The NBA Draft will be held on June 22 and the Boston Celtics, thanks to the foolishness of former Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King, hold the top pick. With point guards aplenty, and the Celtics already stacked at the position, it only makes sense they shop the pick around rather then take another point guard.
GM Danny Ainge is aware of his situation, yet many mock drafters are still predicting he selects Washington’s Markelle Fultz first overall. But Ainge is not locked in to any one player or strategy at the moment.
“We’re looking for the best overall player, and that hasn’t been decided yet…” Ainge said recently. “At the trade deadline we were trading away the possibility of the No. 1 pick, a 25 percent chance of the No. 1 pick, but that’s a 75 percent chance of not having that pick, and that’s how teams look at it, which is probably why we didn’t get a deal done. Now we have the No. 1 pick and we will explore the value of it.”
That is a good thing for the NBA and their fans. Why? Because the Los Angeles Lakers have the second pick and plan on taking UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, who has declined to work out for Boston. The Lakers appear to be locked into Ball and his insufferable father, LaVar, who has said his son will only play for his hometown team.
Ainge can put a stop to that plan by either trading the pick or selecting Ball himself. If Ainge was really adept, he’d force the Lakers to trade for the right to draft Ball and then trade that pick for a package. This way, he can get a player he needs (such as Indiana’s Paul George or Chicago’s Jimmy Butler) and more picks down the road. Boston also has three picks in the second round this year that they can use as leverage should a team need more incentive to close a deal.
The Celtics also have the Nets top pick in next year’s draft. That will no doubt be a lottery pick as the Nets are scheduled to be doormats again. But it’s with this draft that Ainge can restore order to the NBA before the Big Baller era can get off the ground.
It all seems too predetermined that the senior Ball is going set the NBA on fire with his braggadocio and overpriced sneaker line. He appears to be dictating the terms of his son’s future to NBA executives and his own by asking $3 billion from the kings of the athletic apparel industry to join forces with him. He has insulted several members of the media who have criticized his style and has not made many allies in the process.
Why should he have his way? Even more so, why should the Lakers? This guy is certain his son is going to be a Laker and everyone who covers the NBA seems to be buying into it, too. If I were Ainge, I’d be thinking about that as I make my mind up with this pick. Do I want the hated Lakers to come away with such a win-win outcome if I can prevent it? I wouldn’t.
If the Lakers want to be in the Big Baller business, I’d make them sweat it. I’d make Ball sweat it, too. Maybe Lonzo ends up a Laker in the end, but it shouldn’t be this easy. There will be no stopping the father if he gets what he wants here.
Ainge must save everyone this indignity and nip this in the bud before it gets out of control.