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In a two-man draft. the third pick is the lonely bachelorette of the bridal party -- the bridesmaid who cries because she isn't getting married, and not because one of her best friends is. That woman would give anything to be the one saying I do -- and everything is what the Celtics might have to give up to move up onto the altar.

In the history of the NBA, trades of the top five picks are few and far between, let alone trades of the top two. Since the turn of the century, most trades involving high picks were centered around picks after the top 5, and many of them were simple pick swaps, such as the Randy Foye-Brandon Roy swap of 2006.

Beyond those deals, top picks are usually traded for established players. Most remember the recent trade of Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, but earlier examples abound, such as the trade of number three pick Pau Gasol for Shareef Abdur-Rahim or number two pick Tyson Chandler for an in-his-prime Elton Brand. Safe to say, the Celtics have no one with that level of talent currently.

Back in the days of Red Auerbach and Jerry West swindling the rest of the league on a yearly basis, first round picks were undervalued to the point that the 1986 Celtics, one of the greatest teams of all time, had a top 5 pick in the ensuing draft (the fact that their pick, Len Bias, died before ever hitting the hardwood does not dismiss the fact they were ale to acquire the pick. RIP Len).

Today, however, first-round picks are gold, and NBA GMs are prospectors bedpanning in the river. Just last year Danny Ainge offered as many as four first round picks to move up to number 9 to draft Justise Winslow and was soundly rebuffed. It would take a hell of a lot more than that to move up even one spot to number two in this draft.

First and foremost, the Lakers or Sixers will not be trading their pick directly to Boston, and Philadelphia is highly unlikely to trade the pick at all with new management in charge (barring something unforeseen, like Ben Simmon refusing to play in Philly). The purple and gold have broadcast a willingness to trade their top pick for more immediate help in their ongoing effort to make a dysfunctional franchise five years removed from relevance a free agent destination. That pick isn't gong anywhere unless it is bringing back Paul George, Demarcus Cousins, or another star who improves the Lakers roster dramatically, right away.
The good news, however, is that Danny Ainge is the master of jumping into trades as an opportunistic third party. Unless the Lakers are already giving up on D'Angelo Russel's promising videography career, the number two pick alone, or a package of number two and say, Julius Randle, isn't enough to get Larry Bird or Vlade Divac licking their chops. Thus, enter the Celtics and their plentiful bounty of assets.

There is probably no scenario where the Celtics keep the number three pick while acquiring number two, so lets call that pick's inclusion a given. From there, it really depends what Bird or Divac (or Daryl Morey, if Houston really wants to blow things up) wants. Marcus Smart is the most enticing young player on the roster, and a team giving up a surefire all-star wants as many chances at developing another one as they can get, so we'll call his inclusion a given as well.

From there, it is mostly a matter of getting the right pieces sent to the right places. With two more Nets' picks on the way, both likely top 5 and at least top ten, draft capital is not a concern. But Larry Legend has never been a fan of losing (think back to the Danny Granger led, perennial seventh seed Pacers of the late 2000s) and Sacramento opens a new arena next year and would prefer not to see it empty every night in its inaugural season.

With those facts in mind, the picture becomes a little more clear. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Kelly Olynyk are fine pieces that are ultimately expendable in the pursuit of top-flight talent (with Bradley and Crowder's below-market deals elevating their value). One or both of them might be necessary if the Pacers are involved, and you have to think either or both would seem appealing to a Sacramento squad that has been terrible defensively for (and this is not a joke) this entire century.

So, the framework of any deal that brings the number two pick to Boston has to include -- at least -- these essential ingredients:

1) The number three pick
2) Marcus Smart
3) Avery Bradley and/or Jae Crowder
4) Ancillary draft capital

Having laid out the necessary ingredients, let's see what a hypothetical trade might look like, with the Pacers as our erstwhile third team:

Lakers receive: Paul George

Pacer receive: Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, number three overall pick, 2018 Brooklyn pick

Celtics receive: Number two overall pick

....ouch. That is a hefty sum to move up just one draft slot, and there is a realistic possibility it isn't even enough to entice the Pacers to bite. The Celtics own draft picks may have to be included, as well as perhaps more young players such as Jordan Mickey or Terry Rozier to sweeten the pot.

But beyond the finer details, the underlying question remains: is this deal even worth it?

Depriving the Celtics of Crowder would certainly leave a spot in the starting lineup for Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons, affording them the playing time needed to develop while still having the luxury of Isaiah Thomas' offensive brilliance to lighten the load. But it is hard to see any kind of improvement, record-wise, from such a deal unless it is accompanied by a major free-agent signing or another trade for an impact player.

Ainge said during his end of season exit interview that the Celtics could take a step back record wise next year if it meant building the foundation of a team that could contend in the near future. While many scoffed at such a notion, especially coming form the man who spent the weening minutes of the trade deadline trying to hustle a star out from every other team's nose, this is exactly the impact trading up in the draft would have on the Celtics roster.

Simmons and Ingram are special talents, and could both be true stars some day. But even the most blue-chip prospects don't add much to the win column their rookie year (Kevin Durant, whom many compare to Ingram, was a 20 ppg scorer his rookie year on a sub 20 win team) and there is the very real chance that Wyc Grousbec and company find another step back unacceptable after two consecutive first round exits in the playoffs.

On the arduous trail towards the land of NBA relevance, sacrifices inevitably must be made. No one is giving away superstars for free, and no prospect is ready to fill those shoes the moment his name is called on draft night. But the fact remains that there is no reaching the end of the trail without a superstar to guide the team, and while it may hurt to acquire one in the short term, it is the long term that Danny Ainge and company have and will always bear in mind.

Follow Brenton on Twitter @BBTruth8294
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com



Brenton Bauerle 5/21/2016 04:45:00 PM Edit
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