Given all the twists and turns in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, combined with the news about Joel Embiid's foot surgery creating the possibility that he might slide in this year's draft, the heads of Boston Celtics fans have been spinning the past couple days while trying to figure out how exactly the team will navigate its path back to contender status (with a focus on what moves might go down on draft night).
Checking the latest letters in our mailbag, we thought reader Tim just about summed up the dizzying nature of all the activity in one question:
Q: All of a sudden, this draft smells like last year with Joel Embiid playing the role of Nerlens Noel. If he falls to the Celtics at No. 6, do you think the likelihood increases of a Jrue Holiday-type trade with Rajon Rondo? I feel like Embiid's potential is too high to give up on, but it also kills the [Kevin] Love in Boston. -- Tim (Boston)
A: Tim essentially crammed all the questions we hear when making small talk with a Celtic fan lately. Usually it goes something like this: "Are the Celtics going to trade for Love? Is Embiid going to slip to the Celtics at No. 6? Are the Celtics going to trade Rondo if they don't get another superstar this year?"
Fans are antsy for answers and it's probably going to be a slow crawl to Thursday's draft with the rumor mill in overdrive. A few thoughts:
• One day after the Golden State Warriors were deemed the new frontrunners in the Love sweepstakes, Warriors general manager Bob Myers suggested that a big deal is "unlikely" at the moment. Can you believe anything at this point?
Our thought is this: The Wolves are exploring all options. They know what the Celtics have to offer (likely a smorgasbord featuring draft picks, a young player at Love's position, salary relief, and other parts to make the deal work). Our stance has been that Boston shouldn't mortgage its own future in a pursuit for Love, so the team shouldn't hesitate to sit back and let Minnesota decide if it can find a deal it likes better elsewhere. If the Wolves are hellbent on finding established talent (like Golden State can offer), they can certainly find better than Boston's potential package. If Minnesota is looking for a rebuilding acceleration package, it's unlikely they'll find anything as intriguing as what Boston can produce. This sorta feels like the Omer Asik rumors from December. Boston has the parts to produce an intriguing offer -- one that some might think is maybe the beset possible offer -- but it takes two to tango.
Sign Of Things To Come?
Joel Embiid is the latest in a long line of NBA big men with injuries to the navicular bone in their foot. For Yao Ming, Eric Montross and Bill Walton, the injury ended their careers.
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Stress Fracture/Navicular Foot Injury
• Embiid had two screws inserted in his foot on Friday. Most draft gurus seem to think the uncertainty about his foot will cause him to tumble. But just how low will he go?
For the sake of argument, let's assume he's available when the Celtics are on the clock at No. 6 this year. Should Boston roll the dice on him? Unless there's medical documents that just scream "run away!" then this armchair general manager absolutely thinks Embiid is the pick. While I see Tim's comparison to Noel last season, let's remember too that the talent level in last year's draft wasn't nearly what this year's crop appears to be. Taking a medical risk at No. 6 seems a bit greater this season, only because there's likely going to be other intriguing (and healthy) options at that spot -- players that can jump right on the court. But Embiid's potential seems worth that risk.
After all, what's the rush for Boston? This is a rebuild; it's supposed to take some time. If the goal is to put the franchise in the position to be a sustained contender for the longest possible period, then the team would be lucky to find a potential franchise-caliber center at No. 6. Boston has been rewarded for enduring the medical risks with the likes of Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley in the past. In fact, a case could be made that the team should consider using part of its draft-pick surplus to shimmy up and nab Embiid if he starts to slide early in this year's draft. Sure, he's not a sure thing like trading for someone like Love, but the cost would be far less and allow Boston to maintain more of its young core and draft pick stash.
• As for trading Rondo, if the Celtics envision a long road back to contender status and worry about him being lured away on the open market next summer, then they absolutely has to consider potential trade offers. That said, it's probably prudent to see exactly how the the draft and early stages of this year's free agency play out before getting too worked up about the possibility of trading the team captain.