By Chase Whitney- Sports Chowdah The Celtics have a tumultuous offseason ahead of them. Stephen A. Smith recently reported that the team’s best player, Kyrie Irving (people forget that too often), has given “every indication” to the Brooklyn Nets that he wants to sign with them. If that were to happen, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will have a plethora of decisions to make both in the upcoming draft, where they hold picks 14, 20, 22 and 51.
However, the chances he stays in Boston are still much better than the media is leading on. If you believe every Stephen A. Smith report as undeniable fact, that’s on you, not me. Kyrie has an inner-circle that is pretty much just him and his father, so I find it hard to believe that anyone has access to credible information on his plans.
Of course, it’s likely Kyrie leaves, which is understandable after how he’s been treated by Celtics fans after being All-NBA player the entire season. But Boston is still his best chance to win (unless Kevin Durant goes to Brooklyn with him), and he’s good friends with Jayson Tatum. Plus, he gets more money and a longer contract, which is always nice.
I’m here to outline all the options the Celtics have this summer, whether Kyrie (the team’s best player) stays or not.
Plan A: Run it back again, healthy this time
This plan involves re-signing Kyrie and Marcus Morris (Terry Rozier is 100% gone after his First Take segment), giving everyone a full summer to rehab, and then come back in September and start with a clean slate.
Gordon Hayward and Al Horford will be (theoretically) fully-healthy, and Tatum and Jaylen Brown will each be one year older and (theoretically) better. This could work, if the whole team buys into the concept that Brad Stevens is preaching. It also involves not trading for Anthony Davis and adding three rookies in the upcoming draft to develop under the veterans. Most people don’t think this is a good idea, but frankly it’s their best chance at winning a title. Unless…
Plan B: Assemble a superteam
This would be quite a task, but it’s doable. First, re-sign Kyrie. Then, re-work Al Horford’s 2019-2020 player option to a lower-salary, more-years type of contract. That gives them more cap space to trade some combination of Tatum/Smart/Brown/Williams/Yabusele + their trove of first-round picks for this year and beyond to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, easily a top-5 player in the NBA when healthy.
They sign him to a long-term extension, and then pull off the deal of the century in a sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors for upcoming free-agent and top-2 (and he’s not #2) player Kevin Durant. Gordon Hayward’s contract, one filler, and a future first round pick would be hard to pass up for the Warriors, who will almost certainly lose him for nothing if they don’t take this.
It works under the NBA salary cap rules, and it would leave Boston with a core with one of Tatum, Smart or Brown, and then Kyrie, Davis, Durant, and Horford. It would take a lot of wheeling and dealing from Ainge to pull all of this off, but it is technically possible. And there is no denying how good and fun that team would be.
Plan C: The Big Three vol. 2
This is very similar to plan B, but without Durant. Ainge re-signs Kyrie by promising him the team will get Davis. A trade for AD that I think is likely to happen is; Tatum, Smart, Williams, the 14th pick, and Memphis’ top-5 protected 2020 pick that is fully-unprotected in 2021, which is probably their most valuable pick because Memphis is undergoing a full rebuild.
That would leave Boston with a clear big-three of Kyrie, Davis, and Hayward, with Horford and Brown as the role players in the starting lineup. Keeping Morris as a sixth man is a good call if this happens, and then Baynes, a rookie and a free-agent can fill out the bench.
Plan D: Rebuild (again)
This is what happens if Kyrie spurns for the Nets, Clippers, etc., Morris and Rozier leave, the C’s pass on Davis, Durant goes to wherever he plans to go, and they keep all of their draft picks. They don’t have nearly enough cap space to sign or trade for another point guard of Kyrie’s caliber (that’s why it’s not the smartest idea to root for him to leave), so the starting five would likely be Smart-Brown-Tatum-Hayward-Horford, which would be good with a healthy Hayward that can handle the ball more often, but it wouldn’t be any better than last season and could definitely be worse if KD/AD come to the East and Kawhi Leonard stays in Toronto.
They’d have three rookies coming off the bench with Aron Baynes and Robert Williams and could afford one or two free-agent veteran pieces for more than the minimum salary to fill out the roster. It would take a few years for Jaylen and Jayson to reach their prime, but oh boy could it be sweet when we get there. This is my least-preferred of the plans I’ve listed so far, but I wouldn’t hate it.
There were reports from ESPN that said even if Kyrie leaves, Boston is the “preferred landing spot” for Anthony Davis, but I can’t envision Ainge trading the lot of the team’s depth and future potential for a team that wouldn’t be close to the best in the East. We’ll get a much clearer view of the team’s plans during the draft on June 20th.
Teams can agree to trades on draft night, so Davis could theoretically be moved, just like how Jimmy Butler was two years ago. How Ainge utilizes the team’s three first-round draft picks that night will tell a lot about what direction he’s heading towards for free-agency and beyond.