Sign Gordon Hayward at the start of free agency:
This is the very first step towards the Celtics returning to the NBA throne. Gordon Hayward has been linked to the Boston Celtics ever since Brad Stevens (Hayward’s former coach at Butler) took over for Doc Rivers as the man running the show in Boston. The interest is mutual as Hayward and Stevens are known to be good friends while Hayward has developed into a bonafide NBA All-Star who could clearly help take some of the scoring load off of Isaiah Thomas. Hayward is sure to demand a max-contract once free agency hits July 1st and with some simple roster moves (Rescinding the free-agent rights to Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green and James Young, waiving Tyler Zeller and Jordan Mickey, and revoking the rights to Kelly Olynyk) the Celtics are in position to reunite the former Butler Bulldog and his coach.
Trade for Paul George:
An Isaiah Thomas – Gordon Hayward – Al Horford trio is a nice start and is almost sure to bring the Celtics back to the Eastern Conference Finals, but adding Paul George to that mix immediately puts King James on notice: the Celtics are coming. The Celtics have the assets to beat virtually any package any other team in the league can put together for George, it’s just a matter of if Danny Ainge is willing to. Simply to make the money work, the Celtics will likely have to ship out 2-3 of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, or newly drafted Jayson Tatum. This wouldn’t be too much of a loss for the Celtics though as the additions of Hayward and George would create a logjam on the wing anyways. By sweetening the pot with their own first round draft pick next year, the Celtics would be offering the Pacers a solid return for a potential 1-year rental while maintaining some of their other valuable assets (’18 Brooklyn pick, ‘18/’19 Lakers/Kings pick). If this deal goes down, Danny Ainge is banking on the fact that the Celtics outlast the Cavs and make it to the NBA finals, which is hopefully enough to sway George to forego bolting to LA next year. Better yet, if the Celtics can somehow trade for Paul George with an extension already in place, as has been reported, Danny Ainge could be in position to pull off the biggest trade since he landed Kevin Garnett from Minnesota in the summer of 2007.
Swing for the fences at the trade deadline (yes, I’m looking at you Anthony Davis):
After adding PG, a lineup of Isaiah Thomas – Gordon Hayward – Paul George – Al Horford will seriously give the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money. Personally, I think this is enough to overtake the Cavs for honors of the top dog in the east, but in Boston the goal is not to simply make an NBA finals, it’s to win the whole damn thing and frankly I still don’t think this team can top the juggernaut out in the Bay area. This is where Danny Ainge FINALLY goes all in and completes his master plan: a trade for Anthony Davis. While it may seem foolish of the Pelicans to trade one of the best young talents in the entire league with 4 years left on his contract, bear with me for a minute. What if as this season starts to unfold the Pelicans are losing games left and right, sitting at the bottom of the standings, Boogie Cousins getting technical fouls and suspensions, and a rift starts to form between the two dynamic big men? Could the Pelicans accept the Boogie – AD pairing as a failure this early and opt for a complete rebuild? The Celtics sure hope so. If this is the case, Ainge should unload the treasure chest at the trade deadline. Throw the ’18 Brooklyn Nets pick, the ’18 Lakers/’19 Kings pick, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and another young player at the Pelicans and they at least have to consider it. Al Horford’s contract makes the money work and provides the Pelicans with a great player who still has multiple years left on his contract. Add in the two draft picks that are expected to both be top 5 picks, and the Pelicans have a huge jump-start on their rebuild. As for the Celtics, they would have put together the only line-up in the league that could seriously test the Warriors and maybe, just maybe bring an 18th banner to Beantown.