|06.26.14 at 12:49 pm ET|
Well, it’s here. The day that will shape the Celtics‘ future, for better or worse. The 2014 NBA draft, where anything can happen happens.
With a wealth of picks, an All-Star point guard, tradeable contracts and expiring deals, Celtics president Danny Ainge is the annoying guy at a party, inserting himself into every conversation in the room.
With only hours left until Cleveland is on the clock, here are the three best possible phone conversations Ainge could have on Thursday.
1. MORTGAGE THE FARM FOR KEVIN LOVE
Danny Ainge: “Hi, Flip, it’s Danny again.”
Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders: “What do you want this time?”
Danny: “Are you sure you don’t want our two first-round picks this year, next year’s Clippers pick and Kelly Olynyk for Love?”
Flip: “I’m not sure how many times I can say no, but no.”
Danny: “But …”
Danny: “I’m not sure you’ve consider quite how awesome Kelly’s hair really is.”
Flip: “No means no.”
Wyc Grousbeck enters Danny’s office.
Wyc: “Fireworks, Danny, fireworks!”
Flip: “I’m sorry, did I just hear Wyc say fireworks?”
Danny: “Oh, yeah, we’ve got this Fourth of July party in a few days. It’s nothing. Didn’t you get the invite? Anywho, what if I throw Jared Sullinger into the deal?”
Flip: “Let me think about it for a second. Aaaaaaannnnnnndddddd no.”
Danny: “Ah, can you hold on for a second?”
Flip: “No …”
Danny puts the phone down. “I’d Do Anything for Love’ plays on hold.
Wyc: “We can’t afford another losing season, Danny. I met with Bob Kraft, John Henry and Jeremy Jacobs for our weekly tea and crumpets yesterday, and they were all making fun of me, telling me we’re the fifth wheel behind the Revolution. The Revs, Danny, the Revs! When Wyc promises fireworks, Wyc delivers fireworks.”
Danny picks up the phone.
Danny: “You still there, Flip?”
Danny: “How about one of Brooklyn’s picks, too?”
Flip: “Just so we’re straight: You’re offering four first-round picks, Sully and Kelly?”
Danny: “Well, when you put it that way …”
Flip: “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
|06.26.14 at 11:54 am ET|
Joel Embiid‘s foot and back injuries have created a domino effect leading up to the draft – especially with the holder of the fourth overall pick, the Magic.
The Kansas center’s medical issues have caused him to slide on most mock drafts, pushing players such as Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum higher up in the draft order, and potentially out of Orlando’s reach.
As a result, the Magic could use both their fourth and 12th overall picks in an effort to trade into a top-three position in the draft.
“Everything’s really fluid at the moment,” said first-year Magic general manager Rob Hennigan. “I think there’s a possibility we could select at [No.] 4 and [No.] 12, and I think there’s a possibility that one or both of those picks could be in play. So our job … is to prioritize what we feel is the best opportunity for us, and then go ahead and try to capitalize on that.”
While the Magic have tradeable pieces in Jameer Nelson and Nikola Vucevic, Hennigan would not give any hints on what his team plans to do Thursday night.
“I think the big thing for us is to just stay the course — continue to add to the team, continue to improve the team, and do it in a fashion that allows us to show improvement, [and] allows us to play in more meaningful games next season,” Hennigan said. “But at the same time we don’t want to skip steps. We don’t want to compromise our vision to build a competitive team for a long time.
“If there’s an opportunity out there that will allow us to speed that up – great. If not, I think onus is on us to continue to chip away and stay disciplined.”
Meanwhile, the Magic reportedly made a move, acquiring Evan Fournier and the No. 56 pick from the Nuggets for Arron Afflalo.
The 21-year-old Fournier, a 2012 first-round pick from France, is heading into his third NBA campaign. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard averaged 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds last season.
The 28-year-old Afflalo, who would have been Orlando’s top returning scorer (18.2 ppg), returns to the team he played for from 2009-12 before being sent to the Magic as part of the Dwight Howard multi-team trade. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from UCLA has an option to become a free agent after the 2014-15 season.
The Knicks center, along with point guard Raymond Felton, was traded to the Mavs in exchange for guards Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington and center Samuel Dalembert.
The Knicks also receive both of Dallas’ picks in Thursday’s draft — the 34th and 51st selections (both in the second round). New York previously did not have a pick in what should be a deep draft on Thursday.
|06.25.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
The Celtics-centric story surrounding Kevin Love actually began before the All-Star break, but Boston’s Love affair reached “Fatal Attraction” levels when the three-time NBA All-Star spent three days in the city a few weeks back.
Since then, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and Celtics counterpart Danny Ainge have seemingly pulled the puppet strings masterfully, casting sources in a drama worthy of Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. The plot thickens every day, so here’s the storyboard updated through the latest episode.
- Feb. 16, 2014: Love declares, “Boston is a great city.”
- Feb. 19, 2014: The Celtics are in Love’s sights.
- Feb. 26, 2014: The Celtics are the odds-on favorite to acquire Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics, Warriors, Lakers and Suns are making hard runs at Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics are “the sleeper gathering momentum” for Love’s services.
- May 19, 2014: Love likes the Warriors and Bulls.
- May 26, 2014: The Kings would trade for Love without assurance he’d re-sign.
- May 26, 2014: Love wants out by July 1.
- May 30-June 1, 2014: Love spends a weekend in Boston.
- June 2, 2014: The Timberwolves expect Love to remain in Minnesota.
- June 3, 2014: The T-Wolves aren’t interested in Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley or Kelly Olynyk.
- June 4, 2014: Sacramento “will trade anything but [DeMarcus] Cousins,” lead in Love sweepstakes.
- June 9, 2014: The Suns will offer Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and picks for Love.
- June 11, 2014: At a video game conference, Love will answer all questions except those about the Celtics.
- June 16, 2014: Love won’t be traded by July 1.
- June 17, 2014: A C’s offer of the No. 6 and 17 picks, future No. 1(s), Sullinger and Olynyk is the best offer.
- June 18, 2014: The Nuggets and Warriors have better offers than the Celtics.
- June 18, 2014: The Celtics are the “heavy favorites” to acquire Love.
- June 19, 2014: Denver’s offer of Kenneth Faried, No. 11 pick, Wilson Chandler and J.J. Hickson is better.
- June 19, 2014: The Warriors will include Klay Thompson in a deal for Love, becoming odds-on favorite.
- June 19, 2014: The Timberwolves aren’t prepared to trade Love — yet.
- June 22, 2014: The conversation between the Timberwolves and Celtics is put on hold.
- June 23, 2014: Talks between Minnesota and Golden State are “dead.”
- June 24, 2014: The Cavaliers offered the No. 1 pick for Love, but he refused to re-sign in Cleveland.
Rumored Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers offers have been put out to pasture. All the while, the C’s package remains with the possibility of Ainge sweetening the deal. If the Wolves are looking to trade Love — and it seems inevitable given his stated goal to leave via free agency next summer and the ensuing circus the past six weeks — then the Celtics still stand among the favorites (if not the favorite) for his services.
For further analysis, read about Ainge’s final play for Love.
|06.25.14 at 1:45 pm ET|
This year’s draft is starting to feel like it could be one of the most entertaining in years. Seriously, how could there be any more drama?
The old projected top pick, Joel Embiid, is injured and sliding down draft boards. We have no clue if Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers. We don’t even know that Cleveland will keep the first pick — teams like the Magic, Jazz and Celtics are rumored to have interest.
The Celtics also are rumored to be one of three finalists to acquire the No. 8 pick from the Kings. Then the Lakers seem pretty serious about trying to package Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick in an attempt to get young talent. Or, dare I say, the Lakers could be trying to clear cap space to make a play on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
A mock draft seems almost pointless since we are expecting so many trades. Let’s not forget that Kevin Love‘s name will be one we hear in rumors a few times Thursday. Expect to see one of the wildest drafts in recent memory, but if there is less movement than expected, here’s how it could shake down.
1. Cavaliers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) — Embiid has been projected as the top pick for a while, even with his back issues. His broken foot is a whole different monster, though. Those two red flags will cause him to slip, and Parker is the best player in the draft right now. Wiggins will get a look here, especially if the Cavs are looking for a player to fit alongside LeBron (in their dream scenario). Owner Dan Gilbert wants to be very involved in the pick, and he reportedly likes Wiggins. That’s a risky strategy for Cleveland, so just take the sure thing in Parker — the Cavs really can’t afford to blow this one.
2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) — The Bucks now hold the easiest pick in the draft. Sit back and see what the team with the top pick does, then take the other top prospect. If Parker goes No. 1, then Wiggins goes to Milwaukee to play with a decent young core. The Bucks may prefer one to the other, but they have to be pleased either way it plays out.
3. 76ers, Dante Exum (Australia) — Philly ends up the biggest loser as a result of the Embiid injury. The Sixers would have been the team that ended up with the third top prospect that was passed over, but now they have a difficult choice to make. Embiid probably still is too risky this high in the draft, so Exum is the best overall talent available. Exum would either come in to be a backcourt-mate to Michael Carter-Williams or to take MCW’s job if the 76ers look to trade the Rookie of the Year.
4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) — With Exum off the board, and Orlando seeking a point guard, Smart makes sense with this pick. Of course, any of the big men on the board will be tempting to the Magic, but they have been most interested in Smart and Exum all year.
5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) — The Jazz already have a lot of young talent in their frontcourt. But if all the guards are taken early, and Utah does not trade up, Vonleh may be the most appealing piece. Vonleh is more capable of stepping away from the basket than the remaining bigs; that could be the determining factor.
6. Celtics, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) — One of the big questions of the draft becomes how far Embiid will slip. Danny Ainge will face a tough decision if he slips to No. 6, and in the end he won’t be able to pass up Embiid’s potential. If Ainge is unable to add an All-Star caliber player through a trade, Embiid is a fantastic fit for the future to play alongside Jared Sullinger in a rebuild scenario.
|06.25.14 at 11:35 am ET|
|06.25.14 at 11:08 am ET|
If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t call the five teams in front of him in Thursday’s NBA draft, he wouldn’t be doing his job, so it should come as no surprise he’s inquired about what it would take to acquire a top pick from the Cavaliers, Bucks, 76ers, Magic and Jazz.
In fact, Ainge also has discussed the possibility of landing picks later in the first and into the second round, according to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy. In all likelihood, Ainge has contacted the front offices of all 29 other teams in preparation for a draft with an infinite number of possible C’s outcomes.
As for the potential of the C’s trading into the top five, a draft-day deal of top-six picks hasn’t happened since 2008, when Minnesota and Memphis swapped No. 3 (O.J. Mayo) and No. 5 (Kevin Love), exchanging a handful of inconsequential players in the process (Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner to the Grizzlies; Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins to the Timberwolves).
While Love has since become the centerpiece of blockbuster trade discussions, neither he nor Mayo were considered franchise-altering acquisitions six years ago. Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were the big catches of that draft, just as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are the clear prizes this season. Love and Mayo (sing to Frank Sinatra‘s “Love and Marriage,” please) were more akin to Julius Randle and Marcus Smart this season.
The lack of top picks changing places in recent years has a lot to do with the increased value of those players in the new collective bargaining agreement and the scarcity of teams with win-now mentalities ending up in the top five.
|06.25.14 at 11:05 am ET|
Draft prospect Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dream of playing in the NBA come true. Instead he becomes another sad but true reminder why all college student-athletes should prepare for life after sports. And it’s another reason why colleges should do more to help prepare these young men for what lies ahead.
In a terrible turn of events, the 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition “caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body.” Marfan.org states that “about 1-in-5,000 people have the condition that can affect the heart, blood vessels, bones or joints.”
I know the pain of having your life’s dream come to an abrupt end at an early age. I will never forget being a 24-year-old rookie sitting in then-Heat coach Pat Riley‘s office and having my career come to an end due to an ankle injury.
Riley shared his experience as a former player and talked about how he felt after his body could no longer withstand the pounding in the NBA. “Huck, I have to let you go,” are the words that I’ll never forget. For a 24-year-old who had just signed an NBA contract, it was like dying. I was blessed enough to be able to play for a paycheck in the NBA and Europe, but like so many I had never thought about what I would do when basketball ended.
I’ve heard about some of the quirky questions general managers ask draft prospects in the NFL and NBA (Michigan’s Nik Stauskas said he got a Justin Bieber question). But I wonder if they ask every draft prospect how prepared they are to go out into the general workforce (non-sports-related field) and obtain a job?
I make it a point now to talk to every player I interview while doing games for ESPN about preparing for life after sports. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream of playing professionally, but it is bad business to not have a succession plan of what you will do afterward.
Unfortunately, Isaiah Austin, like myself, had his career come to an abrupt end. Hopefully he can go back to Baylor, finish his education and share his story with other student-athletes about the importance of a backup plan.
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