In the NBA, you have to be either very good or very bad. The worst you can be is mediocre. You don’t want to be an eighth seed, and you don’t want to be the last team in the lottery. Unfortunately, that’s where the Boston Celtics are: mediocre to okay, with no real assets to trade and get better. Basketball purgatory…..up Sh*ts Creek without a paddle….completely stuck.
The Celtics are going to win 40-45 games in the horrible Eastern Conference and make the playoffs. They have a collection of decent players and will be good enough to reach as high as the sixth seed in the East. They’re staring down the barrel of the 19th pick in the first round. But that’s their own pick. Die hard green teamers who have been paying attention know that the Cs have Brooklyn’s unprotected first round pick in 2016 and 2018, and the right to swap picks with Brooklyn in 2017. But, the problem is that the Nets are not cooperating.
The Nets started the year 0-7 and, we thought, were going to sink lower and lower. I’ll admit, I was getting giddy thinking of landing a stud in the draft next June. Nobody expected Brooklyn to be the Philadelphia 76ers, who mercifully won their first game of the season last night, but we thought that they would be bad enough to secure a top three pick. Since that 0-7 start, the Nets are 5-6 and are playing much better ball. Unless Brook Lopez gets hurt, the Celtics will likely wind up with a pick in the 6-10 range. That’s not good (bad) enough.
So….where do the Celtics go from here? Where should they go from here?
Here are some possible scenarios:
Worst Case Scenario: They do nothing, keep the pick, Brooklyn wins 30 games and Boston ends up with the 9th pick, the Celtics win 43 games, make the playoffs, and end up with the 18th pick. I doubt this will happen, though. Expect Celtics GM Danny Ainge to shake up this team at or before the deadline in February.
Best Case Scenario: Brook Lopez suffers a season-ending injury, Brooklyn win 15 games, the Celtics land the 1st overall pick, draft Ben Simmons, and the Aussie from LSU turns into the greatest player of all time and wins 10 NBA Championships! (I said best case scenario, not ‘most plausible’).
That Could Work: One name being thrown out there is Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, a man whom Bob Ryan once said he would “pick up at the airport” if Ainge traded for him. Obviously he comes with baggage and is seen by many as a ticking time bomb, a headcase, Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest’s disgruntled love child. Here’s my question, if you played for a woefully inept organization like the Sacramento Kings, wouldn’t you be frustrated as well? The 25-year-old Cousins is averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds so far this season, and has a very cap-friendly contract for a superstar on the verge of his prime: roughly $15 million a year through the 2017-2018 season. Would I take a stab at him? Hell yes. Trade for Boogie, try to lure another star in free agency, and you still have future draft picks to augment the championship-building process.
No Chance In Hell: I’ll admit, this is a long shot. This is the Celtics’ Hail Mary for a return to relevance- but Kevin Durant is in the last year of his deal and is NOT staying in Oklahoma City. So if you’re the Thunder, wouldn’t you want to get something in return for him? Right now OKC is third in the Western Conference with a ‘meh’ record of 11-7. Let’s be honest here, with the way Golden State and San Antonio are playing, the Thunder aren’t sniffing the NBA Finals. You’re telling me that if Thunder GM Sam Presti (native of Concord, Mass…wink, wink) got a call from Ainge at the deadline and he was offered every Brooklyn draft pick, and maybe a few other picks that Ainge has in reserve, that he wouldn’t at least consider it? The problem then that the Celtics would have is trying to convince Durant to stick around. They could offer him the most money, especially since half of the players currently under contract are off the books next summer. And perhaps Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens could sell him on the young exciting team, up-and-coming coach, the horrendous Eastern Conference which will give him a chance to get back to the Finals, and the possibility of adding a wingman during the summer with the extra cap space. It’s a pipe dream, albeit a pipe dream that, on the surface, makes sense.
Whatever Danny Ainge does, he must choose a direction. The Celtics are not the Lakers; they can’t sell players on the beautiful weather or the presence of movie/rap stars. These players don’t give a you-know-what about history and tradition. So Boston has to get creative in their decision making. If they don’t, they’re going to be stuck on 17 banners for a long time.