by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
The 2017 NBA draft is a week from today—June 22—and for the first time since 1950 the Boston Celtics have the top pick. The burning question is: What will Celtic General Manager Danny Ainge do with the pick? With the Celtics a young and deep team that was one of the NBA’s “Final 3” this season, perhaps they could trade the pick for an established star who could help them to the next level—the NBA Finals.
(As this is being written well in advance, if Danny has already traded the pick, you’ll have to excuse me.)
The names of several stars have been bandied about, including that of Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant. Would you trade the pick for rights to someone like Durant?
Actually Durant will be a free agent so the Celtics could just make him a great offer and sign him directly and trade the pick for LeBron James.
This scenario is not entirely implausible. The 28-year-old Durant expressed interest in Boston before heading to Golden State. Having just won a title with the Warriors, he may need a new challenge.
The notion of the Cavaliers trading LeBron—an Ohio native—might seem fantastical, but it would make great sense for Cleveland from a business perspective. A 14-year NBA veteran, James will soon be 33 years old. He’s a big guy whose knees and ankles have taken a terrific pounding. He may only have a year or two left.
There’s a place for sentiment in sports, but the NBA is a business. The Celtics kept the “Big Three” (Bird, McHale, Parish) around until they all declined about the same time—like the One-Hoss Shay. The team was then non-competitive for 15 years.
The Cavaliers would be smart to get a first pick for the aging LeBron. While there are no guarantees regarding top picks (see below), theoretically they’d be giving up LeBron’s last two years for a potential superstar with a 10-12 year future.
Such a deal would create a short-term firestorm in Cleveland, but eventually it could pay off handsomely. Loyalty has its place but don’t forget that LeBron bugged out of Cleveland in 2011 in search of title rings—which he acquired in Miami.
A year or two of LeBron and Durant in Boston would create a media sensation, incredible expectations, and major “chemistry” questions. It’s unlikely to happen, but fun to consider.