The Boston Celtics spent the last week driving the NBA internet nuts. Perhaps Mike Zarren has found a way to garner bitcoin off of search engine traffic related to Boston. The last week was full of peak-speculation and one actual trade that involved the top pick. This doesn’t happen. But it happened. And it will be okay, Celtics fans. Fultz does seem like a special talent…but remember that its easy to dream on 19 and 20 year-olds and convince yourself that your dreams of their success will soon become reality. After reading through Jonathan Abrams’ fantastic Boys Among Men, it will become clear just how uncertain the process of drafting young men one or two years out of high school with the hopes that they become world-class professional hoops magicians by age 23 or 24…how uncertain that process really is. By the way, read the book. Abrams is one of the better sportswriters working today, going deep with his profiles, unearthing deeper truths.
Still, despite the uncertainty, we read enough about a player and we believe. We love the player before he dons the uniform of our tribe…and then we regularly scorn the player for actually making his own choice about where to work. Free-agency was hard-won in all professional sports, but as fans, most of us remain focused on what we want out of the athlete, not on what the athlete wants for his or herself. Some make the argument that having a deeper level of sympathy or compassion for a man making $100 million over four years is too much to ask. Kind of like how the question of reparations for slavery is too much for many to even consider. Here we have a situation, the NBA Draft, where we obsess about potential, the future, and “assets.” The perfect cocktail for the internet age, where trade rumors spread like California wildfires and nothing ever makes any sense. And yet…there were a few impacting trades made this year, as we led up to the draft.
First GM Danny Ainge trades the top pick to Philadelphia for the 3rd pick, plus the 2018 Lakers pick if LA’s pick lands in the 2–5 spot next June. But if that Lakers pick doesn’t hit the high lottery sweet spot, Philadelphia will instead send a 2019 first-rounder to Boston that it acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the infamous Sauce Castillo (Nik Stauskas) swindle. The Kings will gradually improve with DeAaron Fox and Justin Jackson helping, but they’ll have a tough time winning 45 games in the crowded west by April of 2019. Watching Fox, I was amazed. Normally, I can’t watch NCAA Tournament for too long without getting annoyed by all the TV timeouts and the stagnant offense, but DeAaron Fox is really fast. John Wall-Isaiah type fast. He got wherever he wanted on the floor with his wiry frame. He’ll be fun.
So, this Celtics pick via Philly will either be great (Lakers, 2018) or possibly great (mid-to-late lottery, Kings 2019).
Why did Danny do it?
A half-dozen possible reasons:
- Fultz and Isaiah wouldn’t be the most-ideal fit together.
- Tatum can score in isolation and from the post. His body is more developed than the lanky Fultz. He’s 6’8″ and will be able to give the Celtics options in figuring out who will be the better long-term fit, Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Boston’s bench scoring needed a lift. They get it cheaply so they can attempt a free-agent run at Hayward/Griffin
- The Lakers 2018 pick was too good a possibility to pass up. Not only could it be a top five pick…it was the rival Lakers pick we’d be stealing. Speaking of the Lakers, they got out from under what would have been a prickly situation with Ball coming in and reducing D’Angelo Russell to an afterthought. Instead, Russell may become an afterthought in Brooklyn (hope not, he doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet). Clearing out Mozgov’s contract allows the Lakers fans to clear the red carpet for LeBron. Aging LeBron on 50-win Lakers in three years seems like a kind of minor tragedy.
- They just really like Tatum and weren’t 100% in on Fultz becoming a once-every-five-years type of talent. Who knows?
- They saved just over $1 million based on draft pick slot (3rd instead of 1st), which gives them a bit more to offer Hayward/Griffin.
Ainge said the Celtics would have picked Tatum with the first pick if they had stayed in that spot before moving down to №3 in a trade earlier this week with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ainge gushed about both Tatum’s scoring potential and his versatility on the defensive end.
“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character,” Ainge said. “There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”
Asked about trade rumors, including whispers that the Celtics were pursuing New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, Ainge said, “I don’t comment on trade rumors. I will say this: It was a little blown out of proportion but I’ll just leave it at that. A lot more talk by [the media].”
Jayson Tatum: Let’s Take Him
From everything I’ve read, Jayson Tatum will be a very good isolation scorer…perhaps even soon…like within two years.
A link to a Tatum story from 2015, via STL Today. Tatum is from St. Louis.
Tatum’s Draft Express Profile: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/
Fortunately the Celtics have a 53-win team that will probably add a high-level free-agent (Hayward still seems like the most likely possibility), and that will likely be it. No fireworks! None! Just a clear blue sky with a bright fucking future. Can we handle that?
Part of the issue is the culture of fandom is obsessed with stars. But sometimes the guys that become stars are unheralded. Sometimes they are picked 35th, sometimes they’re picked last (Isaiah). Sometimes, they’re not picked at all (Jonathan Simmons! Remember how good he was against Houston a month ago?)
Second Round Celtics Pick: Semi Ojeleye (SMU)
SI profile of Ojeleye from February:
From The Ringer:
There aren’t many sure-bets for the 3-and-D role in this year’s draft. Reed stands out as a good one — so does Villanova wing Josh Hart and the SMU duo of Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye. They’re all hiding in plain sight: Brown could go undrafted, and Ojeleye is likely a late-first-rounder at best. Ojeleye in particular, with his chiseled, Wreck-It Ralph body, has remarkable potential. There’s little doubt he will be able to effectively defend multiple positions. He also plays with intensity, which manifests in chase-down blocks.
Jabari Bird, 56th pick from Cal.
The Celtics had a chance to pick Bird again. So they did.
Anyway, the Timberwolves have some happy fans right now. They got the star. Jimmy Butler doesn’t have to move far to relocate from Chicago to Minneapolis. He’s headed for more snow this December. And Wolves fans are ecstatic. A core of Dieng-Towns-Butler-Wiggins-Rubio will battle for home court in the west, while the Clippers descend into mediocrity when Chris Paul and Griffin bolt, and the Jazz and Grizzlies try to hold firm to 48+ wins. Utah is balancing treacherously on the what-if-we-lose-Hayward?-waterslide. I’m happy for Thibs. I’m happy for Towns. I’m happy for Rubio. They need one more shooter…
Lingering Questions for Boston
More trade speculation around Paul George, who probably needs a new public relations team. George has made it perfectly clear he’d like to stop playing basketball until he can move back to southern California.
Official signing date for free agents: July 9.
I wrote a basketball-themed memoir. It’s a collection of personal essays and reflections on the game of basketball, fandom, and identity. From childhood memories of growing up with the Boston Celtics, to playing the sport as a means of coping with adolescence, this is about basketball as a means of connection. Whether playing, watching, reading and writing about the NBA, or absorbing the intensity of being in the arena, the game has me firmly in its grasp. The book is my way of appreciating basketball and fandom.