As we’ve discussed in this space before, the Celtics’ ability to pull off a major trade (namely for Jimmy Butler or for Paul George) could very well come down to their willingness to include the 2017 Nets pick.
Personally I’d be very hesitant to pull that trigger if not against it altogether. However, a couple of insiders (Zach Lowe and Chris Mannix) have pointed out a strategy that could make sense for both sides. Protecting the pick.
New rules allow Boston to place protection on the Nets pick. But even if they could offer a top-1 or top-2 protected pick to Chicago, it's not clear they would, and it's not clear that Chicago would accept it.
The pick is actually a swap with the Nets (they get the Celtics pick this year) so under the previous rules, they couldn’t protect it. Now they can and that opens up possibilities.
This basically means that if the pick were top 2 protected, the Celtics would be able to keep the pick if it landed in either of the top 2 spots via the lottery. Otherwise it would go to the other team to fulfill the trade. If the Celtics did wind up with the top pick in the draft, they would still be able to convey the 2018 pick to the Bulls or Pacers to complete the deal (likely the Celtics preference anyway).
The consensus seems to be leaning towards Markelle Fultz as the top prospect in the draft with Lonzo Bell not far behind. If the Celtics protect the pick for the top 2 spots, they would still have a shot at either one. If they get the 3rd or 4th picks, they wouldn’t be giving up as much anyway so the deal would still be worth it.
From the Bulls or Pacers perspective, they’d still be getting a top 4 pick in a loaded draft. They would have lots of team needs and they could even take a chance on a guy like Josh Jackson to take over the wing spot vacated by the departing star.
Obviously a lot more goes into it. Chris Mannix reported that the Celtics are very high on Jaylen Brown and aren’t likely to include him on deals. That could mean some mix of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and/or other pieces could be involved. How much or how little the Celtics include (and perhaps what else they are willing to take back) could influence how much protection goes on the Nets pick.
Deals are complicated but these teams have been talking for at least a year now, so they probably have a pretty good idea of what it would take to get things done.
This one probably goes down to the wire on Thursday, so things could appear by all accounts as quiet. All the involved teams will likely wait it out, claiming that they are fine letting the deadline pass. But it just takes one team to blink in this staring match, so stay tuned.