By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Debate remains fierce about what the Celtics should do with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. While there are plenty of big names that would be worth sacrificing this year’s top selection for, the odds are the majority of those players won’t be made available via trade at any point this summer.
So what about some other big names that could make an impact? The Celtics may be tempted by a few All-Star caliber players that could easily be available on the trade market. Here’s a closer look at five of those names and why the Celtics would be better off standing pat if the price tag is the top pick.
If Markelle Fultz blossomed into a four-time All-Star like George, Celtics fans would be very happy, and from a talent standpoint, acquiring George for the No. 1 overall pick would provide good value for Boston. However, there are a lot more factors that go into this equation.
The Celtics aren’t in an all-in “win-now” situation and George only has one year left remaining on his current contract before he can opt out. He’s already declared his desire to be on a winning team long-term and it’s unclear whether the Pacers have the supporting pieces to keep him from skipping town next summer. While George is already dropping hints that he has his eye on joining the Lakers in 2018, sacrificing the long-term cost control (eight years) of a No. 1 overall pick is not a gamble worth making. Even if 6-foot-9 swingman agreed to sign an extension in Boston after a trade, Indiana isn’t in the position to demand a ransom like the top choice in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The Celtics should try to chase George this offseason, but they shouldn’t need their best trade chips to do it.
Acquiring Butler should be a costlier proposition than acquiring George on the surface, largely due to the fact that the Bulls star has two more years remaining on his under market contract (roughly $19 million per year). Butler has been linked to trade rumors for months now and with a Chicago team that’s devoid of any meaningful young talent on the rest of the roster, dealing their star now is a proposition that makes sense.
The question Danny Ainge has to wonder is how well the 6-foot-7 wing would mesh in Boston alongside Isaiah Thomas in Boston’s offense? The fit doesn’t come without question marks, particularly when you consider than Butler is a 33 percent career shooter from 3-point range. Butler is worth chasing, but unless he puts you over the top, it’s hard to justify moving the No. 1 pick for him. When you also consider the Celtics could bring in a similar player (Gordon Hayward) while only sacrificing salary cap room, it’s a hard sell to make.
The Celtics have one of the worst rebounding teams in the entire league, so why not target one of the best rebounders in the NBA? Drummond is 23, under contract through 2020 and averaged 13.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17. Despite all of these positives, it’s hard to envision the 6-foot-11 center being a strong match for what Boston is trying to do. His limited offensive range would slow down the C’s pace-and-space offense, while his free throw shooting (38.6 percent) would limit Brad Stevens’ ability to keep him on the court during crunch time.
The Pistons realize these flaws as well and that’s why they were reportedly shopping him at last February’s trade deadline. Given his $22 million salary, Drummond is a player that the Celtics shouldn’t be targeting at all, and certainly not for the No. 1 overall pick.
Doc Rivers escaped to Los Angeles in 2013 to avoid another rebuilding chapter in Boston. Four years later, he could be facing some rebuilding with his new team. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are set to hit the open market this summer and if either player decides the Clippers current core won’t be contending anytime soon, both could skip town for more appealing winning destinations. That would leave DeAndre Jordan as the one big name left remaining in L.A. under contract and he’s, in essence, a better version of Drummond. He provides the same kind of rebounding and is the better all-around defender at this stage of his career. The same caveats apply here though (floor spacing and free throw shooting) and Jordan is only under contract for two more years (one is a player option). That makes this kind of trade idea another easy one to pass on for the Celtics for the No.1 pick, even if sweeteners were included.
While Aldridge is one of the more accomplished players on this list, it’s safe to say his time in San Antonio hasn’t gone as well as either party would have hoped. If the Spurs want to open up the salary cap space to sign a backcourt upgrade (Chris Paul), it’s possible that Aldridge could be put on the market with just two years remaining on his deal (the second year is a player option).
At age 31, Aldridge’s overall offensive skillset is starting to decline. He would be a less than ideal fit next to Al Horford in the frontcourt as both guys are below average rebounders at this point of their careers and Aldridge’s athleticism is on the decline as well. The Spurs would still be able to fetch something good for their five-time All-Star, but a reasonable asking price would be nowhere near the No. 1 overall pick.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.