The Celtics have a war chest of first-round draft picks
After trading Rajon Rondo to Dallas, Danny Ainge has accumulated enough draft picks and young talent to lead a speedy rebuilding process.
The Boston Celtics traded Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, a first round pick and a second round pick. The move finally allowed Boston to move on from the last remnant of their most recent championship team and embrace rebuilding. It also added to a treasure chest full of draft picks that dwarfs any other team’s and could help them get back to relevance soon.
Let’s see just how many future draft picks the Celtics have.
2015: Two first round picks, three second round picks.
They would receive the 76ers pick if Philadelphia makes the playoffs, but that’s obviously not going to happen, so it’ll turn into two second round picks, one to be transferred in 2015 and one in 2016.
There’s another potential first-round pick coming from Dallas through the Rondo trade, but it’s protected on both ends, so the Celtics would only get it if falls between the fourth and 14th pick. Since the Mavericks will surely make the playoffs, that pick will be transferred in 2016, when it’s only top-seven protected.
As far as second-round picks go, the Celtics will have their own pick, since it was traded to the Cavaliers but is top-55 protected. They will get the 76ers’ pick, which should be one of the earliest of the second round, and the Wizards‘ pick provided it’s lower than 49. Considering Washington currently has the No. 55 pic.
If the season ended today, the Celtics would have the No. 10, 24, 31, 40 and 55 picks in the 2015 NBA draft.
2016: Three first round picks, four second-round picks
In 2016 the Celtics will have their own first-round pick, plus the Nets‘ from the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade and the Cavaliers’ from the Keith Bogans trade provided Cleveland finishes out of the top 10.
They likely won’t have their second-round pick, as the Jazz will get the best pick between Boston’s and Toronto’s. But they will have the 76ers second-round pick, the Cavaliers’ and the Heat’s, as well as the more favorable of the Grizzlies or Mavericks.
That gives the Celtics a total of seven picks in 2016.
2017: One first round pick, one second round pick.
The Celtics will have the opportunity to swap picks with the Nets. It’s very possible Brooklyn is the worse team by then, so this is a great asset.
The only minor downside to the swap is the fact that the Celtics would have to cede their second round pick to the Nets if they go through with it. But they will get a second-rounder from the Cavaliers from the Keith Bogans trade. A Kings second-rounder is technically in play but since it’s top-55 protected, it’s unlikely the Celtics get it.
2018: Two first round picks, one second round pick
The Nets’ trade is truly the gift that keeps on giving for the Celtics, as they will get yet another unprotected first-round pick. The Nets only have Mason Plumlee, Sergey Karasev and Bojan Bogdanovic under contract past the 2016-17 season, so it’s likely Brooklyn will still be rebuilding. The Celtics will also have their own first- and second-round picks that year.
Over the next four years the Celtics own eight first-round draft picks and nine-second round picks for a grand total of 17 picks. No team — not even the second-round-hogging 76ers — have as many draft selections during that time.
Draft picks and cap flexibility mean a quick rebuild
The Celtics could use all of their draft picks, adding seven new first-rounders in four years and injecting even more youth to their team. There is talent in their roster already. Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller and James Young are all under 25 and could be part of the future. What the Celtics are missing is a star and the draft is a great way to procure one. Taking the long-term approach is certainly an option.
There’s also the possibility to cash in all their chips sooner. First-round picks are extremely valuable on the trade market, as they yield young players on cheap contracts. Since the Celtics have some of those already and will be in a great position, cap-wise, once Gerald Wallace’s contract expires in 2016, they could spare a few. If a star becomes available, the Celtics will be ready to make arguably the best offer, combining young players and draft picks.
Danny Ainge put the championship team of 2008 together by doing just that. He sent young talent out in the form of Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes, along with a first-round pick to the Wolves for Kevin Garnett. After that, he sent Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the rights to Jeff Green for Ray Allen. Gerald Wallace’ and Avery Bradley’s contract could help the Celtics match salaries and their picks would make any deal enticing for a team dealing with a disgruntled star or looking to start over.
The Rondo trade only improved the Celtics’ chances of becoming a good team down the road, either through the development of young players and the addition of others through the draft or a trade for a star or two using the assets they have accumulated.
Rondo is gone, which is bittersweet for many fans. But there’s every reason for optimism in Boston right now.