Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, the Boston Celtics and El Mundo Boston announced a newly formed partnership to engage and provide unprecedented team access to Boston’s growing Latino community.
You can follow El Mundo Boston’s coverage of the 2014-2015 Boston Celtics all season long in print in El Mundo Newspaper, on social media through the El Mundo Boston Facebook fan page, and right here on ElMundoBoston.com. Our coverage begins this Thursday with behind the scenes access to the Celtics’ official Draft Party on social media. The Celtics currently own the 6th and 17th picks in the first-round of what has been deemed one of the most loaded drafts in recent history.
The NBA draft is nearly upon us and the Celtics are faced with making decisions that will shape the direction of the franchise for years to come. The team holds the number 6 and 17 picks which could net them building block players for the future should they choose to use them. If the team does elect to draft players with these picks, it is widely rumored that they will enter a full-out rebuilding phase and trade some of their more established players, such as team captain Rajon Rondo, for younger players and future assets.
On the other hand, the Celtics are also rumored to be looking to trade their first-round picks for veteran talent in order to ‘win now’ rather than later. One of the hottest rumors in the NBA entering the Draft is a potential trade between the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves that would send all star Kevin Love to Boston. Nobody is quite certain what Danny Ainge will do from now until the start of the season, but if history is any indicator the Celtics General Manager will not hesitate to make controversial moves if he believes it will help the team.
If you’re not familiar with the intimate details surrounding the Celtics and the upcoming draft, let us bring you up to speed with a recap of all of the major rumors and deals to this point that have the Celtics as one of the most intriguing teams heading into Thursday night.
How the Celtics Got to this Point
It was only six years ago that Kevin Garnett exuberantly announced this on the Garden’s parquet floor. He did so following the Celtics decisive Game 6 win over the Lakers in the NBA Finals that notched the team its 17th championship in franchise history.
The team had acquired Garnett and Ray Allen the previous summer to pair with Celtic mainstay Paul Pierce. The three future Hall of Famers gelled quickly, winning the NBA title in their first season together. This marked the first championship for all three perennial All Stars and came just a year after the Celtics finished with the second-worst record in the NBA.
A mere five years later, the ‘Big Three’ began to disband. In June 2012, Allen chose to sign with the rival Miami Heat, signaling the beginning of the end and upsetting many Celtics fans in the process. Last June, the Celtics completed a blockbuster trade that sent Pierce and Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets. This trade shocked Celtics fans and effectively marked the official end of the ‘Big Three’ era.
Last season the team endured a difficult rebuilding campaign. Led by first-year head coach Brad Stevens, the team sputtered to a 25-57 record, as cornerstone point guard Rajon Rondo, the only remaining player from the 2008 championship team, was sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury.
As result of their poor record, the Celtics and their fans had high hopes for a top 3 pick in this year’s Draft that could have landed them one of the three consensus best players in college basketball: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid. The lottery was unkind to the Celtics for the third time in 17 years however, and the team received the 6th overall pick.
Although the Celtics fell out of the top 3, there is still potential to draft an impact player as many scouts have dubbed this year’s draft class as one of the most talented and deepest in years.
Because of this, it is truly an exciting time to be a Celtics fan. Fans across the world now want to know whether the team will use the picks or make another blockbuster trade using the picks as bargaining tools.
Trading For Love?
Kevin Love is a special talent. Acquiring Love, who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists last season, would likely elevate the Celtics back into playoff contention immediately. A player of this caliber is rarely available via trade, however Love’s contract with the Timberwolves expires after this upcoming season and in mid-May he informed team management that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Due to the team’s poor performance, and after the Timberwolves missed the playoffs for the 10th season in a row, Love has made it evident that he has no interest in committing to the team for the long term. Although sources say Love has stopped short of demanding a trade, his position could effectively force the Timberwolves to deal the All-Star forward before next season if they hope to dodge the risk of losing him without compensation.
Rumors surrounding the Celtics’ possible acquisition of the 25-year old have flooded the media in recent weeks. The buzz only grew stronger when Love spent the weekend in Boston at the beginning of this month to, in his words, “see what the city is like.” He was even photographed exchanging pleasantries with Rajon Rondo at Fenway Park during a Red Sox game. (pictured below).
Because of Love’s standing as a top player in the league, trading for him does come with a hefty price tag, however. In order to complete the trade with Minnesota, the Celtics would likely have to trade both of their first-round picks and promising second-year center Kelly Olynyk. Some rumors even have the Celtics giving up other players such as Jared Sullinger or Jeff Green. Yes, while the Celtics would be giving up a lot, obtaining a talent like Love in the draft, even with one of the top picks, is never guaranteed. As such, many analysts and fans believe making the trade would be a good move for the team.
The thought of Rondo playing alongside Love next season already has many Celtic fans salivating. In a weak conference, the acquisition of Love could even propel the team into one of the top spots in the East. With hated rival LeBron James opting out of his contract with Miami and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks exploring free agency, the Eastern Conference could be up for the taking.
Using the Picks
Trading for Love may be the flashiest move the Celtics can execute this offseason, but it’s not entirely a done deal. Many other teams have lined up as potential suitors for Love, and have offers that the Timberwolves could find more enticing than the Celtics’.While the Celtics were once the front-runner to acquire Love, they are now likely third or lower behind the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets.
If the Celtics are incapable of landing Love, rumors have begun circulating that they may attempt to trade for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ number 1 overall pick in the Draft. The trade would likely include the Celtics sending Cleveland a similar package of draft picks and players that they had offered Minnesota in exchange for Love.
If the Celtics are able to pull off the trade, league sources indicate that they would probably use the pick to draft Kansas freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins (pictured below). Many scouts believe that Wiggins has the skillset to evolve into a superstar player.
Assuming neither trade goes through, the Celtics’ best option would be to use their 6th and 17th picks to draft players that will help the team in the future. This year’s talent-laden Draft class is loaded with highly-skilled players at every position. While the top players in the Draft are sure to be gone by the time the Celtics pick, there are many players who will likely be available and could potentially turn in to All-Star caliber players. Below are some possible players that could be selected at each spot.
The 6th Pick
Aaron Gordon / PF/ Arizona
Many early mock drafts had the Celtics using their first pick to nab Aaron Gordon from Arizona. Gordon, a 19-year old power forward, is a raw talent with huge upside. While his offensive game is still unpolished, he regularly beats his defender down court and scores at will in transition. He has a leaping ability comparable to Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers star player.
Julius Randle / PF / Kentucky
The Celtics could also look to bolster their frontcourt by drafting Julius Randle out of Kentucky. Randle, who won an NCAA title in his lone season in Kentucky, is a crafty scorer. He excels at creating shots for himself out of isolations and crashing the offensive glass. However, many question whether he will be able to compete at the NBA level against bigger players.
Joel Embiid / C / Kansas
Another potential option with the 6th pick is Joel Embiid. Embiid, a freshman center out of Kansas, was considered the top prospect in the draft just a week ago. He underwent surgery on his injured right foot last Friday that will sideline him 4-6 months. News of this injury has scared many teams, and the Celtics would be lucky to land this freakish athlete who has drawn comparisons to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.
Marcus Smart / PG-SG / Oklahoma State
If the Celtics opt to draft a guard with their first pick, many draft experts believe that it would be Marcus Smart. Smart is an undersized combo guard out of Oklahoma State, who is potentially the most well-rounded player in the draft. His physical strength helps him be a stat-sheet filler on both ends of the court. He is an excellent defender with a knack for getting to the rim:
The 17th Pick
Dario Saric / PF / Croatia
At 6’10, Croatian forward Dario Saric possesses the ball-handling skills and court vision of a guard. He is also capable of crashing the boards and facing up away from the basket. How could a player of this caliber fall to #17? He just signed an extension with his Turkish professional team and likely won’t be eligible to play in the NBA for two years. Until then, fans will be stuck watching his YouTube highlights.
Zach LaVine / SG / UCLA
Lanky shooting guard Zach LaVine could also be on the Celtics radar for their second selection. He has a wide array of shots in his offensive arsenal and could develop into a highly productive outside shooter. LaVine showcased elite acceleration and an explosive leaping ability during his freshman year at UCLA, where he came off the bench.
Rodney Hood / SF / Duke
Twenty-one year old Duke small forward Rodney Hood has been mentioned as a possibility at the 17th spot. Hood is a smooth shooting lefty with range. Not a strong defender, most of Hood’s upside lies in his offense. His offensive game is mostly predicated on long-range shooting, where he is effective both off the dribble and off the catch.
TJ Warren / SF / NC State
TJ Warren was the third-leading scorer in the nation last year at NC State. He has the ability to make the game look easy by taking what the defense gives him. Warren has good form on his jump shot but must extend his range to the three-point territory to evolve his game. His soft touch around the net and outstanding instincts makes him a lock to be a top 20 pick.
If the Celtics don’t obtain Love, and instead use their picks to draft players for the future, it is likely that the team’s lone All-Star, Rajon Rondo will be traded. In a league where it generally takes two superstars to contend for a championship and three superstars to win one, keeping Rondo would likely be foolish for the Celtics in this scenario.
The trade would make sense for both the player and the team. Without another star who is ready to contribute right away, the Celtics will likely struggle over the next couple of years as their rookies become acclimated to the NBA game. Rondo presumably doesn’t want to spend the prime years of his career battling for one of the last playoff spots. If the Celtics trade him, it would likely be to a legitimate championship contender where he can compete for an NBA title. One possible destination could be the Houston Rockets, where he could form a formidable trio with all stars James Harden and Dwight Howard.
If the Celtics retained Rondo, the team would likely be good enough to qualify for one of the last playoff positions in the weak Eastern Conference. Although the team could make the playoffs, they likely wouldn’t be talented enough to compete for a championship as constituted. In a ‘championship or bust’ city, making the playoffs only to lose in the first-round is not what the Celtics are looking to do.
Additionally, teams that make the playoffs don’t qualify for the NBA Lottery. Therefore the Celtics would likely be unable to draft a future superstar with Rondo still on the team. If the Celtics trade Rondo and move forward with a youthful core, they would almost certainly end up back in the NBA Lottery next year. This would enable the team to continue to stockpile young talent. By going this route, the Celtics would be poised to grow into a contender down the road.
As Kevin Garnett said, anything is possible.
Clearly, the Celtics and their fans have a very interesting Draft night ahead of them. There are many options the team may choose to pursue; some of which have likely not even been rumored at the moment. So sit back, watch the Draft on TV and stay tuned to El Mundo Boston on Facebook for all of the behind the scenes action.
You can watch the NBA Draft on Thursday at 8 PM on ESPN. For exclusive live coverage of the Celtics’ official Draft Party, follow El Mundo Boston’s Facebook Page. Nos vemos el jueves.
Matthew Lavoie is a Marketing professional who is currently interning at El Mundo Boston while pursuing his Master’s Degree. He is a Boston area native and an avid sports fan.