Celtics

A potential three-way deal for players and prospects

A potential three-way deal for players and prospects

All week, my peeps here at CSN came up with a variety of trade scenarios that would potentially land the Celtics that coveted “superstar” that fans have constantly said they need.
 
Well, a couple of things became abundantly clear in this little social experiment of ours.
 
Finding consensus on who that star player should be, while putting together a package that made sense for both sides, is A LOT easier said than done.

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I hear folks complain all the time about why Danny Ainge didn’t go get (pick a player who is really good), while not really thinking much about how much it would cost Boston in terms of players and picks.

WHO'D SAY NO?


While the pursuit of a superstar player hasn’t gone as well as folks would like, Ainge has shown an ability to acquire lots of assets that have shown promise in time.
 
So rather than spend today looking at more ways Boston can add that “superstar” player, my CSN colleagues have taken a previous trade scenario put out there by Bill Simmons, and tweaked it to come up with a way for Boston to do what Ainge does and that’s collect assets (and a couple of nice throw-in players along the way).
 
CELTICS GET
 
Sixers 2017 pick (3rd overall)
Dario Saric
Lakers 2018 pick (now owned by Philadelphia)
Jahlil Okafor
 
76ERS GET
2017 Number 1 Pick
Jae Crowder
 
OK, let’s pause right there.
 
If I’m the Celtics, I’m all over this deal. You add proven talent up front with Saric and Okafor, a nice young piece with the No. 3 pick and a future asset that will likely be a lottery selection.
 
But if I’m Philly . . .  there’s no way in hell I would even consider doing this deal. As good as Markelle Fultz will be someday and as valuable as I believe Crowder is to winning games, the Sixers would be giving up way too much in this deal. Saric will be a top-3 vote-getter in the rookie of the Year race this season. And with Joel Embiid’s far-from-certain health status, there’s no way the Sixers would part with the one healthy big man they have who produces consistently. Okafor would be a nice addition, but he would definitely have to be part of a bigger trade package if it means parting ways with the top overall pick in this year’s draft.
 
Like I said, my biggest issue with this deal is has no chance of getting serious consideration by Philly because, 1) the chances of it working out for Philly are slim to none, and 2) it’s just not sellable to their fans who, frankly, deserve better than the way this organization has taken them and their loyalty for granted in recent years with their Tank-a-pa-looza approach to team building.
 
So after totally dumping on that scenario, I’m told that was just the first part of a bigger trade that would then rope in another struggling NBA team, the Sacramento Kings.
 
CELTICS GET
 
2017 No. 5 and 10 picks from Sacramento
 
KINGS GET
 
2017 3 pick
 
So according to these two trades, the Celtics would wind up with the following . . .
 
2017 No. 5 pick (Josh Jackson?)
2017 No. 10 pick (Dennis Smith?)
2018 Lakers pick
Dario Saric
Jahlil Okafor
 
For . . . 

2017 first round pick
Jae Crowder

Okay, I love the creativity of this trade. And, if you think about it, its kind of what you expect Danny Ainge to pull off.
 
But just like my response to the first part of this trade, I don’t think the teams Boston would be dealing with are getting enough in return.

I already addressed how I see the Sixers totally getting screwed in such a deal. And the Kings don’t make out any better. For them to give up a pair of lottery picks to move up to the No. 3 spot, I just don’t see that happening unless they become absolutely convinced that Josh Jackson of Kansas, D’Aaron Fox of Kentucky or Jayson Tatum of Duke is a must-have addition for them out of this draft.
 
But at least one of those guys will be available for the taking at No. 5. Do the Kings roll the dice and hope their guy is there (if it’s Jackson they can forget about it), or trade up for the guy they want? And if they trade up two spots, is that player really worth a pair of lottery picks (Nos. 5 and 10th overall this year) in a top-heavy draft like this one?
 
It all seems way too improbable to see coming to fruition.
 
But would any of us be totally shocked if Ainge pulled off such a deal?

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

When the NBA season was put on pause in March, the timing could not have been much better for the Boston Celtics. 

Wins were getting harder to come by (they had lost three of their last five), the jacuzzi-hot play of Jayson Tatum was starting to cool off some and Kemba Walker was headed towards a stretch of “strategic rest” days off because of knee soreness. 

And just like the rest of the NBA is fired up about the potential return to play reportedly as early as the end of late July, the Celtics are an eager bunch to restart the season as well. 

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And they should be for a number of reasons. 

First and foremost, there’s a very real chance that they can move up in the standings if the league adopts the reported return-to-play model which includes eight regular season games before the playoffs. 

Currently third in the East, the Celtics would begin the postseason against Philadelphia if the league went straight into the playoffs — an idea that hasn’t garnered a ton of support from owners or players. 

An eight-game slate of games would provide Boston with enough opportunities to potentially move ahead of Toronto and secure the No. 2 seed in the East. 

The way the standings look now, the potential for movement is great for many teams. 

Boston (43-21) trails the Raptors (46-18) by three games in the standings. Behind the Celtics you find the Heat (41-24) who are 2.5 games back.

The next closest teams to Boston beyond those two are Indiana and Philadelphia (both 39-26) who each trail Boston by 4.5 games. 

For the Celtics’ sake, moving up from their current draft position and avoiding a first-round matchup with Philadelphia would be the preferred path to take this postseason. 

The Sixers, one of the bigger disappointments this season, will feature a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, making them a much tougher foe come playoff time. 

For the Celtics, the alternative if they move up would be a Brooklyn Nets team that’s expected to play this postseason without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant who have both been out recovering from injuries. 

There’s also a chance that Boston would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round if the C's remain as the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed which, similar to facing Philadelphia, would provide a tough first-round matchup. 

The reboot to the season also allows more time for the Celtics to adjust to what’s shaping up to be a new pecking order. 

While Walker is the team’s most proven, most decorated talent, there’s no escaping the inevitable rise of Tatum as the face of the franchise (if he’s not already there). 

As the season wore on, his ascension was undeniable. Tatum began the season as a player the Celtics were hoping to see blossom into a big-time talent with the departures of Irving (Brooklyn) and Al Horford (Philadelphia).

Following his first All-Star appearance in February, Tatum averaged 29.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 46.8 percent on 3’s. His ability to pick up where he left off would go far in Boston’s quest to build off the successes they had this past season. 

As for Walker, he had missed some games and played limited minutes in others shortly before the season was paused thanks to knee soreness.

The extended downtime without games or practice should allow Walker to return to action revived and refreshed.

And him being healthy combined with Tatum’s improved play gives the Celtics a potent 1-2 punch as they inch closer to rebooting the system and in doing so, restarting their journey towards what they believe will be a deep postseason run. 

Updated NBA playoff picture amid reported 22-team season return plan

Updated NBA playoff picture amid reported 22-team season return plan

The NBA is on track to return and finish the 2019-20 season.

The league reportedly is set to approve a 22-team format to conclude the campaign. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Wednesday the breakdown of the conferences.

It's important to note this proposal includes every playoff round keeping its normal Best-of-7 format, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. There had been speculation that the first round could return to a Best-of-5 format to allow the playoffs to be done quicker.

Under the proposal noted above, eight more regular season games will be played by each of the 22 teams, so it's still possible that teams outside of a playoff spot could jump into the mix if they play well upon returning. It's also very possible, especially in the Western Conference, that the seeding could change after the eight games are played. 

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, a play-in tournament could decide the No. 8 seed in each conference. Here's how that would work:

If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.

Let's take an updated look at the playoff picture in both conferences.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Milwaukee Bucks: 53-12, 0 games back
2. Toronto Raptors: 46-18, 6.5 GB
3. Boston Celtics: 43-21, 9.5 GB
4. Miami Heat: 41-24, 12 GB
5. Indiana Pacers: 39-26, 14 GB
6. Philadelphia 76ers: 39-26, 14 GB
7. Brooklyn Nets: 30-24, 22.5 GB
8. Orlando Magic: 30-25, 23 GB
9. Washington Wizards: 24-40, 28.5 GB

The Boston Celtics would play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round if the league went straight to the playoffs. This would be a tough matchup for Boston given Philly's impressive roster and the fact the Sixers won three out of four games in the 2019-20 season series. 

But with eight regular season games left to be played under this proposal, it's possible the 76ers could move as high as the No. 4 or No. 5 seed. The ideal first-round opponent for the C's -- if they stay in the No. 3 seed -- would be the Indiana Pacers, who Boston swept in last year's first round. The Pacers don't have the same superstar skill, interior size or matchup problems that the Sixers would give the Celtics.

It's also possible the Celtics could fall to the No. 4 seed, or even climb to the No. 2 seed if the Toronto Raptors falter. The most likely scenario is the C's staying where they are at No. 3.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Los Angeles Lakers: 49-14, 0 games back
2. Los Angeles Clippers: 44-20, 5.5 GB
3. Denver Nuggets: 43-22, 7 GB
4. Utah Jazz: 41-23, 8.5 GB
5. OKC Thunder: 40-24, 9.5 GB
6. Houston Rockets: 40-24, 9.5 GB
7. Dallas Mavericks: 40-27, 11 GB
8. Memphis Grizzlies: 32-33, 18 GB
9. Portland Trail Blazers: 29-37, 21.5 GB
10. New Orleans Pelicans: 28-36, 21.5 GB
11. Sacramento Kings: 28-36, 21.5 GB
12. San Antonio Spurs: 27-36, 22 GB
13. Phoenix Suns: 26-39, 24 GB

The regular season finish in the West could be crazy and exciting with seeds No. 4 through No. 7 separated by just 2.5 games. The Lakers would have to really collapse to lose the No. 1 seed, and the Clippers are unlikely to fall below No. 3. Aside from the two L.A. teams, much of the playoff seeding in the West remains up for grabs. 

The race for the final spot will be interesting as well. The New Orleans Pelicans, with No. 1 pick Zion Williamson healthy and in the lineup, will be among the most-watched teams. It would be awesome if the Pelicans earned the No. 8 seed and Williamson went up against LeBron James and the Lakers in the first round, but the odds aren't on New Orleans' side.

If the Grizzlies hold on and secure a postseason berth, their 2020 first-round pick will go to the Celtics.