- Celtics forward Amir Johnson is questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals because of a shoulder injury, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets. Johnson played only nine minutes in Game 3. Jonas Jerebko, who scored 10 points in 12 minutes in Boston’s victory at Cleveland, could replace him in the starting lineup, ESPN’s Chris Forsberg tweets.
- Celtics first-rounder Guerschon Yabusele recently had surgery to remove bone spurs in both feet and will not be available for summer-league games, a source told Forsberg. The 6’8” draft-and-stash prospect, who was chosen with the No. 16 pick last June, spent much of last season in China before joining the Celtics’ D-League team, the Maine Red Claws, in March. Yabusele appeared in seven D-League games and averaged 12.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 27.3 MPG.
Reeling after two straight emphatic defeats against the Cavaliers and now without their best player for Games 3 and 4, the Celtics will have a long summer ahead of them to contemplate how they can maneuver ahead of LeBron James and company in the Eastern Conference.
Fortunately, the club is historically privileged to have the first overall pick in this summer’s stacked NBA Draft. No matter how hoops fans or league executives want to slice it, the Celtics are in an ideal situation, they can either hold onto the No. 1 pick and mold their already formidable roster around supposed future superstar Markelle Fultz or they can move the highly-sought-after draft pick in exchange for an established star.
Considering that the club is loaded with assets already, ranging from allegedly untouchable veteran center Al Horford to the 2016 third-overall pick Jaylen Brown, they’re not far removed from being the undisputed No. 2 team in their conference – the only question is how they’ll want to go about it.
Let’s take the grand creative leap and assume that the Celtics do meet their demise in this Conference Finals matchup, where do you think they should go from there? Does it make sense to flip the pick for a genuine, established star like Jimmy Butler or Paul George? Or is there little point in pushing to win now at the expense of setting themselves up long-term with Fultz?
LeBron James is 32 years old and likely has at least a handful of seasons left to rule the East, you tell us how the Celtics should look to approach their offseason given their multiple appealing possible options?
The Celtics will have a tough time replacing the injured Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Cavaliers but don’t expect interim starter Marcus Smart to shy away from the opportunity.
“Everybody has to step up once again. This is an opportunity for everybody to make a bigger impact on the game,” Smart told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England. “It’s devastating not to have Isaiah. Not just because of his scoring ability, but just because he’s a big part of our team. He’s one of our brothers and he’s down. We understand it. We respect everything that he’s done. But now is the time for everybody else to step up.”
In 15 postseason games for the Celtics so far this season, Smart has averaged 7.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. More important than any statistical contribution, however, is his presence as a disruptive, physical force.
As we wrote yesterday, Thomas has been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason and Blakely shares that the guard will take the next few days to discuss his injury with hip specialists.
Blakely also notes that the absence of Thomas will allow rookie point guard Terry Rozier to see more time on the court, a bittersweet gift for the Ohio native.
The Celtics‘ performance in the Eastern Conference finals may make Boston more interested in a Carmelo Anthony trade, speculates Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman states that executives at the draft combine were predicting that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would base the extent of an offseason shakeup on his team’s ability to be competitive with the Cavaliers. After two straight routs on their home court, it appears Ainge will be more eager to make changes.
Boston will have up to $30MM in cap space, which Ainge would like to use on Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward. If he stays in Utah, the Celtics will have to consider other options, which could include Anthony. Berman says the Knicks would want Jae Crowder as the centerpiece of a deal, along with one of Boston’s two first-rounders in 2018. A signed-and-traded Jonas Jerebko might have to be included to make the salaries line up, but Boston has the cap space to handle most of Anthony’s $31MM price, including his trade kicker.
- Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas will see more specialists this week to check on his injured right hip, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Thomas, who has been declared out for the rest of the playoffs, may require surgery.
- Markelle Fultz is just the type of player the Celtics need to someday become a legitimate threat to Cleveland, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. The Cavaliers exploited Thomas’ lack of size by throwing frequent traps at the 5’9″ guard, Blakely writes, but it would be much tougher to do that against the 6’4″ Fultz, who has outstanding court vision and can create his own shot off the dribble. Boston earned a shot at Fultz by winning the draft lottery on Tuesday.
- The Nets may target Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons in free agency, according to NetsDaily. GM Sean Marks has identified small forward as the primary position of need, and Simmons has been outstanding in the playoffs. Simmons, who will be a restricted free agent, has averaged 16 points per game in the Western Conference finals and is shooting 40% from 3-point range. The website also says Brooklyn might be the team to gamble on oft-injured Harry Giles in the draft, and identifies the Sixers, Celtics and Jazz as teams that could be most willing to sell some picks.
The Celtics had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft and they used the selection to nab University of California’s Jaylen Brown. GM Danny Ainge wanted to acquire another lottery selection in addition to the team’s top-3 pick and he dangled everyone on the team in trade discussions, including Isaiah Thomas, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reports.
“Before the draft last year, Danny was trying to get two picks, not just Jaylen Brown,” MacMullan told Bob Ryan on his podcast (h/t Comcast Sportsnet). “He was on the phone with everybody from coast to coast, and he was offering everybody. That includes Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, and anything else they needed to get where he wanted to go. There were no untouchables on that team last year.”
The Celtics won the lottery earlier this week and earned the top selection in the 2017 draft. In addition to the No. 1 overall selection, the franchise owns three second round picks. Only the Sixers have more selections in the upcoming draft.
If Boston wants to acquire another lottery pick in this year’s draft, I’d speculate that trading Thomas would fetch them a top-14 selection this time around. The point guard had an excellent season, scoring 28.9 points per game, a figure which only trailed Russell Westbrook and James Harden. He has just one season at a salary of approximately $6.26MM left on his deal after this year.
Isaiah Thomas will miss the remainder of the playoffs because of a hip injury, according to the Celtics’ website. The team called the ailment a re-aggravation of a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear.
“Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred,” said Celtics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian McKeon. “The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, and in order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue.”
Thomas first injured his hip back in March and it forced him to miss two starts. He aggravated the injury in Boston’s Game 6 loss to the Wizard before re-aggravating it again during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.
The team added that the point guard is currently evaluating treatment options. The Celtics traveled to Cleveland to play Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, but Thomas did not make the trip.
The Celtics fell apart in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals clash with the Cavaliers but that may not be their only concern. As Chris Forsberg of ESPN details, All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas left the game with a hip strain after the first half and didn’t return.
The injury may not be a new one, however, and Chris Mannix of the Vertical tweets that, per Danny Ainge, Thomas even went to a hospital for tests on the same hip following Game 6 of the C’s Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup against the Wizards. Within the C’s organization, Mannix tweets, there were doubts that he would even play in Game 7 of that series.
The club will know more about Thomas’ prognosis ahead of Game 3 after the guard is evaluated on Saturday, Forsberg tweets.
Although the game was well out of reach when Thomas was ultimately shelved, the big question surrounding Boston now is whether or not they’ll have their leading scorer when the series shifts back to Cleveland.
Few teams in NBA history have found themselves in the Celtics’ current position. Boston is not only one of the four teams still alive in the playoffs, but also has landed the No. 1 overall pick in what’s considered a very strong 2017 draft.
The Celtics’ showing this season, which included earning the first overall seed in the East, is proof that the team isn’t too far away from being a serious title contender. However, if Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals was any indication, the team may not just be one player away from seriously threatening LeBron James‘ Cavs.
That creates an interesting dilemma for the Celtics, who have stashed away three extra first-round picks beyond 2017, including the Nets’ unprotected 2018 selection. Boston has enough young players and future assets to continue taking its time in building a contender, perhaps waiting out LeBron’s peak. However, that stash of extra picks and assets, along with an already-talented roster, provides a unique opportunity — the C’s could move the No. 1 pick this year for a star, improve their roster immediately, and still be well-positioned to keep their window of contention open for years.
There’s no obvious answer for the Celtics, with some NBA observers arguing in favor of trading the pick and some insisting they need to keep it. The probable No. 1 pick, point guard Markelle Fultz, plays the same position as the team’s current MVP, Isaiah Thomas. What would it mean for Thomas’ long-term future if Fultz joins the mix in Boston?
Conversely, if the C’s were to trade the pick, what kind of player could they land? Jimmy Butler and Paul George have been frequently mentioned as targets, but are the Bulls ready to trade Butler? Would George, on track for 2018 free agency, be willing to commit to an extension with the Celtics? Is there another player – perhaps someone like Kristaps Porzingis – who might be available for the No. 1 pick, and who would appeal to Boston?
What do you think the Celtics should do with the first overall pick? Place your vote below, and then jump into the comments section to share your thoughts!
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.
The Celtics have the assets to pull off a trade for a star this summer, though the team is focusing its attention on the free agent market with the hopes landing Gordon Hayward, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (video link). Wojnarowski notes that Boston could have a better idea of where it stands with Hayward leading up to the draft.
Hayward didn’t make an All-NBA team, which means he won’t be eligible for the new designated player extension. That marginalizes the advantage that the Jazz have in re-signing the 27-year-old and it could open the door for another team to pry him from Utah. Celtics coach Brad Stevens recruited and coached Hayward at Butler University prior to making the jump to the professional ranks.
Boston has just under $62MM in guaranteed salary on the books next season against a projected $101MM salary cap. However, that total doesn’t include a $7MM+ cap hold for the No. 1 overall pick or a $7.7MM+ cap hold for restricted free agent Kelly Olynyk, so the team may have to get creative to open up space for a maximum salary contract.