Fireworks or Pop Rocks; The Celtics Offseason
Part 1: Paul George to Boston?
They say never trust a man with two first names, but many Boston Celtics fans want a chance to debunk that classic phrase. With the highly anticipated NBA Draft in our rear view mirror and a surely unpredictable free agency period upon us, Celtics faithful are split on what kind of splash they want from team brass.
Now that "The Unicorn" appears to be locked into the Manhattan Zoo at MSG and Jimmy Butler has traded in his deep dish pizza for even deeper snow, it's time to explore a possible move for the other man who has been rumored to be headed to Boston for the better part of two years.
Should the Celtics trade for Paul George?
The 6'9" combo forward is a perennial all-star and widely regarded as one of the NBA's elite two-way players. So, what's the rub you ask? Many folks in Boston are split not on where the franchise should be heading, but in how fast they should get there. Everyone is fully aware of the laundry list of quality draft picks that GM Danny Ainge has acquired over the past few years, fueled by the fleecing of the Brooklyn Nets for four first round selections in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett deal in 2013. Some green-teamers want the Celtics to continue to build a deep, young roster while others say the time has come to turn the assets into a bona fide star.
There are strong arguments to be made by both sides. Does one wait until LeBron James presumably slows down, or moves out west? What about the Golden State Warriors? Many in the bean say there is just no point in moving young talent or high picks now, because of that eventual powerhouse roadblock in the NBA finals.
Those who want to make a move to bring the suburban Los Angeles native to Boston say it's time to pull the trigger on a star and make a serious run at banner 18 right now.
We all know George has been vocal about his desire to return to his roots after his contract runs up at the end of the 2017-18 season, a claim that has precipitated the PG-13 trade talks to begin with. George telling the Indiana front office he is taking off is a double edge sword. On one hand they won't get "LeBoned", circa Cleveland 2010, when the Cavs were left tight-pantsed and lonely as he departed for South Beach. On the flip side, the Pacers have very little leverage in moving George to other NBA franchises. Leverage that diminishes with each passing day.
Where do I stand? YES, the C's must explore all reasonable options to land the 27-year-old. My betting friends always tell me, "Jesse, scared money don't make money." In my eyes there are so many more check marks in the yes column, versus the no.
The real gamble is whether or not the Celtics can sign Paul George past the upcoming season. It's a win/win though because even if he leaves after next season, they still have plenty of young talent and assets to move onward and upward.
Yes, George may want to head to LA next summer in free agency, but a lot can change in a year (just ask Johnny Manziel, Octomom, or the entire Democratic Party). The Celtics are in a position to compete for a ring right now and in the coming years with PG in the fold, something that is surely alluring. However, George would likely be leaving some cash on the table, if you're into that sort of thing, if he were to ink a three-year extension in Boston.
The Celtics could pony up a three-year extension after this season starting at just north of $23 million next year with the total at nearly $76 million over three seasons. However, PG would certainly command offers of more than $90 million over three years on the open market after next season should he test free agency.
We all know that NBA GM's are clever when it comes to operating under the salary cap, expected to be in the $99 million range this season.
Word on the street is that the Cavs are hot on the George trail as well, trying to land him in a 3-way deal with Kevin Love involved. The Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs have reportedly been among the teams that are also pursuing a move.
Any Lakers deal appears dead in the water, which is good news for the Celtics, who need the Lakers to have another down year. Trader Danny moved down from the top overall selection to number three in the recent NBA draft in a trade with Philadelphia. In that trade Boston also acquired L.A.'s pick next June, should it fall within the 2-5 range. Something that becomes highly unlikely should the Lakers find a way to snag Paul right now.
Another feather in the Celtics cap as to why PG-13 would fit well is his high praise for Gordon Hayward. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported in March, “George would love to play with hometown boy Gordon Hayward, according to sources.” That, of course, was in reference to possibly teaming up in Indiana. However, I think relationships are a big part of these kind of signings and PG clearly appreciates his game.
Hayward has been highly rumored to land in Boston this summer, where his college coach from Butler now roams the sidelines for the green. Boston would likely want to acquire Hayward first as they could then get more creative financially with a possible George extension afterwards.
The Celtics' Jaylen Brown, just named as NBA All-Rookie second teamer, has said he looks up to George and had tried to model his game after him. That would surely be another relationship beneficial to the team should they land PG. Ironically, can you guess who was an NBA All-Rookie second teamer in 2011? Yup, Paul George.
Who would Boston have to give up for George? Well that is the million dollar question. I say, hand over anything that is not Brown, Tatum, or comes from NY's favorite borough...Brooklyn. In order to bring in talent, you have to let go of talent. Probably two of the three and a Celtics first-rounder would do the trick.
Don't get it twisted, I like all these players a lot. However, the Celtics are flat out not good enough....yet.
Boston has a full house and need to get some playing time for younger players on the rise. Don't forget Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele will have a slot this season as well. This seems like a good opportunity to trade a couple average to above average players, like Bradley/Crowder/Smart/Olynyk, for a superstar.
The Celtics will certainly dance this off-season, we'll just have to see what record Danny puts the needle to.