The Boston Celtics had perhaps the most frustrating season of any team in the NBA. After coming within a single game of reaching the 2018 NBA Finals, the Celtics were preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning to the mix.
Instead, Irving seemed to struggle in his leadership role–even calling out the youngsters on the team and saying he lamented not appreciating LeBron James more–while Hayward struggled to acclimate himself and Jayson Tatum failed to make the leap that was expected of him after a sensational 2018 postseason.
Although the Celtics would secure the no. 4 seed in the East and sweep the Indiana Pacers in the first round, they bowed out to the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games. Irving failed to be a difference maker, and the Bucks totally dominated the paint.
Now, with Irving set to be an unrestricted free agent and a level of uncertainty surrounding the franchise, the future in Beantown seems slightly more bleak.
However, the Celtics have the luxury of possessing three first-round draft picks this summer. Boston will pick at no. 14 (via Sacramento), no. 20 (via the Clippers) and no. 22, giving them a number of options to work with in terms of both draft selections and leverage in swinging a potential trade.
When it comes to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, expect the unexpected. Here are three reasons that Ainge should try to package Boston's three first-rounders to move up in the draft:
1. Top-heavy draft
Really, any team that had a chance at landing in the top three was salivating during the NBA Draft Lottery. The chance at drafting Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett would have the potential to alter a franchise, which is why the Pelicans and Grizzlies were so ecstatic after the Lottery while teams like the Cavs and Suns were undeniably disappointed at the results.
Outside of those three aforementioned players, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the personnel in this draft. Former top five locks like Cam Reddish, Kevin Porter Jr. and Romeo Langford may in fact fall out of the lottery, depending on how things shake down.
Although there seems to be a general consensus on the players that are most likely to land in the top 10, things get sort of crazy afterwards. If the Celtics have narrowed in on a player that they think might be an impact player for their franchise, they would guarantee themselves more assurance in drafting that player by moving up the board.
It seems extremely unlikely that the Celtics would be able to trade into the top five (unless they somehow convinced the Lakers to cede their no. 4 pick), but teams such as the Bulls, Hawks, Wizards and Timberwolves could all be enticed by an offer that might include three first-rounders.
Of course, trading away the picks is especially considering how far the Celtics may or may not be able to move up the board. But again, this draft looks top-heavy in terms of potential, and Boston may need to get aggressive to nab the player that can help reinvigorate this team.
2. Irving's impending free agency
Say what you want about Kyrie Irving, but he is still one of the best point guards in the league. He may have wilted against the Bucks, and perhaps he is not cut out to be a no. 1 option on a contender, but he is still a playmaker, and he saved Boston on a number of occasions during the regular season.
Making an aggressive play in the draft could prove to be somewhat of an insurance policy, regardless if Kyrie decides to re-sign or take his talents elsewhere.
Should Irving be considering an elongated stay in Boston, the Celtics will have acquired a young talent that may help sway him in his decision. And if he decides to leave, then the Celtics will ideally still have selected another playmaker to pair with their young core of Hayward, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and the rest.
3. Shaking things up
Ainge is no stranger to making drastic changes to the culture. After all, he traded fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas for Irving back in the summer of 2017.
Given the season that the Celtics just had, it may be time to make another drastic move to try to shift the balance. Even if Irving decides not to re-sign the Celtics can afford to be aggressive because of all the young talent that they possess in addition to the fact that Al Horford may be willing to re-negotiate his contract for less money.
Instead of standing pat, Ainge and the Celtics should see what they might be able to get in packaging their first-rounders.