Boston Celtics: Making sense of the stunning 2017 NBA Draft trade

The Boston Celtics will send the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers. Here’s why the move could make sense.


While most rumors leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft are without merit, some are powerful enough to alter the landscape of the NBA. In the curious case of Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics, that’s exactly what’s transpiring.

After Zach Lowe and Marc Stein of ESPN broke the news, it was confirmed that the Celtics have sent the No. 1 overall selection in the vaunted 2017 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical quickly followed:

The question is: Why would the Celtics give up a chance to utilize the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft?

Necessary context is that Boston has won more championships than any other organization in NBA history. With 17 banners and four additional NBA Finals appearances, the Celtics are the gold standard for the NBA.

Unfortunately, since Larry Bird delivered his third of three championships to Boston in 1986, the the Celtics have won just one title.

For most organizations, winning a championship, making three NBA Finals, and appearing in seven Conference Finals in a 31-year span would be acceptable. For the Celtics, making one NBA Finals every 10.3 years is unacceptable.

Winning one title in a 31-year period of time is disappointing enough for Danny Ainge to lose sleep for four consecutive years.

Keep in mind, it was on June 17, 2010 that the Celtics blew a 13-point lead in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals—exactly four years before this very trade was executed.

That loss is enough to shake an organization like Boston at its very core. Championships are the only standard, and anything less than a ring is a disappointing season for the organization that gave us the likes of Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek.

In Ainge’s mind, this type of trade seems to be the best possible way to return Boston to its roots.

Ainge’s outlook appears to be that Boston can win 50-plus games and simultaneously stockpile upside players through the Draft. The likes of Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, and Ante Zizic are prime examples of prospects with long-term star potential.

If even one of those prospects, including the 2017 selection at No. 3, realizes their potential, Boston would have a star in development with a healthy culture around them.

Of course, there’s a chance that all of those prospects will falter. There’s also a chance that those future picks will fall out of the lottery. If that were to be the case, Boston would be giving up a chance to select a prospect who has been compared to James Harden and Dwyane Wade for ifs and maybes.

If Ainge trusts his scouts, however, then this makes sense for Boston.

The Celtics are coming off of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers admittedly coasted during the regular season, but the Cs also secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

With a team that’s good enough to win at a high level, but not quite ready for a championship, Ainge seems to be more focused on sustainability and growth than making one big splash.

It’s also possible that Markelle Fultz was not the top prospect on Ainge’s draft board. If he, nor Lonzo Ball, were not No. 1 or No. 2 on the board, then it stands to reason that Boston can still find its guy at No. 3.

If it succeeds in doing so, then it will have made a methodical decision to alleviate some of the pressure that its draft pick faces in 2017-18.

Keep in mind: Boston went against the grain by selecting Jaylen Brown at No. 3 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Many had pegged the likes of Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, and even Marquese Chriss as the top options for Boston.

Instead, Danny Ainge gambled on Brown—a move that many have heralded following his promising rookie season.

While it may be difficult to understand in the short-term, Danny Ainge’s massive gamble could pay off in an even bigger way for the Boston Celtics.

Sustainability and internal growth.

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