It’s too bad the Boston Celtics, owners of the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, cannot just select Markelle Fultz now and plug him into their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Actually, as long as they’re wishing for things, it’s too bad they can rent Paul George from the Indiana Pacers or Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls, leaving the No. 1 pick as collateral, only to return one of them in near-mint condition and get back their selection.
The Celtics, after all, need that kind of help. They were absolutely whacked in Game 1. The final score, 117-104, didn’t do their demolition justice. Cleveland led by as much as 28 points, and the game was never, not once, in doubt.
Still, things are looking up for the Celtics. Not right now, obviously. They’re toast. But they still have the No. 1 pick and the path to another superstar or two, given their cap flexibility this summer.
Head coach Brad Stevens, for his part, admitted to being stoked, in the sense that “stoked” means he thinks having the No. 1 pick is pretty chill:
Brad Stevens hopes landing the No. 1 pick helps Boston emerge as a sustainable contender. pic.twitter.com/dJIVdLsxcx
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) May 17, 2017
Al Horford shared these sentiments prior to Game 1:
Al Horford says the Celtics' future assets were a selling point for him in free agency.
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) May 17, 2017
Those same assets will appeal to other free agents this summer. Question is: In what way will they be attractive?
Did Horford see Jaylen Brown, this pick and next year’s Brooklyn Nets selection as insurance that he’ll be playing for a relevant team deep into his prime and beyond? Or did he see them as a means to the Celtics acquiring more big names to win now?
It’s an interesting question, and one that the Celtics have to ask themselves to some degree. Do they keep this pick? Draft Fultz (or less likely, someone else) and continue to toe the line of championship contention while gradually, and quietly, developing a powerhouse that can outlast LeBron James’ window? Do they trade for a George or Butler?
There’s no telling when they’ll have an answer. It most likely won’t be before the free-agency dust settles. It might not even come before the February trade deadline.
Heck, there’s a chance the Celtics don’t find an answer at all, and continue to exist in this weird, albeit pleasant, gray area out of sheer convenience.