Sunday 25 March 2018 / 03:02 AM


Early on before NBA Draft night, we finally got some movement to shake the field up in a top five that looked all but assured. After following the Nets all season in hopes of a top draft pick, Boston fans won their gold prize: the top overall draft selection.

And everyone knew what that entailed: Markelle Fultz, the stud do-everything point guard out of Washington that is as athletic as he is smart in the passing lanes. The Celtics’ historic fleecing of the Nets finally reaped some massive benefits in a potentially franchise-changing player, the type of transcendent talent the Celtics have lacked in their shots at King James and Cleveland.

But just days before Draft night, Celtics fans were hit by a shocker: their team dealt the draft rights to that top selection to the 76ers for the number three overall pick and a future pick: either 2-5 next year, if it falls there, or the Kings’ pick in 2018.

And on Draft night, the two teams got their players: for the Sixers, Fultz came to the city of Brotherly Love, and the Celtics nabbed Jayson Tatum.

It was a shot at yet another young piece to complete a dazzling young core for Philly. The final mix to a puzzle that Sam Hinkie started years ago to land the Sixers generational talent: a big three of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Fultz. It’s easy to see why the Sixers finally took the chance.

But for the Celtics, the move falls in line with what Danny Ainge has done in the last few years: trade away assets in the present for more assets down the road. This move in particular seems odd in of itself.

The whole ideal of what the Celtics have been trying for in their ‘trade now’ philosophy is to acquire picks that could turn into generational talent for the franchise. What that means is number one picks.

A point I kept hearing on Draft night was that with this trade, the Celtics could potentially have the number one and two pick next season with the Lakers and Nets picks. And right, that’s a large haul.

But the Celtics already HAD the number one pick this year. There’s no ‘chance’, no playing the lottery necessary. The Celtics had the pick that would have given them anyone in this draft class, namely Markelle Fultz.

Danny Ainge went quick to the media after the trade to fan the flames of enraged Celtics fans by saying that the player they would get at three (Tatum) is who they would have taken at one anyways. And all of zero people bought that.

Fultz is so clearly the most NBA-ready player in this draft, and easily the one with the greatest upside. Sure, anything can happen going forward and things can change, but Fultz solves your issues right now.

Instead, the Celtics will no doubt now commit to Isaiah Thomas, a no-doubt gifted offensive player, but a guard that has to sit in the game’s most crucial minutes because of his horrible defense.

And in that, it’s the most un-Celtic thing that the Celtics could do. The Celtics now face the problem of resigning both Thomas and Avery Bradley for big money with no one behind them to take the reins if one ends up on another squad. Instead, the Celtics spent another pick, for the second consecutive year, on a small forward that’s athletic and primed.

Sure, Tatum has upside, but the Celtics aren’t the Suns or the Nets. They are trying to compete right now and bring players in that help them do that. Tatum isn’t really good at anything right now, at least at an NBA level.

But things get even more confusing when you see what happened around the Celtics on Draft night.

Jimmy Butler went for the high, high price of two young projects and a seventh overall draft pick. So less than the number one overall pick. Butler was a supposed target of the Celtics all this year and last, and the Celtics baulked at the idea of getting him.

Add Paul George to that list, with the Pacers forward linked to so many trade situations that he was going for whatever the Cavs could offer to them, which at max was the bloated contract of Kevin Love.

So again, for another year, the Celtics stood pat. While that makes sense, and may very well be the right choice, it can’t help but look like another opportunity to kick the can down the road. Only now, the Celtics don’t have a cheap point guard and solid contracts around him: they’ve got expiring deals that will have to be re-upped.

The depth of the team that’s been so touted has yielded them no meaningful competition against James and the Cavs. They have options, however, and the cap space to make a move at a player this summer.

That’s fine and all, but the Celtics now have a more complicated road toward truly competing.

And that may very be how Ainge likes it. But at some point, don’t you have to pull the trigger in a league run by stars?

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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