Another route to consider: What if the Celtics keep the No. 3 pick for themselves to use on Dunn, then trade Marcus Smart in a deal for Noel?
There are several potential options on the table, but unless another team unexpectedly caves in and relinquishes a star player, a deal with the Sixers may be the best we can get.