Celtics

Lottery's over; do Celtics want to pay to play Anthony Davis sweepstakes?

Lottery's over; do Celtics want to pay to play Anthony Davis sweepstakes?

For all the hype surrounding Zion Williamson, the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery might ultimately be remembered for its impact on the impending Anthony Davis sweepstakes.

The path to AD got thornier for the Celtics on Tuesday night with chief rivals both emerging with glitzy new picks to offer, and New Orleans landing the No. 1 overall pick might just leave the Pelicans putting a hard sell on why Davis should consider coming back.

But with the “That’s All Folks” T-shirt still fresh in mind, it’s hard to see a path towards reconciliation. So the question becomes: Do the Celtics still have the necessary assets to entice New Orleans to make a deal?

What’s a bit more certain after the lottery is that the asking price might have gone up again, especially as teams like the Knicks and Lakers bolstered their offers by securing top spots in this year’s draft.

There could be mystery shoppers this summer — teams like Toronto or the Clippers can put together very intriguing offers depending on how the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes unfolds — but for the sake of post-lottery argument, the focus is on the three main Davis seekers: Celtics, Lakers, and Knicks.

What could each offer?

Boston could build a package with a mix of established young talent, proven NBA talent, and future picks by offering some combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, the future Grizzlies pick (which rolled into future seasons, where protections loosen), and some of Boston’s three first-round picks this year. Alas, that’s not all. Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward might be needed to make salaries match, unless the Celtics’ front office can get creative.

The Lakers vaulted to the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft and can add that gem — albeit in a draft where the buzz currently surrounds the top three players — to last year’s mega-offer, which was some combination of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and L.A.’s future first-round picks. 

The Knicks whiffed on the top spot but landed at No. 3 and could package that with Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and some of their draft assets like the 2021 unprotected first-round pick acquired from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. While missing out on Williamson made the path a bit tougher, there’s still a path to a super-team if the Knicks can recruit free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving before flipping assets for Davis, but it got a bit trickier by not winning the lotto.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the offer that ultimately pops most might hinge on what New Orleans general manager David Griffin desires. Typically, teams can’t ask for the moon for a player entering a contract year, but the Pelicans winning the lottery changes that a bit and puts the Pelicans in a bit more of a power position.

Timelines will also be interesting here. The Celtics would seemingly want to make an early charge at Davis in order to sell Irving on staying in Boston. The idea of a starting five with an Irving/Hayward/Horford/Davis combo should be mighty intriguing to both Irving and Horford as they contemplate their futures. Still, it’s a steep price to pay without a future commitment from Davis and could leave the Celtics leery.

Alas, between the Leonard revitalization and Boston’s own stinker of a season, it’s a friendly reminder that 1) Top-flight NBA talent is worth taking risks on and 2) Windows are fleeting and sometimes you just have to push your chips in. If the Celtics step back from the Davis pursuit, it adds a layer of intrigue to offseason roster construction and how the team might make the tweaks necessary to avoid what ailed it a year ago.

The question becomes, how much is Boston willing to pay for a move that has obvious short-term benefits but complicates the long-term vision? Is this team better off waiting for the next star to come along and hoping the price isn’t as prohibitive?

There are no easy answers and the lottery complicated matters. But Boston is still in the mix, which is about as much as it could have hoped for going into the ping pong madness of Tuesday night.

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Kemba Walker ready to adjust his role and share the scoring with his new Celtics teammates

Kemba Walker ready to adjust his role and share the scoring with his new Celtics teammates

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker admits that, in order for his new team to maximize its potential, he needs to alter his offensive approach. Fresh off inking his max contract, the eight-year veteran said he’s on board with deferring to the new talent that now surrounds him.

“[My role] does [need to change], and I’m looking forward to it,” Walker said on the latest Celtics Talk Podcast. "It’s something new. It’s not as big of a burden, I feel like, on my back. It’s like, I had to be perfect every night in Charlotte. Had to be. I had to have a great game, offensively, if not, it will be a struggle for us to win. Like I said, with the personnel, we have on this team and the way these guys can score, it’ll be different.”

The Celtics landed Walker on a four-year, $141 million deal. With the Hornets, Walker was forced to shoulder much of the scoring burden and sometimes even big outputs weren’t enough to will Charlotte to wins (Walker had seven games of 40-plus points last season and Charlotte lost six of them, the only win coming against Boston).

Walker ranked ninth in the NBA in usage rate last season at 30.8 percent. That was one spot ahead of ball-dominant Russell Westbrook and two spots ahead of Kawhi Leonard. Which is to say that Walker is used to finishing possessions but seems on board with giving it up more. Kyrie Irving ranked 17th in the NBA in usage at 28.6 last year.

Walker cited young players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as reasons he wanted to come to Boston and he’s eager to use his talents to get them scoring opportunities. A healthier Gordon Hayward is going to demand more possessions as well and the team can lean on his ball-handling skills, especially when Walker isn’t on the court.

Walker said he’s excited about the potential. 

"I think there will be a lot of space. I’m a willing passer as well. I’m very unselfish,” said Walker. "I love to score, don’t get it twisted. Whenever I have an opportunity to score, I’m going to score. But, when I draw defenders and see open guys, I’m going to get rid of that thing. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to kinda changing my game as well, just giving the ball up a lot more.”

Coming off a season in which Irving’s missteps as a leader contributed to friction with younger players, Walker’s arrival begs the question of whether he can maximize their talents. While he’s expressed a desire to help those players grow — while also suggesting that he yearns to learn from them and their playoff experiences -- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge remains staunch that Walker simply needs to be the best version of himself.

"I don't really look for other people to draw out anything from anybody,” said Ainge. "I expect him to be at his best, that's all. Work hard and be who he is. He doesn't have to try to draw anything out from any of the other guys...It's not anybody's responsibility to draw the best out in every other player.”

Added Ainge: "I see Kemba as a good fit with anybody. He's a really good player. He's smart and is experienced and wants to win. He's accomplished a lot of things individually and he just really hasn't been able to accomplish the team goals since winning the national championship in college. But I think that's what he is hoping for. He's at the stage of his life where that's all that matters.”

Walker landed on the All-NBA third team this past season. He averaged a career-best 25.6 points per game but has shot just 41.8 percent from the floor from his career and 35.7 percent beyond the arc. The Celtics are hoping that with more skill around him, Walker can ratchet up his overall efficiency. He averaged 5.9 assists per game last season and that number could spike if Tatum, Brown, and Hayward elevate their offensive output this season.

It is, of course, easier to say you want to morph your game in July than it is to actually do it on the court in October. But Walker has repeatedly stressed a desire to win after limited playoff exposure in Charlotte. Given some of the losses on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the frontcourt, it’s imperative that the Celtics play with high efficiency on the offensive end. Walker’s ability to maximize opportunities for himself and his teammates could be key in Boston’s success in the 2019-20 season.

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NBA Rumors: Clippers offered Marcus Morris large contract at start of free agency

NBA Rumors: Clippers offered Marcus Morris large contract at start of free agency

It's been a tumultuous offseason for Marcus Morris.

The former Celtics forward stirred up some controversy when he backed out of his agreement with the Spurs to sign with the Knicks in free agency. San Antonio offered Morris a two-year, $20 million deal, but he ultimately chose New York's one-year, $15 million offer instead.

That decision led to Morris parting ways with his agent, Rich Paul, and the Spurs reportedly being "pissed" about the 29-year-old's change of heart.

Apparently, San Antonio's offer wasn't the only one Morris turned down. According to Frank Isola of The Athletic, he also declined a three-year, $41 million offer from the Clippers at the start of free agency.

Isola writes:

Morris, however, lost out on a much more lucrative contract with the LA Clippers, who were prepared to pay him $41 million over three seasons. A Clippers source said the three-year deal included a provision for Morris to receive 50 percent of his salary on Oct. 1.

Morris was hoping to earn $40 million over two years but the Clippers couldn’t offer that deal if they wanted to sign Kawhi Leonard to a max contract. Once Morris took that stance, the Clippers moved on and acquired Portland’s Maurice Harkless in a four-team trade that included Jimmy Butler signing with the Miami Heat. Harkless will earn $11 million next season, or $2 million less than what Morris would have made with the Clippers.

The Clippers certainly aren't losing sleep over Morris declining their offer. They went on to sign superstar Kawhi Leonard and trade for another star in Paul George.

As for Morris, he might regret overestimating his market value early in the offseason. Fortunately for him, he'll get another shot at it next July with a new agent.