The Boston Celtics recently reached an agreement with the Philadelphia 76ers to trade the first overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. If this initial move is only a sign of bigger plans in the works, could it have a significant impact on free agent Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz?
Unless you just weren’t paying attention to NBA news at all the last couple days, you would have had a hard time missing out on the Boston Celtics’ latest move. News surfaced on Friday afternoon originating from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe that the Celtics were in discussions on a trade involving the 2017 first overall draft pick.
This of course instantly sent social media into an uproar as many began speculating on just what the Celtics could be up to. It had been long presumed that they would either draft projected number one overall pick Markelle Fultz or perhaps trade the pick for a key player, but few foresaw them moving it to Philly who is doing an excellent job of compiling young players, but hardly has a difference-maker in their ranks that could instantly propel Boston to new heights.
As such, many began to speculate that perhaps a third team could be involved – namely the Chicago Bulls – and that Boston’s play was to make a move for Jimmy Butler.
However, just over 24 hours after the initial hoopla regarding the Boston-Philly trade broke out, TNT’s David Aldridge reported that the deal had indeed been agreed upon and that it would be finalized on Monday, resulting in the Philadelphia 76ers receiving the first pick with which they plan to draft Markelle Fultz, but with no mention of any other team involved for the time being.
So then what is Boston getting out of it in return? Well according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, they’ll be getting Philly’s number three overall draft pick this year as well as a future first-rounder – either the 2018 Lakers pick (which is owned by the Sixers but protected 2-5), or if that one doesn’t convey to Boston, Philadelphia will then trade a 2019 first round pick acquired from the Sacramento Kings.
In other words, as far as we know now, the Celtics will only be receiving additional picks from the 76ers to complete the deal, which will allow Philadelphia to draft first overall and net their coveted prize, Markelle Fultz.
Some have speculated that Boston agreed to the deal because their true top draft target is actually Kansas’ Josh Jackson rather than Fultz. Given that the Celtics already have an All-Star point guard in Isaiah Thomas, this makes sense to some degree. However, others believe that that’s far from the Celtics’ end-game in this.
In fact, many reports have surfaced indicating that Boston plans to further maneuver with their recently acquired third overall draft pick:
And with that high possibility of looking to make a further deal, there’s been heavy speculation that the Celtics could still have their eyes on Jimmy Butler, with hopes that they could reach an agreement with the Chicago Bulls to swap that number three pick for him.
Whether or not that’s truly in the cards remains to be seen, but it seems like a very real possibility. And regardless of whether that’s the end-game or not, one thing remains brutally clear – the Boston Celtics are up to something big and rather than sit back and hope to wait out the Golden State Warriors, the C’s are looking to make some noise now with immediate title contention as their goal.
Along with their current core already in place, if the Celtics are able to additionally add Jimmy Butler to their ranks, then they’re going to look pretty attractive and have a legitimately strong pitch of potential title contention to impending free agents, including one that has been mentioned several times in connection with Boston – the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward.
If Hayward is looking to join a title contending team that can compete with the league’s heavy weights, then he could very well see joining an Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford Celtics squad as an ideal method to create a brand new and daunting super team. However, the biggest debate relating to that right now is whether or not the Celtics would truly want to make Hayward a free agency priority if they already are adding a similar position and skill set in Butler.
Not to mention, would Hayward be willing to join a team that essentially already has a guy in Butler that would fill the role that he is accustomed to?
In my opinion, Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward are versatile enough that the two of them could coexist with one another. The Warriors’ wing-heavy lineup has helped them reach new heights and the Celtics could be looking to create something similar. Butler could easily play the two while Hayward played the three or Butler could be at the three while Hayward played at the small-ball power forward position which he’s done in the past with the Jazz.
Nevertheless, although I think that combination would work out for Boston, my desire for the Jazz to retain Hayward aside, I believe that Blake Griffin – another free agent the Celtics are reportedly targeting – would fit in better alongside Thomas, Butler and Horford, filling a more dire need for the Celtics.
In reality, the power forward spot was a major weakness for Boston in this recent postseason and, assuming he could stay healthy, Griffin could very well be the extra weapon they need.
Depending on what Boston would give up to potentially acquire Butler, it would still be pretty difficult financially for them to afford both Butler and Griffin/Hayward, but Salt City Hoops’ Dan Clayton did an excellent job of breaking down how they could make it happen in the chart below. Essentially Boston would have to dump three more players to afford the pair of incoming All-Stars.
That’s somewhat good news for the Jazz. Of course, we still don’t know for sure that a Jimmy Butler trade is in the works so this is strictly hypothetical, but if the Celtics do get him, they’d then need to convince Hayward that playing alongside a similar skill set in Butler is best for him. After that, they’d also need to do some significant financial maneuvering to add him, which could hurt their depth. Those are some considerable obstacles that they’d have to overcome.
Furthermore, while obviously keeping Gordon Hayward is the ideal outcome, if the Celtics do make a blockbuster move with their third overall pick, then look to add Hayward in free agency, there is the possibility that they’d aim to do a sign-and-trade with the Jazz to make it happen, meaning Utah could come away with some valuable pieces rather than lose Hayward for nothing in free agency.
That’s still likely a long-shot, though, given that as Dan Clayton reminded us in his Twitter reply below, the pieces the Celtics would send over would have to make sense and the Jazz would have to have some real motivation to go on to help Boston. And considering that if that conversation were on the table it would be because the Celtics were about to land Utah’s All-Star, I’d say they’d be less than inclined to throw the C’s a helping hand.
Last of all, it’s important to remember that a lot of this is still hypothetical. Aside from the fact that the Celtics have sent the number one pick to Philly in exchange for the number three pick and a future first rounder, any additional moves have yet to be announced. In other words, Butler could very well be staying put and the Celtics could have other plans for the third pick.
Perhaps Gordon Hayward is simply top priority and they feel like they’re already in a good position to add him without making a blockbuster trade to further convince him. Maybe the Celtics have shifted their attention more to Griffin regardless of what they plan to do with the newly acquired lottery pick.
There’s a lot of guesswork still involved at this point, but one thing is certain – the Celtics are planning something big, and whether that spells good or bad news for the Utah Jazz and their ability to retain Gordon Hayward remains to be seen.
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All I can say is, with the Celtics-Sixers trade set to be finalized on Monday and the NBA Draft coming up on Thursday, now that this first NBA offseason trade domino has fallen, I have a feeling that the floodgates are about to open.
And as the floodwaters come raging out, it will be vital that the Jazz also further solidify their own case to Gordon Hayward and do everything in their power to reassure him that in spite of the allure of Boston or any other suitors pursuing his services, Utah is the place where he should want to stay.