Touching All the Bases

Top 3 Semi-Reasonable Celtics Scenarios of NBA Draft Week, in Order of Appeal

I should probably have squeezed the words "within reason" into that headline, huh?

One of the chief appeals of the buildup to the NBA Draft is the idea that while everything may not be possible, it's at least easy to imagine it being possible, especially if you have a rudimentary clue with the trade machine.

Could Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, and Rajon Rondo unite to form the Big Three, Volume Three? Sure! And here's the 17-step plan to how that might just work.

I love this stuff. I love the machinations and rumors and misdirection and posturing that accompanies every player projected to be a lottery pick and every star rumored to be on the trading block. It's more fun than the NFL Draft, because college basketball is so much easier for the average fan to scout. Plus, Roger Goodell and Chris Berman aren't involved.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for those -- such as the guys at Celtics Blog -- who know how to navigate the complexities of the salary cap and the nuances of what is necessary to make a trade work.

You may have figured if you've visited here before, my mind doesn't work at such a complex level -- generally, it functions as a countdown clock to my next meal.

And so my idea of dreaming up deals for the Celtics is just a slightly higher than punching Jeff Green-for-Kevin Durant into the trade machine, cursing when it doesn't work, then throwing in Jerryd Bayless and Keith Bogans to make it happen.
It's not too late to get Durant, Danny! Look what I did! I'm the new Darryl Morey! Make it happen!

OK, so maybe that's not the most reasonable idea. My urge to call NBA geniuses Felger and Mazz to share my breakthrough probably should serve as a warning sign. But I do have some reasonable -- well, I think they're reasonable ideas -- about how things could and should go for the Celtics in advance of Thursday night's franchise-altering draft.

1. Celtics trade Rajon Rondo and a future first-rounder to the Sacramento Kings for Ben McLemore, Isaiah Thomas, and the No. 8 overall pick. Celtics draft Joel Embiid at No. 6 and Aaron Gordon at No. 8: A variation of such a trade with the Kings was first floated by Marc Spears in the back of a power rankings column in February. A reader revived it in my Sunday Mail column.

I'm not sure any of that qualifies it as a hot rumor at the moment, but if that deal happens, well, thanks for everything, Rajon. You were a joy to watch at your best. How many players can say they were the best player on the floor in a playoff game in which LeBron participated ...

... excluding about a half-dozen 2013-14 Spurs? And you were a fascinating enigma at your worst. Ultimately, it was always entertaining and usually fulfilling, and I wouldn't trade the time you had here for anything.

But, yeah, we're trading you now. This is a full-on rebuild, man, and you deserve better than that.

You probably deserve better than Sacramento too, but that's how this dream scenario goes from this end.

The Celtics get McLemore -- a supreme shooter who, in his first year in the league, didn't shoot all that well, hardly a cause for alarm. They also get the eighth pick, where they should be able to get Gordon, an unvarnished 18-year-old who brings a jolt to every game he plays in, even if his offensive skills are rudimentary. And you get Isaiah Thomas, a wee, shoot-first point guard whose game suggests he really should have been named after Sleepy Floyd instead.

As for Embiid, 97 percent of responders to a poll question during my Friday chat said yes, the Celtics have to take him if he's there at No. 6, injuries and risks and all. I agree, and I believe the number within the Celtics organization is three percent higher than that. Before his foot required a couple of screws, he was the consensus No. 1, a player whose talent, toughness, athleticism, and defensive ferocity made a convincing case that he's this generation's franchise center.

As my colleague Gary Dzen pointed out, the Ainge & Son tandem in the front office were quick to note that they'd have taken Durant over Greg Oden in 2007, but what they left unsaid was this: Had Oden been available at No. 5, they would have done cartwheels down Causeway Street.

They are not passing on Embiid. My fear is that one of the five teams in front of them won't, either.

But until those names start to go on the big board behind Adam Silver Thursday night, how is this for the revamped core of a rebuilding project? Embiid, Gordon, Sullinger, Olynyk, McLemore, the No. 17 pick, and perhaps Avery Bradley, with several future picks in Ainge's pocket? I think Brad Stevens would be alright with that.

2. Celtics trade Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Keith Bogans, the No. 6 and 17 picks this year, and one of the assorted Nets picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love: I've said my piece on the Love-to-Boston wish a couple of times since his weekend-in-New England getaway. It boils down to what he wants to do. If he says, "Flip, if you trade me anywhere but Boston, I'm gone after a year,'' that would go a long way toward leveraging Minnesota into making a deal with the Celtics. I still think this scenario happens, actually. But I do think the price is considerably steeper than conventional wisdom suggests -- it will not be an either/or with Olynyk and Sullinger. Love may have the leverage, but the Celtics want him, and the Timberwolves know it. They should trade him. But they don't have to unless the deal appeals to them. The Celtics will make it worth their while, at least as far as Trading The Franchise To Boston Again goes.

And by the way, be highly skeptical of any Love-won't-be-traded reports at the moment. It's part of the game. Consider this, from the June 22, 2007 edition of the Globe:

Speculation that Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Garnett would come to Boston in a multiplayer deal that also included the No. 5 pick in Thursday's NBA draft ended yesterday. Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, said: "Kevin is not coming to Boston," when reached yesterday.

By not coming to Boston, he apparently meant, "Until the end of next month. Then Ainge is going to rob McHale."


3. Celtics stand pat and draft Gordon at No. 6 and another promising basketball player at No. 17: Hello and welcome to the most boring of our three scenarios, though it should hardly rate as a disappointment if this is how it plays out.

Gordon has a coveted combination of breathtaking athleticism, a relentless motor, and a commitment to defense that might even make Tom Thibodeau smile. His love for playing the game is obvious. At worst, he's going to be an energy guy off the bench for a good team someday. Given his effort, it's reasonable to believe he'll be much more than that.

He is as raw as Simba's dinner offensively. Bo Ryan's Wisconsin team tormented him with their Monstar-style defense in the national semifinal, holding him to eight points in 39 minutes (he did have 18 rebounds). And comparisons to Blake Griffin are absurd beyond their crazy dunking skills and high cheekbones. In two seasons at Oklahoma, Griffin averaged 18.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 61.8 percent, including 64.6 as a sophomore.

He wasn't polished offensively, but he was a menace near the hoop. Gordon is a long way from that -- he shot 49.5 percent as a freshman at Arizona -- he'll probably never be anything like Griffin.

I'm not suggesting he's Jerome Moiso offensively. Just that it will take time, if he's the pick.

I do think he'd be a rewarding one, eventually. But you know what would be more rewarding? Embiid at No. 6, Gordon at No. 8, and rebounding/defense interior to build around.

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