The Boston Celtics want a franchise player to jumpstart their re-build. Brad Stevens’ team chased Kevin Love last summer; continues to be linked to DeMarcus Cousins; and will undoubtedly give another go at Love and his fellow stars once free agency officially begins on July 1st.
But Boston didn’t spend the last 18 months stockpiling assets just to be a player on the open market. Danny Ainge hopes to use all that flexibility to move up in Thursday’s draft, and supposedly has a specific team and player already in his sights.
Boston and Philly have reportedly already discussed a deal for the third overall choice, one that Sam Hinkie rebuffed. It’s not hard to see why, either. Marcus Smart, the 16th pick, and the 28th pick in exchange for Nerlens Noel and the Sixers’ prized draft slot isn’t exactly fair value for Brett Brown’s team.
Could the recent news that the Lakers prefer D’Angelo Russell to Okafor at No. 2 goad a better offer from Ainge? Windhorst’s note certainly makes that seem a very real possibility.
Any “monster” haul for Philadelphia would surely include guard Marcus Smart. Not only is the defensive maven coming off a promising rookie season, but the Sixers are woefully thin in the backcourt. And considering Boston could have two additional first-round choices coming its way in both the 2016 and 2018 drafts, it stands to reason at least one pick would be headed to the City of Brotherly Love in this swap – and perhaps even two.
While some Celtics fans would surely consider Smart and even a single a first-rounder too steep a price to pay for Okafor, that opinion lacks crucial context. By hoarding draft assets since finally ending the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce era in the summer of 2013, Ainge has afforded his team the wiggle room to surrender quality for quantity when it comes to possible trades. Surrendering Smart and another valuable pick or two for a single player would hurt from a numbers perspective, but Boston would still possess more draft considerations going forward than the vast majority of the league organizations. And most importantly, it would have Okafor – that elusive potential cornerstone – to build around, too.
Barring a major surprise, the Celtics will be movers on draft night. Could this be the deal they’ve been looking for all along? We’ll find out soon enough.