The Boston Celtics' reported pick-swap trade with the Philadelphia 76ers may be only the beginning of their big moves.
The Celtics gave up the No. 1 pick for the Sixers' No. 3 pick and either the Los Angeles Lakers' 2018 first-round pick (if it falls between two and five next year) or the Sacramento Kings' first-round pick in 2019.
As a result, the Celtics now have a treasure trove of picks. In addition to those from the 76ers, the Celtics also have all of their own first-rounders, plus the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round pick and a future first-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Celtics could be content to continue drafting young players and adding them to a core that has proved good enough to finish first in the East and make it to the Eastern Conference finals. But that doesn't seem to be the feeling.
Many around the NBA believe the Celtics could be gearing up for a big trade that could land them a superstar before they even go into free agency with cap space.
There are no official reports on the matter, but there is chatter. In Chad Ford's latest NBA mock draft, he wondered whether the Celtics might flip the third pick for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, who is on the trading block:
"Another realistic scenario? The Celtics use No. 3 and the newly acquired Lakers/Kings pick to make another run at either Jimmy Butler or Paul George."
Likewise, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on "First Take" that the Chicago Bulls talked to the Sixers about trading Butler for the No. 3 pick. With the Celtics now owning the third pick, Smith thinks they'll engage in trade talks with the Bulls:
"The Bulls were talking to the Philadelphia 76ers. They wanted the No. 3 overall pick and they were willing to unload Jimmy Butler. ... Boston and Philadelphia were obviously willing to swap picks, and as a result, Boston is planning on acquiring Jimmy Butler. They don't know if they'll be able to, but their hope is they'll be able to use the No. 3 pick, get themselves Jimmy Butler, go into free agency, get Gordon Hayward ... making a legitimate run at the Cleveland Cavaliers."
The Celtics have close to max cap space this summer to sign a star like Hayward or Blake Griffin, should they leave their respective teams. Hayward has been an obvious choice because of his links to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who coached him in college at Butler.
If the Celtics were to trade for Butler, they would not have the cap space to sign Hayward to a max-level contract. They would have to include higher-salary players like Tyler Zeller, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, or Marcus Smart in the trade for Butler or find teams to take their salaries. However, it wouldn't take much to open that room back up.
As ESPN's Chris Forsberg says, there's a chance the Celtics have other moves in mind. Perhaps they think another player, like Kansas' Josh Jackson, will be as good as Markelle Fultz, so they took the opportunity to gain more assets by moving down in the draft.
But Forsberg also says the Celtics don't have to trade any of the picks for players like Butler or George now. What happens if someone like Anthony Davis becomes available? The Celtics can offer any team perhaps the best rebuilding trade package in the league.
Ultimately, the Celtics don't have to be in a rush to make any move. They could take a player they like with the No. 3 pick, see what they can do in free agency, and be on a longer timeline to dominate the East when the Cavs' reign eventually ends.
But with rumors swirling about LeBron James leaving the Cavs in 2018, perhaps the Celtics think now is their time to strike. No other team in the NBA possesses an already established core with a surplus of draft picks and cap space. If the Celtics make a move for a star before the draft, they could be in a position to make noise in the NBA next season.
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