The Boston Celtics are rumored to be planning a backcourt transition after NBA Draft, with consensus top prospect Markelle Fultz’s selection spelling the end of the Isaiah Thomas era in Boston.
The Celtics struck gold at the NBA Draft lottery, earning the first-overall choice thanks to their trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Fultz, the Washington point guard, had long been considered the top pick in the draft this year but would be joining a Celtics team with an already strong backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.
That could bring the Celtics to a decision, to keep the talented but undersized and defensively challenged Thomas on a max contract or let him go and build the future around Fultz.
To start, it may not be a lock that the Celtics grab the Washington guard with the top pick. This week, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hinted that the team could be considering UCLA guard Lonzo Ball instead. Ball, who had been considered a lock to be selected by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers at the No. 2 overall draft pick, could end up in Boston if the Celtics rate him above Fultz.
“We understand that he’s from Los Angeles, but we’re going to draft whoever can help the Celtics regardless of where the players want to play,” Ainge told The Sporting News.
Drafting either Ball or Fultz — which still seems the most likely option despite the rumors — could mean that Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have a long-term future in Boston, Fansided noted.
“Thomas has certainly become a fan favorite in Boston, but signing him to a max contract might not be beneficial to this team long-term. With Boston likely bringing in a guard in the draft, that could mean the end for Thomas in Boston. It would not surprise me if next season was Isaiah’s last in Beantown. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Boston signed him to a max contract. It really could go either way. Boston has a big decision to make over the next 12 months.”
There could still be a third option. There have been rumors that the Boston Celtics could potentially trade their top pick — though it would come at an enormous price.
"I think that'd be a great fit for me."
Markelle Fultz on potentially playing in Boston. He'll work out for them if they want him to. pic.twitter.com/Ypj5ZffyVb
— Celtics Direct (@CelticsDirect) May 16, 2017
This week, Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo said his team was exploring all options including trading up to the top pick, CSN Philly reported.
It would take an enormous price, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck hinted.
“If you’re going to trade this pick as part of a package for an established star making max, you’ve got to send max money out the door as well,” Grousbeck told 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. “You’ve got to send more guys along, so this guy coming back better be the second coming. What’s more, he’s going to be halfway through his career, whoever he is, and he’s going to be paid right now a ton of money, which restricts you in other ways.
“If you can get a really good guy with this pick, you’ve got him, you can build with him, you can grow with him, you can coach him up, and you get to max money eventually — five, six years down the road — but it’s a totally different thing.”
— The Vertical (@TheVertical) May 17, 2017
It’s not clear who would fit the bill on the Sixers roster, and with Philadelphia in the midst of a long rebuild, it doesn’t seem likely they would give up enough assets to draft Fultz.
It may take a while before fans find out if the Boston Celtics rumors are true and Markelle Fultz takes over for Isaiah Thomas. His contract is up at the end of the 2017-18 season, so the Celtics have a bit longer to decide whether to offer an extension or let him walk.
[Featured Image by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images]