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Celtics Should NOT trade their Number 1 Pick

Once Celtics sign two players under maximum contract ($30 million pay per year), they wont have enough cap space to sign a third star under max contract. So that leaves one more slot. Isaiah Thomas (IT) is coming up for free agency in 2018 summer. He will demand max contract. Can Celtics beat Cavs with IT and Horford. After Game 1, the answer to this question: Are you kidding me? Celtics need 3 All-Stars to beat Cavs. Celtics need another high-caliber star who can create shots and defend extremely well. That two-way star could be Jimmy Butler or Paul George. But Celts cannot offer max contracts to three All-Stars like IT, Horford, and Butler/George. This is the Celts dilemma!

Here is what I would do if I owned Celtics.

  1. I will draft Markelle Fultz (MF) with the #1 draft pick. He is 6 feet 4 inches tall.  He shoots a high percentage from 3-point range, mid range, and he can drive to the basket. He is an excellent rebounder, great in assists, and a strong defender. He has the potential to emerge as a super star— like Michael Jordon or Magic Johnson. No brainer to draft MF, right. Not so fast. Read point #2, below.
  2. MF has three limitations. First, MF is a rookie and is unlikely to be an All-Star for another 2-3 years. Second, MF is a point guard just like IT. I have never seen 2 point guards play a game together. Third, so you have to choose between MF and IT. Certainly IT will dominate MF, right now. IT is an All-Star and MF is a rookie. But here are three problems with IT. First, he cannot defend, given his height. You can see how Wizards’ Bradley Beal exploited IT. Second, IT is a scorer-first. Therefore when Cavs double team him hard, IT commits too many turnovers. (Contrast this with a ball-handler like King James who is a passer-first. So when you double team James hard, he passes to the open man with ease). Third, IT will demand max contract in 2018. If Celts give that, they can’t get another star, so no way they can beat Cavs (see first para). So I will trade IT for Jimmy Butler this summer. IT is an All-Star, so IT for Butler trade is a good possibility. Celtics fans will go nuts if IT is traded but that is the right move. Why? See point #3, below.
  3. MF will get into a rookie contract for 7 years. He is only 18 years old. Rookie contracts are cheap money!  But MF will take at least 3 years to become an All-Star. IT trade can bring Jimmy Butler to Celtics but we would have lost an All-Star in IT. But with Horford and Butler, Celts still have only two stars. So how can they beat Cavs, you may ask? Here is where the math works in Celts favor. Jimmy Butler is currently in his second year on a five year contact with the Bulls. This is a favorable 5 year contract. Celts can bring Butler on his remaining contract which leaves enough cap space to offer max contract to a free agent like Gordon Hayward this summer. Three years from now, Butler will demand max contract. Then, Horford’s current max contract will expire. Horford will be 35 years old, by then. Who knows, we can let Horford go. Also, Celts have the Nets #1 pick in 2018 with which they can get another star. My broader pint is that a rookie like MF gives maximum flexibility to bring 3 All-Stars to Celtics in the short-term and still build a dynasty in the long-term.

My starting five for next year:

MF, point guard
Bradley, shooting guard
Horford, Center
Butler and Hayward, Forwards

Bench: Smart, Crowder, Rozier, Brown, Olynyk

This team can beat Cavs and Warriors!!

Celtics dynasty is well on its way in the making.