It has been a very interesting summer for Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, and the Boston Celtics. As the 2017 NBA Draft approached, the team held the No. 1 overall pick and the assets to make legitimate runs at both Gordon Hayward and Paul George. Now in early July, the Celtics still own a stockpile of assets, but did not acquire Markelle Fultz and George. Rather, Boston has Jayson Tatum and a bevy of future NBA Draft capital.
On Independence Day, though, the Celtics finally made the “big splash” that the NBA world has anticipated for quite some time when Hayward decided to make the leap to Boston. From the standpoint of Ainge and Boston’s front office, the opportunity to add a top-20 player in his prime is a no-brainer, though it should be noted that the team must exercise some salary cap gymnastics in order to fit in what is a max contract for at least the next three seasons.
But despite getting a big win in July, there is one massive question left to answer: Just how close does the addition of Hayward bring the Celtics to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?
A few weeks ago, the Celtics took a game against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it would be impossible to argue that the series should be described as thoroughly competitive. In fact, Cleveland virtually cruised through the regular season, relinquishing home court in said series, and still faced very little opposition before falling victim to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.