- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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The Boston Celtics are set to embark on what they hope is a franchise-altering week. But how exactly that transformation will occur, just how seismic the moves they make will be and how fast they'll see results from this part of the rebuilding process are anyone's guess.
It's draft week, and the Celtics own picks Nos. 6 and 17. The team's front office staff has relentlessly scouted an intriguing pool of incoming talent and will spend the days leading up to the draft trying to map out all the potential avenues the team might travel this week.
Of course, it's impossible to know exactly how the draft will play out or the domino effect that each pick will create for Boston.
The buzzword this week remains "fireworks," the term Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck used earlier this year to describe the potential of the big-splash moves the team could make this summer to thrust it back into contender status after a 57-loss season.
With that in mind, here's a look at five possible scenarios, each on a scale of 1 to 5 booms, that could play out on draft night:
KEEP THE PICKS (Fireworks scale: 1 boom)
With nine first-round picks over the next five drafts, the Celtics are positioned to pick their spots. Although the team certainly desires to win sooner than later, it doesn't necessarily have to mortgage its future to land the first available superstar. There's value in patience.
So let's say no draft night trades materialize, either for established NBA talent or to move around the draft board. The Celtics might determine that it's their best play to simply trust their scouting process and pick the two best players available when they are on the clock.
In that scenario, Boston could walk away with someone such as Marcus Smart or Aaron Gordon at No. 6 and Zach LaVine or T.J. Warren at No. 17 (and maybe even add another roster hopeful by buying a second-round pick).
Boston would add those players to its young core and look to add more established talent down the road with its stash of assets still largely intact. This is the sparkler on a night when most want M80s.
DRAFTING EMBIID (Fireworks scale: 2.5 booms)
A few days ago, when Embiid was projected as the surefire No. 1 pick, this might have been a five-boomer. Then came news that Embiid was set to undergo surgery to insert two screws in a fractured foot, which will temporarily stunt the start of his NBA career.
It's unclear if Embiid's medical concerns, including the stress fracture in his back that ended his college season early, will allow him to slip to Boston at No. 6. For the sake of this scenario, let's assume the Celtics still have to give up a little something to move into position to nab him early in the draft -- maybe bundling pick No. 6 with next year's Clippers pick, which is projected as a late first-rounder, to move up a spot or two.
In either of these first two scenarios, it's unlikely Boston would return to contender status immediately next season, but the hope would be that the team is laying a sturdy foundation upon which to build without being forced to sacrifice much in the way of its draft pick surplus.
TRADE FOR ESTABLISHED TALENT (Fireworks scale: 3 booms)
We know everyone wants Kevin Love (more on that in a moment), but we'll kindly remind you that he's not the only player in the league Boston can make a run at, given its collection of assets. Although most trades seem more likely to occur after July 1, when free agency opens and the new league year begins, there's always the chance that Boston -- unmoved by what's available at Nos. 6 and 17 -- elects to trade for more established talent.
The draft, as we all know, is a crapshoot. There's value in knowing what you're getting, so if a team is willing to give up known commodities to move into Boston's spots, the Celtics will have to weigh development versus potential immediate return.
Adding proven talent by moving just this year's draft picks might allow Boston to further supplement with additional assets during free agency, thereby enhancing the chance Boston would move closer to playoff contender this season.
TRADE FOR KEVIN LOVE (Fireworks scale: 4.5 booms)
When asked on Saturday how important it is for the Celtics to improve this summer and contend immediately, team director of player personnel Austin Ainge said, "We want to win. We want to be good. I think it depends -- the decision comes when you are cashing in future assets, right? If it's time to push all your chips to the middle of the table, or if it's to be as good as you can without sacrificing the future, those are case-by-case decisions, and it depends on how good we can get now."
Our contention has been that the Celtics shouldn't mortgage their future to land Love. There's no denying he's one of the best young talents in basketball, and his presence, coupled with Rajon Rondo and some complementary pieces, is enough to make Boston a playoff team in the Eastern Conference immediately.
But at what cost? It goes back to the notion that Boston must pick its spot well. Just how many chips are you willing to push to the center of the table in order to land Love, when you still probably need another superstar to truly contend for a title? This isn't about just getting back to the playoffs -- it's about creating a sustainable contender.
The Celtics can offer an intriguing mix to Minnesota, headlined by this year's two picks, a young player at Love's position, salary relief in the form of Keith Bogans' nonguaranteed contract and filler to make salaries match. The Celtics could further sweeten the pot with another future pick, but ultimately it's on the Timberwolves to be interested in a package that offers them the sort of start over process that Boston wouldn't have the patience to endure.
This one's not a five-boomer, if only for the fact that Love would still have to re-sign with Boston after being dealt here, and the Celtics would still have roster work to do to create a sustained contender.
BLOW IT ALL UP AND START FROM SCRATCH (Fireworks scale: 5 booms)
Want to really shake things up? Boston could finish the detonation process that started with this past summer's trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by dealing away All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and ushering in a full remodel.
Most Celtics fans would prefer to avoid this sort of fireworks. To be sure, the idea that Boston must trade Rondo if they can't land Love is misguided. There are plenty of ways for the team to build around Rondo and other stars.
But if Boston truly believes the only way to right this ship for the long haul is to endure a slow rebuilding process, one that might force Rondo to flee on the open market next summer, then it could be in the team's best interest to consider moving him on draft night to maximize the return.
If you're a team seeking a point guard, would you rather roll the dice on Smart or Dante Exum or give up picks to land Rondo? If the Celtics don't wish to pay Rondo to make him the cornerstone of the franchise next summer, trading for a pick that allows them to start fresh with a rookie-contract guard might be more appetizing.
This one gets five booms, if only because it would be the most surprising. Ever since the Celtics anointed Rondo the captain of the team, it's been hard to believe they'd turn around less than a year later and ship him out of town.
But it is an option. One that -- preferred or not -- the team must consider this week. There's no GPS on the road map back to contender status, and each team must determine its best route to get there.
The Celtics must be prepared to navigate all paths this week.
The Celtics must consider all their options for Thursday's NBA draft.