The much-anticipated NBA Draft is upon us—well, not quite yet; it’s hours away (7 pm Thursday)—but here’s a quick preview to get you up to speed and help you keep your Dario Saric analysis straight from your Marcus Smart analysis. Actually, there’s no guarantee of smart analysis here, but we’ll do our best:
What’s at Stake?
The Celtics have the 6th and 17th picks in the NBA Draft. After trading away cornerstones Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett during last year’s NBA Draft, this is the day most Celtics fans have been looking forward to for a year. This year’s draft is as loaded with talent as any in the past decade, and there’s enough trade rumors floating around to think a franchise savior has a chance to be walking through the Celtics’ locker room doors.
Where to Watch
It takes place at the Barclays Center in New York. Celtics season ticketholders will be watching at an exclusive party at TD Garden, while most people will be tuning in at home on ESPN, on the radio at 98.5 FM or watching Celtics-centric coverage on Comcast SportsNet. Bostonians can also attend a draft-night party at the Renaissance Boston Hotel’s Capiz Lounge, which will include a Celtics-themed drinks, bar bites such as bone marrow popcorn and a live podcast from CLNS radio.
Since we don’t have a spare 30,000 words, we can’t touch on them all, but here’s a recap …
Keep the picks, and trade Rajon Rondo – Under this scenario, the Celtics can hope that uber-talented Joel Embiid (No. 6) and Dario Saric (No. 17) fall to them because of injury and foreign-contract issues, respectively. But taking two players who wouldn’t contribute to next year’s team would likely spell the end to Rajon Rondo’s Celtics’ career (via a trade to Sacramento for the No. 8 pick, plus other assets). With the No. 8 pick, the Celtics could gamble on someone like Elfrid Payton Jr., or trade back and take Zach Lavine as point guard with high upside.
Keep the picks, and keep Rondo – This means, you need to draft players who can coexist around your current roster. Arizona’s Aaron Gordon fits in at the small forward position and could be available with the No. 6 pick. With the No. 17 pick, drafting anyone from the scoring group of T.J. Warren, Rodney Hood, P.J. Hairston (who comes with off-court baggage) would help. Celtics GM Danny Ainge always makes minor trades to move up and down the draft board, so that’s a definite possibility if he keeps the picks.
Trade the picks for Kevin Love, and keep Rondo – Love’s headline-grabbing vacation to Boston a few weeks ago was billed by some as him checking out the city (and confirmation he was coming!), while others dismissed it as just a normal vacation. Minnesota is said to be holding out to land restricted-free-agent-to-be Klay Thompson in a trade from Golden State. But Thompson’s been rumored to go to the Lakers for the No. 7 pick, and if he’s such a hot commodity, then someone will surely offer him a 4-year, $60 million deal. Is he worth that? Or would the Wolves be trading for a contract-albatross-in-waiting? And if he’s worth only the No. 7 pick, then surely the No. 6 pick that the Celtics are dangling to Minnesota for Love is more valuable. It’s enough to make your head spin, and that’s not even contemplating Love teaming up with any of the available free agents.
So What Will Happen?
We know Rondo is in the final year of a steal of a contract that carries a minor cap hit ($11 million) for a player of his stature (there’s only one other active All-Start point guard who has a championship ring; his name is Tony Parker). Now is the time to use that minor cap hit to fit in other players under the cap (hence, the Love, Carmelo Anthony, Rondo fanboy rumors that have been floated). If you’re not going to use the low cap hit to your advantage, the best bet is likely to trade Rondo for a pick in this year’s stacked draft and beg, barter and steal your way into Dario Saric, Joel Embiid and another player. It’s a tough pill to swallow such a long rebuild (and that’s what the Celtics are asking Minnesota to go through again if they trade Love), but in this case—barring a Love deal—it might be the way to go. Option one: trade for Love; option two: trade Rondo. Tonight will go a long way to figuring those two options out.