The Boston Celtics seem weirdly confident that they're not done making moves this summer. Wyc Grousbeck said the "phones are ringing." Danny Ainge said that "we're not done." Isaiah Thomas said he knows "Danny's not done" and "hopefully we get a few more pieces to the puzzle."
So, what are those pieces?
"We need more shooting," Ainge told reporters last week. "We can use a stronger center, and those are the two biggest things. Maybe another ball-handler as well."
OK, so if we take Ainge's word for it, then the Celtics want shooting, a stronger center, and maybe a ball-handler. It's unlikely they'd find any impactful players left from the free-agency scrap heap, so maybe they'll turn to trades. But let's take that a step further. What follows is an idea for a potential trade package that fills all three needs.
The non-established star player the Celtics could be most realistically targeting is 76ers center Jahlil Okafor. Grousbeck said the price has come down "pretty significantly" on the player they were discussing during the draft, and the Sixers are in a position where they have to trade one of their bigs with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid now in the fold.
The Celtics would've been crazy to deal the third pick straight-up for Okafor, but if the price is reduced he makes tons of sense as a value piece. He's on his rookie contract until 2019, so they'd still retain plenty of cap space to make a splash again next summer.
The Celtics sparingly use the low post (sixth-least in post ups last year, per Synergy/NBA.com), but as a 17.5 points per game scorer he could be used as a remedy against teams that go small. Okafor would help fill the "stronger center" void as a go-to scoring presence. There are plenty of counter-arguments to adding Okafor, since the point can be made that he'd be the fourth big man on the depth chart due to his subpar defense and lack of ability to space the floor.
But Okafor isn't the centerpiece of this trade idea.
It's Dario Saric.
Saric could answer the "shooting" and "another ball handler" criteria Ainge alluded to. He's a 6-foot-10 point forward, a spectacular passer, ball handler, and rebounder. He's improved his shot each year, and drained 40.7 percent of his threes while averaging 12.5 points playing for Anadolu Efes in the Turkish League and Euroleague.
Saric is a perfect fit for the modern NBA, and has won at every stage of his career.
There have been no indications that the Sixers will consider trading Saric, but with their depth at forward and center, he doesn't seem like an untouchable.
As the No. 12 pick in the 2014 draft, they Sixers own his rights, and most reports suggest that'll join the NBA this season.
But a recent report suggests Saric isn't "coming over to be a backup," that his parents would prefer he stay, and that it's more likely he waits until 2017. It's also financially beneficial for him to stay in Turkey until next summer. Plus, Saric would potentially have a minimized role behind Simmons.
But if his circumstances were different, maybe his choice would be easy. It was reported in 2014 he would come straight over if the Celtics or Lakers drafted him. And despite the benefits of staying in Turkey, a consistent role on a winning Celtics team could be enough to entice him to come straight over.
If you're the Sixers, and Okafor actually is unhappy, and Saric might stay overseas, it's plausible to at least consider dealing them. There's no better way to cash out than to receive a hefty package from a team with a surplus of assets like the Celtics.
Okafor has his flaws, but he was still the third pick just last season, and Saric has upside comparable to some top prospects available in the 2017 and 2018 drafts—and as a bonus he's actually ready to contribute immediately on a winning team.
It's tough to say if the Celtics would put one of the Nets picks on the table in potential negotiations, but it's at least fair to consider. The protected 2019 Grizzlies and Clippers firsts are also both valuable long-term assets.
The Celtics also have players that might interest the Sixers. Terry Rozier would give them a young point guard to groom, a position of need for them. Jordan Mickey would allow them to hedge their bets with Nerlens Noel hitting 2017 free agency and Embiid being as injury prone as he is. RJ Hunter and James Young are two wing shooters that can provide upside. The Celtics also haven't yet signed any of their rookies, so all six of them can still be included in trades.
Dario Saric is expected to come to Las Vegas this week to figure out the next step of his career and possibly sign his NBA contract. But maybe it won't be with the team everyone expects if the Sixers are actually open to dealing him.