NBA Trade Grades: Boston Celtics deal No. 1 pick to Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Trade Grades

Feb 26, 2017; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz (20) helps with warms as he would sit out the game against the Washington State Cougars at Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

On the latest edition of NBA Trade Grades, the Boston Celtics have agreed to send the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The deal is not official yet, but it’s all but a formality at this point: Despite having plenty of reasons for keeping the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics are trading it to the Philadelphia 76ers.

ESPN‘s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe initially broke the news that the Celtics and Sixers were in serious talks over the top selection of this year’s draft, and Saturday evening, NBA insider David Aldridge reported the deal was all but final.

After finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference and suffering a five-game gentleman’s sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals, Boston’s window for contention is now.

However, thanks to that brilliant 2013 trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics also had the rights to swap first round picks with the Brooklyn Nets, and that yielded the No. 1 overall selection.

Now, the Celtics will be wheeling and dealing that pick to the 76ers for Philly’s 2017 first-rounder (No. 3 overall) and either the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder or the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-rounder that were both owed to the Sixers.

Celtics get 2017 No. 3 overall pick
2018 LAL 1st round pick or 2019 SAC 1st round pick

76ers get 2017 No. 1 overall pick

According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, there will be protections on the Lakers pick, and if it doesn’t convey in 2018, then the Sixers will send the 2019 first round pick via Sacramento instead.

Philadelphia 76ers beat writer Derek Bodner first reported details of the protections on the Lakers pick heading Boston’s way, which will only convey if it falls between No. 2 and No. 5 in next year’s draft.

This is obviously a blockbuster trade in terms of future assets, especially since it features the league’s two heavy-hitters when it comes to stockpiling picks. The question is, who came out ahead in this exchange?

To make sense of a swap that’s all but official, here are some new NBA Trade Grades for both sides.

NBA Trade Grades

Jan 5, 2016; Providence, RI, USA; Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge (left) speaks to fans during the first half of a game between the Providence Friars and the Marquette Golden Eagles at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics

For Celtics fans, the perception of this deal really boils down to two things: 1) How good Markelle Fultz becomes and 2) What general manager Danny Ainge is able to do from here.

Fultz looks the part of a future NBA superstar, and now that he has the extra chip on his shoulder of being traded as the projected No. 1 overall pick, you can guarantee the TD Garden will not be looking forward to seeing this young man come to town every year.

If Fultz becomes a superstar, he could very easily make the Celtics look foolish for dealing this pick away, especially if they fail to surmount that LeBron James-sized hurdle in the Eastern Conference.

There would have been a backcourt logjam, sure, but with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart all approaching free agency in 2018, the Celtics would’ve had a whole year to test out different pairings to see what worked before making any decisions.

Josh Jackson, Boston’s most likely target at No. 3, is a great prospect. But it’s a bit troubling the Celtics weren’t impressed enough with Fultz during his workout with the organization to the point of holding out for a Kansas wing who has a far more worrisome NBA flaw — a jump shot that needs consistency at the next level.

Jackson could very well be the next Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but there’s also a good chance the Los Angeles Lakers — Boston’s greatest nemesis — could completely throw a wrench in the works by drafting him at No. 2 before Ainge is even on the clock. Most have assumed Lonzo Ball to the Lakers is a done deal, but Jackson’s second workout for the Lakers suggests he could very well be in the mix at No. 2.

However, this move is not just about trading down to get Jackson (or Jayson Tatum, another potential fit on the wing at No. 3). As reported by Zags Blog’s Adam Zagoria, this move was being made in order to stack picks for another trade centered around Jimmy Butler:

Real GM‘s Keith Smart, Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney and ESPN‘s Ramona Shelburne all echoed similar sentiments once the deal became all but official: The Boston Celtics are not done wheeling and dealing here.

More than likely, these extra picks will be used to negotiate another blockbuster deal for someone like Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Then, Boston could turn its attention to free agency, and though they’d have to clear out significant cap space to make it happen, someone like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin could be in play.

To that end, the protections on the Lakers pick doesn’t really matter as much for Boston.

That’s good news, because the Lakers’ first-rounder next year could very well fall outside of that limited 2-5 range next year, especially as Magic Johnson tries to improve his roster so it’s as attractive as possible for Paul George in 2018.

If the Lakers improve internally and start to posture themselves for a run at PG-13 next summer, that pick could very easily turn into Sacramento’s 2019 first-rounder, and though the Kings have been perpetually miserable for a decade now, they suddenly have a decent young core and two top-five picks in this year’s draft to build on between now and then.

However, teams considering a full-scale rebuild by away trading their star players like the Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers may not care as much about waiting on picks to convey if it means adding another top-10 selection in a potential deal. The Celtics already had an abundance of assets they could offer before this deal went down, after all:

In terms of Boston’s free agency picture, trading down from No. 1 to No. 3 in this year’s draft also clears out some precious salary cap room:

As of right now, the Celtics have about $19.8 million in cap space and can create more with additional moves.

Their treasure trove of assets, including three potential first round picks in 2018 or four potential first-rounders in 2019, is impressive — even without Markelle Fultz in the picture.

However, it’s hard to feel great about this deal until we see what Ainge is able to string together next, and even then, until the Celtics are hoisting their 18th NBA championship banner, this potential gambit to assemble a new super-team in the East feels like sacrificing the long-term outlook.

There are plenty of promising young cores throughout the league, but even if a Celtics squad with Butler/PG-13 and Hayward/Griffin finally ends LeBron’s reign in the East, is that team good enough to challenge the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty that’s already in progress?

This deal could easily come back to bite Boston if Fultz becomes a stud, especially since a young core with him, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, next year’s Nets pick and all the other future first-rounders the Celtics have stored up could’ve been the NBA’s next contender after the Dubs’ reign ends.

Now, Ainge must seek out another blockbuster deal, clear the cap space to sign a marquee free agent over the summer, and most likely sacrifice a Nets pick that could potentially go No. 1 again.

There are worse problems to have, but after years of posturing for a killer move with all those assets, Celtics fans are left waiting again. They might not have to wait long, but the pressure is on for this summer, and Fultz’s bright NBA future outshines anything but the gleam of another Larry O’Brien trophy.

The grade for this deal could look unfair a few months from now depending on how the Celtics proceed from here and what Fultz becomes at the next level. For example, a deal out of left field for, say, Anthony Davis would immediately, retroactively bump this grade up to an .

For now though, this is a good but not great haul for a potential star point guard — especially since it might not push Boston past the Cavs and Warriors on the NBA food chain, even if they max out this summer.

Grade: C+

NBA Trade Grades

Feb 9, 2017; Boulder, CO, USA; Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz (20) before the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie died for the Philadelphia 76ers’ sins, and the blessings are still raining down years after his sacrifice made him a martyr. The roller coaster ride of trusting the Process has rarely reached this kind of full-tilt exhilaration.

The Sixers could have easily found a franchise pillar at No. 3, with players like Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox expected to be available.

By trading up to No. 1 though, they will snag the surest thing in the draft, pairing him with a tantalizing young core that could rule the East for a decade if it reaches its projected ceiling (and stays healthy).

Now, this is not a perfect deal for Philly. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both have to stay healthy for this perfect picture to come together, so with Embiid missing all but 31 games in his first three years in the league, plus Simmons missing his entire rookie season, they’re not off to the most promising start.

However, there’s a decent chance that valuable 2018 Lakers pick that Philly had in its back pocket will stay with the Sixers, and even if it does, sending the Sacramento first-rounder in 2019 doesn’t feel like something that will come back to bite this team anyway.

The time is now to start putting all those talented first-rounders on the court together, and neither pick was intrinsic to the Process.

By not having to send both, the Sixers avoided making a Godfather offer to outbid other teams. They’ll get to pair Fultz, a guard who can make plays with the ball or shoot well playing off the ball, with Simmons’ passing ability and Embiid’s undeniable superstar talent.

Throw in Dario Saric, their own pick in 2018 and either the Lakers’ 2018 selection or the Kings’ 2019 selection and the Sixers have one of the most promising young cores in the NBA.

Even better, they’re well structured from a salary cap standpoint as free agency approaches:

This deal does place an inordinate amount of pressure on Markelle Fultz to be a superstar, but that probably would’ve been true no matter where he went; that’s simply what’s expected of No. 1 overall picks.

The Philadelphia 76ers have to stay healthy for this all to come together, but that could be said of any team with a young core. By only sending the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder that might not even be all that valuable, they’re making a power move to put the rest of the East on notice.

Hinkie, you are the gift that keeps on giving.

Considering the Sixers got the No. 3 pick in the first place thanks to pick swapping rights in Hinkie’s salary dump deal with the Kings, this trade feels like a home run.

Grade: A-

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