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Thoughts on Celtics / Sixers Trade—Fultz Deal

So last night it was announced that the Celtics would be moving the #1 overall pick to the Sixers for the #3 overall pick + either the 2018 Lakers 1st round pick (if it falls within 2 to 5) and if it doesn't, then the 2019 Kings 1st round pick -- which I believe is unprotected.


  • There's seemingly widespread consensus that Fultz is the best player in the draft. I actually haven't seen a draft board that has anyone else at the top (Chad Ford, DraftExpress, The Ringer, etc.) It's worth noting that in 2016 -- Jaylen Brown, whom the Celtics drafted with the #3 overall pick -- was seemingly not ranked that highly. In Chad Ford's Big Board from February of that year [link] he had Brown #6 overall and in his Mock Draft 7.0 from May of that year [link] he had Brown going to the Kings at #8. Some GMs seem to largely follow consensus in terms of where at least the top picks stack up, while others have a different take. There's been buzz that Josh Jackson very much fits the mold of the type of player Ainge likes (high motor, excellent defender) and many of the revised mock drafts I've seen since the proposed trade was announced has Jayson Tatum going to the Celtics. While Jackson generally has been seen to be going in the top 3 picks (some buzz of him going to the Lakers), Tatum's projections have been all over the place -- generally around #5, but perhaps even lower. I think it's quite possible Ainge simply has a different evaluation of Fultz than everyone else -- maybe not massively different, but he simply might like some of the other players as much or better or have some concerns about Fultz' game (I know I do).
  • Let's think about what the Celtics got in return. In exchange for dropping 2 spots, the Celtics get either a pick that falls within 2 to 5 for 2018, or an unprotected 2019 1st round pick. Let's put some odds on this. It's likely the Lakers continue to be bad next year -- how bad is pretty hard to say, but my guess is probably even odds (maybe a little less) they're one of the 5 worst teams in the NBA next year. So let's say the Celtics have a 35% chance of getting next year's Lakers pick. The 2019 Kings are likely to still be a very young team so probably a decent chance they're in the lottery that year -- let's say 80%. So 35% + (65% * 80%) = 87%. 87% chance (admittedly very rough) that that pick is a lottery pick with a decent chance it's a high lottery pick. That's not guaranteed, but that's a good haul for dropping two spots.
  • Of course, dropping two spots depends a lot on your evaluation of Fultz. I like Fultz but I definitely don't like him as much as everyone else does. Some have criticized him for his "casual" play and I definitely see that. I think "crafty" players are harder for me to evaluate and many of his comps were or are excellent or at least very good NBA players (Harden, Arenas, Brandon Roy, etc.) That being said, I would take Josh Jackson over Fultz. I like high motor guys with tremendous defensive skills. He's also an athletic freak. The shooting worries me some and I don't dismiss it, but I just think the ceiling for Jackson is super high and he really jumps off film for me. But irrespective of my opinion, the important thing is if the Celtics are certain there's someone they like at #3. If they really like Jackson and only Jackson, then yes, it's a risk as I do think there's a chance the Lakers take Jackson at #2. However, if they're certain the Lakers will take Lonzo at #2 or there's someone else they're ok with at #3 (like Tatum) or that they're planning on dropping further back, then this strikes me as a tremendous deal. There's a lot of guys I like at the top of the draft for the Celtics -- beyond Jackson, you have Malik Monk, even Jonathan Isaac. Put it another way -- if the Celtics were sitting at #3 -- would they trade #3 and say, next year's Brooklyn pick for the #1 overall pick to take Futlz? I don't think there's any chance of that. 
  • There's a lot of talk about how the Celtics need a superstar (or another superstar) and how Ainge is essentially trading away a superstar in Fultz. Some of that is evaluation -- of course. But I think it can't be underestimated the need for having a lot of shots at players. Ainge's track record when it comes to trades is excellent -- but his track record drafting players is iffy. It's one thing if you're Jerry West when it comes to player evaluation, but a component of this is knowing who you are and the likelihood that you hit on players. In 2018, the Celtics will have Brooklyn's #1 and conceivably, the Lakers' #1 -- which means there's a small, but reasonable chance they could have the top 2 picks in the 2018 draft. They obviously could move that for other pieces and superstars, but frankly, even if they kept their top picks at this point, they will have a pipeline of young, cost-controlled, top prospects coming through their system for years to come. They don't have to hit on any one of them. And with Brad Stevens at the helm, they can rest easy knowing that he's going to maximize or close to maximize their development.