After watching Boston's season opener Wednesday against the 76ers, one thing became pretty clear: Philadelphia has a damn good young frontcourt with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. One makes up for the other's shortcomings with Noel focused on the defensive end and Okafor looking like a 10-year vet with some of his post moves.
That's a two-headed monster that Boston will have to contend with for years to come. Unless, of course, they can swing a blockbuster trade and acquire them both.
Is this a crazy idea? Sure. Does it have any real hope of becoming reality? Not very likely. But given the track record of the two men running the respective teams, it's far from impossible.
Let's start with the 76ers. If there is one guy who covets first-round picks more than Danny Ainge, it's Sam Hinkie. This is a general manager who shipped off the reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams for a first-round pick. He sent out Jrue Holiday, coming off an All-Star season, for Noel and another first rounder. There were even rumblings last winter that Hinkie put Joel Embiid on the block with the message being anyone on the roster is attainable.
So let's put that to the test, shall we? Would Hinkie turn down a package of Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, James Young and five first-round picks (including firsts from Brooklyn and Dallas next summer) for Noel and Okafor? That's a massive package and it's meant to be. Pretty much anyone on the roster except Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas should be on the table for this deal. The Sixers can't take everyone so there will be players left over, but giving Hinkie the option to pick and choose who he wants could help facilitate the trade. And keep in mind that Ainge was reportedly willing to offer as many as four first-round picks for Justise Winslow during the draft.
If this deal were to go down, Boston would have its frontcourt and point guard of the future to build with and still be good enough for a playoff spot this year. A starting five of Smart, R.J. Hunter, Jae Crowder, Okafor and Noel looks pretty damn good with guys like Thomas, Terry Rozier and Jordan Mickey off the bench. Boston would clearly lose some depth, but that's not really a problem when they are possibly the deepest team in the league.
Besides giving up the two best players in the deal, a big reason why Philadelphia might turn an offer like this down is because even though they gave up two studs, the overall roster would improve with the influx off all of these good-but-not-great Celtics players to take minutes away from guys the Sixers are running now who probably shouldn't be in the NBA. Hinkie doesn't want to win now and more good players means more wins. But with all of those picks in hand and Embiid and Dario Saric yet to make their NBA debuts, Hinkie's "process" can continue as scheduled, as in it will never, ever end. If the Sixers want a better player than Boston can offer in return, then it shouldn't be too hard to bring in a third team with everything Ainge can offer.
All of this is to say that even if this trade scenario is a pipe dream, Boston's war chest, as impressive as it is, has actually gotten to the point where it is overflowing. Ainge already had to cut a guaranteed contract (Perry Jones) before the start of the season, something he hates doing, because there were too many guys on the roster. For the 15 players that remain, only David Lee and Evan Turner are expiring, with Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko claiming non-guaranteed money next season. Even if Ainge let all five of those guys walk, he still has to bring in three first rounders and as many as five second rounders from the draft next summer. Have I mentioned cap space? Because Boston should have enough for two max deals in the offseason. It's hard to go and sign a big free agent when you don't have a roster spot for him.
These are good problems to have but they are still problems. So a trade essentially has to happen to thin out the herd. That puts Ainge at a disadvantage because he'll lose some leverage. This makes an overpay necessary. But when you have this many assets to deal, overpaying is a luxury the Celtics can absolutely afford.
@ericblaisdell13 Eric Blaisdell 10/30/2015 01:03:00 PM Tweet Edit