With the NBA trade deadline just days away, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls have reportedly resurrected trade talks involving three-time All-Star Bulls forward Jimmy Butler. But with any possible deal for Butler certain to require the first-round draft pick the Celtics hold from their blockbuster 2013 trade that sent veterans Pauls Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge must make a decision. Assuming that acquiring Butler is a genuine possibility, does Ainge want to bolster the current Celtics team — which at the All-Star break sits in second place just three games behind the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference — or does he want to retain the Nets pick and build for the future, in hopes of creating yet another long-term Celtics dynasty?
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, February 23, at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, noon Pacific.
But while Butler (pictured at the top of this page, right) is a known quantity, averaging 24.5 points per game so far this season and over 20 in each of his last two — and could make a significant difference in the postseason by providing an option to Boston’s leading scorer Isaiah Thomas in situations where Thomas (pictured at top of page, left) is likely to face tighter defense than in the regular season — the player who appears most likely to go to the Celtics in the draft is not yet 19-years-old, and is only a freshman in college.
While the NBA draft is difficult to predict, and even if the Nets finish with the NBA’s worst record, the Celtics would still have only a one-in-four chance of landing the top overall pick, thanks to the league’s arcane draft lottery system.
But assuming that they are able to land the top pick, the most likely choice and the consensus number one pick, according to NBA draft experts, is 18-year-old Washington Huskies freshman Markelle Fultz.
The six-foot, four-inch point guard out of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland — who, like Michael Jordan before him, failed to make his high school varsity team as a sophomore — is already earning comparisons to NBA stars James Harden of the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard.
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“His pullup jump shot is among the best in the country. His ball handling and finishing flash some Kyrie Irving in him. He has the size to compete at either guard position at the next level,” wrote Scout.com Celtics correspondent Hunter Perkins. His defense could use some work, but he’s already mastered the chase-down block.”
Learn more about Fultz and his sudden rise to stardom in the video below.
As a Washington product, Fultz comes out of the same program that produced Thomas, the Celtics’ current superstar. Thomas, however, was the 60th and final pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Fultz appears likely to go first in 2017.
“He’s been pretty much the consensus number one pick all year,” CBS Sports NBA draft expert Moward Medal wrote of Fultz last week. “He’s a dynamic playmaker at the point guard position — a scorer, a shooter, a potentially elite defender, and he’s hitting whatever the opposite of the freshman wall is. Not really a weakness in the bag.”
After 25 games at Washington, Fultz is averaging 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes per game, along with 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
The Nets are currently 9-47, a full six and a half games behind the NBA’s next-worst team, the Phoenix Suns, all but assuring the Celtics of landing that 25 percent chance at the top pick in the draft and a shot at Fultz.
[Featured Image By Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]