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Boston Celtics

Celtics turn to trust the process heading into 2017 Draft

10 May 2012: President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics Danny Ainge is seen prior to the Boston Celtics 83-80 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, at the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. (Mark Halmas/Icon Sportswire)
(Mark Halmas/Icon Sportswire)

The Boston Celtics, the runners up in the Eastern Conference, are sitting pretty near the top of the 2017 NBA Draft pecking order. Being on top comes with a multitude of options. The Celtics could simply stay put and draft a future potential star, or trade down for more picks and more cap space to make a run at a perennial All-Star.

Buckle up, Celtics fans. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

General manager Danny Ainge’s decision to swap the team’s No. 1 overall pick with the Philadelphia 76ers’ No. 3 pick and an additional future first-rounder drew the ire of fans hoping to see former Washington guard Markelle Fultz in a Celtics uniform.

And who could blame them? This is the same franchise that missed out on opportunities to draft Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant.

However, bigger goals seem to be at play in the Celtics’ front office after the team was run over by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are in position to contend for a championship right away, but it will take superstar talent to deliver a more effective punch to the LeBron James-led Cavaliers than Boston could in the 2017 playoffs.

Acquiring a transcendent talent like Indiana Pacers forward Paul George would go a long way in increasing the Celtics’ odds next season. The four-time NBA All-Star has already reportedly informed the Pacers that he will opt out of his contract in the 2018 season. His decision to join another team has forced the Pacers to aggressively enter trade negotiations in hopes of receiving a return investment on their 2010 draft pick.

The Celtics are expected to be very much a part of the conversation of moving George, but they might be hampered by his infatuation with the Los Angeles Lakers. George would still have the option to opt of out of his contract if the Celtics make that trade. Per NBA.com’s David Aldridge, the Pacers might seek upwards of two first-round draft picks packaged with a starter for George.

That’s too steep of a price for a potential one-year rental.

The Celtics could also be setting the stage for a potential run at Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler or Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward. Right now, Hayward appears to be the more likely option with recent reports from league executives suggesting a trade for Butler is “more on speculation than reality”.

Adding Hayward could potentially be the start of something special for the Celtics. They would probably need more to beat the Cavaliers, but they would instantly be more formidable opponents than they were last season.

It all comes down to which pipe dream Ainge decides to turn into a reality.

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