Can Celtics GM Danny Ainge convert his ability to stockpile
assets into a true superstar that will push the Celtics to the next
level? Nobody knows what his plans are, but he's promised big
changes to the roster for the opening of next season.
1) Klay Thompson G/F, Golden State Warriors
If the Warriors win a second ring this June, there are some who think Klay might want to be the star of his own team, instead of the fourth option in Golden State again, and why not? Instead of moving up in the pecking order, with the acquisition of Kevin Durant he's actually moved down, and despite the success on the court it's got to be frustrating. Most professional athletes feel they're just as good as anybody else, and it's got to bother Klay that he's not the first or second option, and some nights not even the third.
In Boston, he'd be the first option. He'd put up 25 points per night, he'd lead a big city team deep into the playoffs every year, he'd have epic battles against one of the best players ever in the conference finals every year and eventually he'd likely be the one to knock Lebron off the top of the mountain, or he'd at least have a great chance to be. He'd be complimented by great young talent around him, and a solid organization that knows how to build a team, how to treat their players, and how to find championship success.
If I were Danny Ainge, he would be my first target. I'd give up as much as Crowder, Bradley, and next year's Nets pick if I could get him for that. It would make sense for Golden State also, as they're going to need to start saving some money fast on payroll if they don't want to start setting records there-and what owner does? Crowder has one of the most team friendly contracts in the league, and Bradley is under contract at a reasonable rate for one more year, which would get them through to potentially drafting Luka Doncic in next year's top three. It'd be an offer worth consideration at very least for both sides.
2) Andre Drummond C, Detroit Pistons
Until I started really thinking about the possibility of getting Thompson, Drummond was my preferred target for the C's. He solves all of their immediate problems: lack of rebounding, lack of interior presence, and desire for youth that you know can succeed in the NBA. He can. He might not be a great free throw shooter, but he would average almost 20 boards a game in Boston, and at 6-11, 260 is 40 pounds heavier than any big man the Celtics currently have on the roster, giving them a bigger body at the rim to stop the charging freight train that is Lebron James during those late playoff battles in the years to come between the two franchises.
I've heard Drummond and SVG are on the outs, and SVG has had issues in the past, connecting to young big men. I think he could be had, and since it's not often that 23 year old big men who you KNOW can be great in the NBA are on the market for lower than what their market value should be, you pull that trigger if you can. I think Detroit would have to throw in the #12 overall pick this year, but then I think you start with offering the 2018 Nets pick along with maybe a 2019 pick (I'm thinking Clippers') and maybe toss in a player for right now like Zeller. Then use that 12th pick to go grab a stretch four in the draft, there are a few decent ones that should be on the board like Lauri Markkanen, Ivan Rabb, or one of the Collins big men. In this scenario you either keep this year's Brooklyn pick or next, so either way Boston is stocked with young talent. OR they keep the ammunition to pursue another trade. You'll notice that they could conceivably trade for both Klay AND Drummond if the offers I outlined here worked out, with a Nets pick going to both teams, and players going to Golden State for Klay. Imagine a Boston starting lineup next season of IT-Klay-Brown-Horford-Drummond with Smart, maybe Green, maybe Amir if you can bring him back cheap, and a few other guys coming off the bench. I think Celtic fans could get excited about it.
3) DeAndre Jordan C, Los Angeles Lakers
Jordan is another guy who like Drummond, solves all the Celtics' current basketball problems. I'm not even sure you'd have to include a Nets' pick with the offer, maybe you could get by with the Celtics' pick next season, one or both of the Memphis and LA Clippers' 2019 picks, and say Zeller for him at this point? Maybe the Clippers throw in some more of their own and get a Nets pick back? They need to blow things up over there, they just need someone to give them a reason to. Getting that Fultz pick would be HUGE in that it would allow them to let CP3 walk, they'd trade away DJ, and have more than enough cap space to resign Blake and bring in a few other pieces around him and Fultz to stay contending.
From the Celtics' side, it makes sense if you can get Jordan on the relative cheap. I really don't want to see a Nets pick go for Jordan. The difference between he and Drummond being about 5 years age difference, you just have more potential life in Drummond's career. Plus the Pistons have the 12th overall to throw in, the Clippers don't have any valuable trade assets really. It's actually almost kind of sad looking for something they could throw into the deal. For that reason, I don't think this one happens, but I think Jordan is a guy you at least call about, maybe a third team can help make things work?
4) DeMar DeRozan SG, Toronto Raptors
I know DeRozan has said he loves Toronto, wants to stay there, takes pride in what they've built, etc. I just wonder if that all changes if Lowry leaves and he starts looking around and feeling very lonely? On foreign soil, surrounded by foreign players, with his backcourt partner of the past 5 seasons gone and the team potentially moving in the wrong direction, does he start seeing greener pastures elsewhere really fast? Even before returning to Toronto? The Celtics could dangle that 2018 Nets' pick for DeRozan and feel relatively good about what they'd get back. A top tier two guard at the beginning of his prime, with room for growth who wants to win. He's got the size (6-7, 221), and the skills to lead a team deep into the playoffs, and could be a great scorer alongside IT in the backcourt in Boston. I'm not sure this could happen, but it's an interesting thought, and would depend heavily on what happens with Kyle Lowry.
5) LaMarcus Aldridge PF, San Antonio Spurs
It's become something of the worst kept secret in the league that the Spurs would love to be rid of their biggest mistake in recent memory. Since signing with San Antonio, Aldridge's career has languished. He's been a poor fit overall, with his ppg dipping below 20 for the first time since 2010, and his rebounds per game falling below double digits when he'd posted numbers of 11.1 and 10.2 in his final two years with the Trailblazers.
Part of the poor fit is Kawhi Leonard's unexpected explosive development as a superstar, forcing the Spurs to center the offense more around him and his developing game-which fits better into where the league is going than a faceup 4 like Aldridge does-and move away from an offensive gameplan centered around Aldridge. Aldridge would fit well alongside Horford, giving the Celtics two players who can score, see the floor well, and are a threat with the ball in their hands. And his cost would have to be relatively cheap, the Spurs would likely love to dump him off to anyone that would take him at whatever they could get back at this point, and it would really open them up for their rumored pursuit of Chris Paul this summer, who most would assume would love to go ring chase under Pop's system.
There are a great many options for the Celtics this upcoming summer, and the roster WILL look VERY different on opening day next season if they're successful in this off-season. I'm not going to beg for your "clicks" and views by making ridiculous suggestions like the Celtics could end up with Anthony Davis next season, but I will bring you realistic, logical potential trade targets that the team should at least think about, and that fans might want to marinate on, just in case any of these scenarios come to fruition, and we see any of the above players in green next year.
Stay tuned as I'll be posting my NBA Mock Draft in the next few days!