What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week we examine the assets of the Boston Celtics, and try to determine what they’re actually worth.
Ever since the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, they’ve been stockpiling first-round draft picks more than any other team in the league. The Celtics could have as many as 10 first-round picks in the next four years if the protections on those picks aren’t invoked. The common sentiment has been that GM Danny Ainge has been gearing up for another blockbuster deal akin to the one that brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007. The question to ask though is this: How much are the Celtics’ assets really worth?
While the Celtics have many first-round picks coming their way, there’s a lot of uncertainty about where those picks will land in the draft. While all of the Brooklyn picks are unprotected, it’s hard to say how good or bad the Nets will be over the next three years. As I outlined in the debut of this series, the Nets are incredibly limited in their ability to improve, but they also have no incentive to tank. In a league where teams like the Sixers are almost actively trying to lose, simply putting in any effort to be good can be enough to push a team towards the back end of the lottery.
The Celtics have other draft picks coming to them as well. They’re receiving picks from the Clippers this year (28th overall), a top seven protected pick from Dallas next year, a top 12 protected pick from Minnesota that’ll become two second-rounders if protected next year, and a top 12 protected pick from Memphis in 2018. Few, if any, of those picks will end up as high lottery selections, so it’ll be interesting to see how potential trade partners would value those picks. As for their own selections, if the Celtics are seeking a major deal to propel them to the top of the Eastern Conference, their own picks become less valuable in the trade. Luckily, the Celtics have another asset on their side in building a competitive team next year: cap space.
The Celtics are only committed to about $40 million next year, and $10 million of that is going to Gerald Wallace, upon whom the team can invoke the stretch provision and have him count as only $3 million on their cap each year over the next three years, bringing their cap figure down even further. That gives the Celtics a lot of flexibility to sign players and take on salaries. This team is built to trade with other teams, and Ainge has said he wants to have the option to make big moves. If the right deal is on the table, Ainge will pull the trigger. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Celtics set a record for number of draft picks sent out in a trade, because they certainly have plenty to spare.