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NBA Draft: Celtics 1 of 7 teams pushing for 4th overall pick

The Memphis Grizzlies are interested in trading back should a team absorb the bloated Chandler Parsons contract. It’ll be difficult for the Celtics to make it happen with only the 27th pick in hand and 0 cap space.

NBA: Lottery Draft Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to NBA Draft day. As the clock struck midnight the flurry of news that marks the league’s busiest day began to flow like a waterfall.

According to Jonathan Givony, an earlier report that the Celtics will look to move up in the draft is credible with Boston expressing interest in the Grizzlies’ 4th-overall pick. The selection won’t come cheap, as Memphis attempts to bolster its flexibility by dumping Chandler Parsons in any potential trade.

The C’s are one of seven teams interested in the pick, though they may not be as compelled with the idea of handling the hefty weight of Parson’s money. Danny Ainge can’t take on that contract without moving one of their max salaries or a massive combination of smaller contracts. Neither are happening, so the Celts need a third team or otherworldly negotiating to make this happen. With demand high, the latter’s tough to imagine too.

Once deemed the best contract in basketball when he made under $1-million annually with the Rockets, the Griz owe Parsons $24.1-million in 2019 and $25.1-million in 2020 to cap off a deal they hoped would bolster them in the west. Instead his injury issues limited him to under 40 games in two straight seasons and his money currently freezes a team trying to choose between rebuilding and returning to competitiveness in their stacked conference. Between Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Parsons they’re capped out and finished with one of the worst records in basketball last year while two went down.

The Mavericks, Magic, Bulls, Knicks, Nuggets and Clippers race in pursuit of the pick alongside Boston.

Only Dallas and Chicago could completely eat the money. Phoenix and Orlando could ship a small amount of salary back to the Griz to make a straight-up trade work. For Denver, LA and Boston they’ll need the help of a team with substantial cap space to complete a deal.

The problem: those teams that could lend a hand are either in competition for the pick with them or have bigger aspirations this summer, as the 76ers and Lakers do.

Another problem is Memphis’ desire to remain in the lottery. A team like the Clips can offer multiple lottery picks in this year’s draft. Ainge’s biggest struggle remains his lack of collateral tomorrow.

He can offer teams future picks with uncertain outcomes but few teams, definitely not the Grizzlies, want to move from the top of the draft to 27 where the C’s sit even with all future draft assets coming their way.

“Memphis might be able to trade back to No. 6 (owned by Orlando) or No. 7 (owned by Chicago) on draft night,” Givony notes. “Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. is a favorite of the Memphis front office and especially the coaching staff.”

The Knicks also have a lottery pick and met with Mohammed Bamba this week, whom the Celts reportedly worked out and found favorable in the weeks leading up to the draft.

The Hawks could shop their 3rd-overall pick for a similarly steep price. Kevin O’Connor previously reported the Celts’ interest in that position as well. If Boston’s rumored affinity for Bamba or Luka Dončić is true, it’ll be difficult for them to land either player after five. Neither spot will come cheap or possibly at all if Atlanta or Memphis remain intent on drafting a top prospect this year while moving back.

What ultimately made the 76ers-Celtics trade, that teams are trying to emulate this summer, work is that Boston only slid back from one to three, remaining in position to draft their desired targets of Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson.

As Jared Weiss notes, Boston’s positioning at 27th in this draft and their cap situation would require them to split compensation between two teams. That amount of payment would likely rival the substantial offer Ainge once pitched for Justice Winslow.

For once the Celtics aren’t in a position of massive leverage going into draft night. That’s ultimately how it should be for a team that just had a season as successful as theirs. With other teams in the race for the incredible pool of talent at the top of this draft Boston is described as a long shot to land three or four.

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