It’s no secret the Boston Celtics will be moving and shaking this summer. The team still lacks the singular foundational piece needed for legitimate contention, and Danny Ainge is a notoriously creative decision-maker. This is a crucial time for Boston. And less than two days before Thursday night’s draft, it seems increasingly likely the Celtics might even be more aggressive this off-season than most anticipated.
According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Boston made an offer of Marcus Smart, the 16th pick, and the 28th pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Nerlens Noel and the third pick – one that Sam Hinkie and company, unsurprisingly, rebuffed.
League executives also said the Celtics were trying to move up in the draft, using their two first-round picks and two second-round picks as bait.
The executives said the Celtics were looking to trade point guard Marcus Smart and the Nos. 16 and 28 picks in the first round to Philadelphia for center/forward Nerlens Noel and the No. 3 pick. But the 76ers, the executives said, weren’t interested.
It was reported earlier this month that the Celtics were dangling their pair of first-round picks in hopes of moving into the lottery. The problem for Ainge, though, is that there isn’t an obvious trade partner near the top of the draft; every team that would consider moving down wants an established or intriguing player in addition to picks, the former of which Boston mostly lacks.
A possible solution? Including Smart in the talks and swinging for the fences.
The Celtics surely didn’t believe the Sixers would agree to this swap. Not only are their mid- and late first-rounders not worth the draft’s third choice alone, but Noel is clearly a superior player to Smart, too. This was a lopsided proposal.
However, there’s simply no lasting harm in exploring even the unlikeliest possibilities at this point in the summer. Every initial discussion between executives could spark a new one that leads to a franchise-altering deal. Ainge is a uniquely gifted negotiator, and it’s safe to assume he’ll be doing more of it in the coming days – and weeks – than almost ever before.
Is Smart on the block? Are the Celtics hot for Noel? The off-season doesn’t work in certainties, but probabilities. And though there’s no way to confirm this notion, Boston’s talks with Philadelphia seem preliminary at best. We may not hear either defensive maven’s name swirling in trade winds again.
Regardless, that the Celtics engaged the Sixers at all confirms Ainge’s talk at the very least: “Stay tuned.” Draft night could be wild.