Why a Sixers-Celtics deal isn’t going to happen

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

In the post-Pick Swap era, much of the talk surrounding the Sixers has naturally involved what the team should do with the third overall pick in the draft. You have surely had a conversation with your fellow Sixers fans as to which player Bryan Colangelo should select with the pick, whether the team would benefit from trading down, or a topic that’s been increasingly thrown around, what it would take to trade up with Boston for the first overall pick.

The feeling is some combination of this year’s third overall pick, the unprotected 2018 Lakers pick, Philadelphia’s own pick next year, and a young player like Dario Saric might be enough to get the job done. Now, I understand the desire to speculate. The NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive, the draft is still weeks away, and basketball diehards in the Philadelphia area need something to talk about in the interim. But regarding a deal between the Sixers and Celtics, I’ll just say this: stop wasting your time. It’s not going to happen.

Maybe if a typical rebuilding team had the top pick, the Sixers might be able to package some of their premiere assets together to move up and complete a deal. However, the Celtics are the last team in the NBA for which this sort of deal would make sense. They already have more depth than they know what to do with, in addition to Ante Zizic, Guerschon Yabusele, and Abdel Nadar all potentially joining the roster next season. Plus, they already have what’s basically guaranteed to be a high lottery pick from Brooklyn in the 2018 draft.

What Boston needs, much more than a collection of solid contributors and potential lottery tickets, is a generational talent. Based on the overwhelming consensus of the scouting community, Markelle Fultz is the best bet to become that franchise-elevating player, an entire tier above everyone else available in this draft class. It wouldn’t make sense for the Celtics to give up on that potential for a bunch of pieces that still won’t move the needle for them in the Eastern Conference in the near-term.

If you’re Boston, you either take the guy with the best chance at superstardom in Fultz, or use the pick to get a current superstar like Paul George or Jimmy Butler and really take a run at Cleveland. You don’t hope Isaiah Thomas and an ever-increasing pile of B+ assets would be enough.

Finally, even just looking at Boston GM Danny Ainge’s history, it’s hard to believe something happens. He made the colossal deal with Brooklyn because there’s a good argument to be made that it will go down as the most lopsided trade in NBA history. Since then, he’s more or less stood pat, including last year when he made what was seen as a reach to draft Jaylen Brown third overall.

A running joke in NBA fan circles is that Ainge always almost gets his man; Boston is involved in all sorts of talks, only to come up just short of reaching a deal. It feels like unless Ainge will overwhelming be regarded as the winner of the deal, he’s not going to pull the trigger. From Philadelphia’s perspective, you wouldn’t want to be placed in a position where that’s how things shake out.

I love Markelle Fultz as much as the next guy. And he would be an ideal fit for the Sixers. But the lottery didn’t work out in Philadelphia’s favor and Fultz will not be coming to the City of Brotherly Love. The sooner you come to grips with that, the more worrying you can do about the team’s realistic options with the third pick.


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