The Boston Celtics are a mere percentage points ahead the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference. As winners of 8 out of their last 10 games, the Celtics appear to be clicking at the right time, regardless of what we saw a couple nights ago against the Milwaukee Bucks and again against the Orlando Magic on Friday night. Isaiah Thomas is continuing to score at an absurd clip and we are finally seeing the emergence of Al Horford, who has not necessarily lived up to his max contract that he signed this past offseason.
And truthfully, the future could not be brighter for the Celtics. Aside from contending with the Cleveland Cavaliers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference this season, the Celtics are set for the near future, as well. The Celtics have the ability to add two max contracts to their roster or trade for a legitimate superstar with a bevy of assets. The Brooklyn Nets are a few losses (or a few Lakers wins) away from locking up the worst record in the NBA and having the best odds of landing the #1 overall pick in this year's draft. Top college talent includes Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson, who could all become superstars in the NBA for the next decade. The Celtics have been porked in the past when it comes to the lottery, but there are at least three players in this draft that could change a franchise.
I don't believe the Celtics were just kicking the tires on Chicago's Jimmy Butler or Indiana's Paul George at the Trade Deadline either, as these are the exact type of players the Celtics need. The Celtics have been in on Butler for the past couple of seasons and Danny Ainge has a personal connection with Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers in regards to George. With the connection between impending free agent Gordon Hayward and his former college coach Brad Stevens, it looks to be almost set in stone that he will be dawning green next season. The Celtics have to be careful about who they give these types of contract to, however. If the Celtics give a max contract to Hayward this offseason, they will only have room for one more max deal, and that is without addressing the contracts of Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, or Jae Crowder, who will all be up in the next two seasons.
Danny Ainge and company need to take a hard look at their roster and decide if they believe they can win with a core of Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, and Isaiah Thomas, as well as either Jimmy Butler or this year's Brooklyn pick.
Personally, I don't think this is enough. The Celtics would be a damn good team, but I don't think they are de-throning the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, or San Antonio Spurs for supremacy at the top of the NBA. Hayward is a great player. Butler is a great player. Thomas is a great player. Unfortunately, none of these guys can take over a game and dominate on both ends of the court like a Kevin Durant, Lebron James, or Kawhi Leonard.
The sobering reality for the Boston Celtics is that you're not getting a top-10 NBA player in free agency. The only hope is to wait this out and build through the draft. Horford and Thomas are fun and exciting players, but you aren't winning a championship with them being your two best guys. If the Celtics are smart, they will explore the trade market for Thomas and see if they can get a team to overpay after his incredible 2016-2017 season. Looking at this year's draft, the best players are point guards and the C's will not be able to develop whoever they select with Thomas playing 40 minutes a night and chucking up 30 shots a game.
Many Celtics fans would not like the move, but the best decision for the franchise is to trade Isaiah Thomas and get something for him before he expects a max contract