The Celtics should not trade the top overall pick.
Look, I get it. We’ve been talking about trading for a star for so long, it becomes old hat. The better the pick you get, the better your bargaining position is. The Bulls and Pacers will be chomping at the bit to make a deal with the Celtics now. But Danny Ainge should, and probably will, resist the urge to make a deal.
Obviously if Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, or the Greek Freak are on the table, you pick up the phone. Beyond that, however, the Celtics are better off keeping the pick and drafting Markelle Fultz.
The Celtics don’t have to trade for a star because they can just draft one. Fultz has star potential written all over him.
NBA teams that scouted Fultz this year at Washington got to see a point guard with every tool to become a perennial All-Star. At 6’5 with a 6’9 wingspan, he has the size to play or defend either backcourt spot. He hit 52 three-pointers at a 41 percent clip. He showed great instincts in the pick-and-roll, proved he could create his own offense off the dribble, and flashed the ability to make game-changing plays on the defensive end. Simply put, Fultz doesn’t have any glaring holes in his skill set.
Sure, you’ll have to wait for Fultz to develop into his full potential, but he should be a valuable role player even as a rookie. Then in a year or two he could be a cornerstone player for the next decade. Wyc Grousbeck is a venture capitalist at heart, so he understands the value of investing in the long play.
“You don’t really want to necessarily trade a number one pick in a really good draft for somebody that’s halfway thru their career, already making max money,” the team’s governor and CEO stated. “That’s just a difficult trade to make. First of all, you have to match the money in the trade, so you’ve got to add significant additional players on our side to go just to sort of match the money, so it’s three or four guys going and one guy coming back.
“That guy better be pretty good because if you’re drafting No. 1 and you make the pick well – you do really draft a transcendent player – you’ve got that player for five or six years as they build up before the max money even kicks in. It just feels like this is a pick we will listen to offers, I’m sure, we will have conversations all the way thru June but, for me, making a first pick is an exciting prospect right now.”
Trade for a star right now and you are locking into an immediate window at the expense of the future. Given how the Cavs and Warriors are set up, you aren’t exactly guaranteed banner level success in the next couple years anyway.
Keep the pick and you can set yourself up for the future and still have options to contend in the near term. The Celtics could free up max cap room this summer if Gordon Hayward agrees to sign on the dotted line. That wouldn’t cost them any picks and the Celtics could have their cake and eat it too.
Regardless of Hayward’s decision, the Celtics will likely look to move one of their surplus guards (one of Bradley, Smart, or Rozier likely needs to go purely from a minutes distribution standpoint) to fill any holes they have elsewhere. They could still get in the bidding for Jimmy Butler or Paul George by offering up a few players and the Nets 2018 pick (then again, as this year’s lottery shows, it might be best to hang on to that pick too).
I am one that absolutely believes that Fultz and Isaiah Thomas can play (and thrive) together. But if they have too many awesome point guards in the future, that’s still a great problem to have and something you can solve at a later date.
In short, let’s not overthink this. Take the best player available, who happens to be a franchise level talent, and see how things go from there. I have a feeling that it could work out very well in both the short term and the long haul.