By: John Morgan Francis
Last night one of the most unexpected trades in NBA history broke the headlines. Paul George of the Indiana Pacers was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantis Sabonis with no draft picks included. George informed the Pacers, and the public, of his plans to enter free agency next summer and not rejoin the team. He also listed Los Angeles (Lakers) as his preferred destination.
As they seem to be in every trade rumor, due to their storage unit full of assets, the Boston Celtics emerged as the clear favorite to land George, even if it was for a one-year rental. Adam Kaufman, a member of Celtics media, reported earlier in the week the Celtics could possibly land George with an extension in place.
The reported offer included the Lakers first round pick next season, another future first round pick, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley. However, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported last night the Celtics made a final offer of three future first round picks (not including the Lakers pick mentioned before OR the treasured Brooklyn Nets pick next summer) and Crowder along with Bradley.
This offer clearly topped what Indiana took for George, shocking the entire league last night. It also may have made it clear George wasn’t in for an extension with any team and indeed wants to be a Laker in 2018.
Ainge had been tied to George for roughly four months now and was tied to Jimmy Butler for way longer. Butler and the 16th overall pick were traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine and the 7th overall pick on draft night.
With both of these trades being rather lopsided, obviously favoring the team receiving the star, it makes you scratch your head as to why the team with the most assets in NBA history didn’t receive either guy.
But now that Jimmy Butler and Paul George are off the table, what’s next for Danny Ainge and his treasure chest?
Ainge could offer Oklahoma City a package they couldn’t refuse (in example, Lakers pick, two first round picks other than Brooklyn’s, Crowder and Bradley). But if George is really set on being a Laker, that offer is too steep for a one-year rental that likely doesn’t win a championship.
Assuming Ainge excludes that from his options, he has what will very possibly be two top-5 picks next season and four other first round picks over the next two summers. He also has quality two-way players Bradley and Crowder at his disposal. Is that haul enough to pry Anthony Davis from New Orleans? Who knows if he’s even available?
This is a tough pitch to free agent Gordon Hayward, as most of the players who were on the trading block have already been dealt. That means if Hayward signed with Boston, their core would be Isaiah Thomas, Bradley, Hayward, Ante Zizic and Al Horford. They’d also have a deep bench consisting of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller. That’s more than enough to earn another number one seed but will likely only get them to six games with Cleveland instead of five.
But maybe Ainge has something up his sleeve that no one else knows about or could even fantasize with. No one expected Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007. No one expected Paul Pierce and Garnett being shipped out six years later for a bunch of draft picks.
Ainge can’t force teams not to be stupid, for example the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. But he can, however, wait out the mega deal, as Boston has 17 championships in their franchise’s history and the most in the NBA.
Whether it ends up being Anthony Davis in green sometime soon, another superstar we had no idea was on the trade block or even if his plan winds up being a complete rebuild and using every single draft pick, it’s hard to argue against Ainge and back it up with evidence. The Celtics GM hasn’t lost a trade in arguably six years.
The way this summer has gone in the NBA World, don’t be surprised if the Celtics are yet again connected to another trade rumor by tomorrow.
Twitter Handle: @MonJorgan