Curran: Passing on Fultz means Celtics aren't settling

Curran: Passing on Fultz means Celtics aren't settling

Discussing whether Danny Ainge was right matters less than trying to figure out what Danny Ainge is doing next.

POTENTIAL CELTICS PICKS

Forget the “superstar” predictions about Fultz made by people who wouldn’t have known the kid if he walked into the room a month ago. We won’t know for a few years if passing on him will be a lifelong professional regret for Ainge.

What we do know is that Boston said, “No thanks” to a preternaturally smooth player who was 23-5-5 last year at Washington, shot 41 percent from the college 3 , showed himself to be a terrific pick-and-roll player with -- seemingly -- a high level of poise and maturity for a 19-year-old.

There’s no doubt he’s going to be a good NBA player but we’re not talking about a kid with high-level explosiveness and athleticism or some attribute that just jumps off the screen at you like it would with Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose. You had to watch a lot of Fultz to see that the strength in his game is actually the lack of weaknesses.

So what did the Celtics get in exchange for saying, “No thanks”? Either a 2-for-1  with draftees: Fultz in exchange for whoever the C’s take at No. 3 AND whoever they take next year between 2 and 5 with that protected Lakers pick. The 2018 draft is very solid for the first four players.  

Or the Celtics traded for mobility. If Ainge has no intention of using the third overall pick and instead wants to orchestrate a blockbuster, he’s added currency.

But if the Celtics are picking, an obvious questions arises.

“What if the Lakers take whoever the Celtics wanted at No. 2?”

It’s been presumed that, if not Fultz, then it was Kansas’ Josh Jackson that Ainge wanted. Now that the Lakers have been sniffing around Jackson as well, wouldn’t it mean the Celtics fell back too far if Jackson goes at No. 2? It would. But don’t you assume that would have dawned on Ainge? He knows the risk and if he did this deal with the intention of picking at No. 3 that means it’s not just Jackson he’s loves. It means he’s good with either Jackson or Duke’s Jayson Tatum or whoever else caught his eye.

We can debate all day whether any of the other prospects will measure up to Fultz but it’s wasted breath at this point. Is Fultz going to be better than both the player taken at 3 and who they take next year? That’s what matters. Who will be a better team as a result of this deal, Boston or Philly? It will take years to know.

In the same vein, if Ainge made the deal to stuff more picks in his pocket for a potential deal, we’ll have to see what it is before projecting its success.

But you hope that, if he’s dealing, Ainge knows he’s got trade partners.

It can’t be, “Hey maybe now that we traded down and have these picks, we can do something . . . ” if the intention is to move No. 3 for, say, Jimmy Butler, then one would pray that deal has been pre-constructed, vetted and parameters have been agreed upon.

Again, Ainge isn’t a moron. He will have checked whether teams are open for business or not if the intention is to swap again.

To be honest, the business of the NBA makes me glaze over. All that crap about finding matching contracts, expiring contracts, etc. Never mind keeping track of the guys who are already looking to hook up with buddies on other teams when their contracts expire.

The Celtics on-court product isn’t complicated, though. They’re a pretty good team with serious scoring limitations. They don’t have a 6-foot-5-plus knockdown shooter. The only guy who can truly create his own shot is 5-8. They are soft up front on the glass and defensively.

They have three very good backcourt defenders in Terry Rozier, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. They have a mature, explosive athlete in Jaylen Brown who is still raw when he has to put the ball on the floor more than once. They have a heady, stable, passing big man in Al Horford with a nuanced game. And Isaiah Thomas will be a high-level point producer for a few more years.

The Celtics need size, shooters and someone to take the scoring burden off Thomas while still allowing him the space to create as he did in 2016-17.

Fultz certainly wouldn’t have made the Celtics a worse team. But Danny Ainge has rolled the dice believing Boston can be even better without him than they would have been with him.

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

BOSTON – It appears there may be an answer to the mystery surrounding Josh Jackson’s decision to not work out for the Boston Celtics leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft.

While conventional wisdom tells us that such decisions are often made by the agent who in this case is former NBA player B.J. Armstrong.

Boston instead selected Jayson Tatum at No. 3 with the Phoenix Suns scooping up Jackson with the No. 4 pick.

MORE: Danny Ainge on Josh Jackson: 'He didn’t want to play for the Celtics'

During Jackson’s introductory press conference, there was a sense that it wasn’t necessarily Armstrong who strong-armed Jackson into not working out for the Celtics. But apparently, he got an assist from Suns General Manager (and ex-Celtics assistant GM) Ryan McDonough.

A reporter asked McDonough if Phoenix may have encouraged Jackson to cancel his workout with the Celtics who were flying into Sacramento, Calif. to watch Jackson workout only for it to be canceled after they had departed which as you can imagine, did not go over well with Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

“I’d like to consult my attorney B.J. Armstrong (Jackson’s agent),” McDonough said, smiling.

The more McDonough talked, the clearer it became that he and Armstrong were in cahoots to do all they could to get Boston to pass on Jackson at No. 3 which as McDonough mentioned, doesn’t break any rules.

“You guys all know my history with the Celtics and the respect I have for Danny Ainge and the organization,” McDonough told reporters on Friday. “But I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition. The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. and I and … other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.”

McDonough is right in that no rules were broken if he and Armstrong did decide to work together in an effort to get Jackson to Phoenix.

But to cancel the workout after the Celtics executives and head coach Brad Stevens had left, forcing them to spend a night on the road for a workout that Jackson’s camp probably knew wasn’t going to happen well before the Celtics contingent boarded for Sacramento … not cool.

Here are words I thought I would never say … the Ball clan got it right.

They told Boston from the jump that Lonzo Ball wasn’t going to work out for them, so the Celtics knew he didn’t want to be a Celtic from the very beginning.

Jackson’s actions said the same, but his words kept hope alive that he would work out or at the very least, talk to the Celtics organization – neither of which happened.

He kept referring to the fact that he didn’t think Boston was interested in him when they had the number one pick (that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if they asked him to work out for them; otherwise, what’s the point from the Celtics'  perspective of asking to work out a guy they had no interest in drafting?)

After they traded down to the number 3 pick, a deal that was cemented last weekend, Jackson said there wasn’t time to do a workout for Boston.

The draft was nearly a week away and he didn’t have time to work out for a team that had the third pick overall knowing that the top two picks (Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and Lonzo Ball at No. 2) were essentially accounted for?

“If I could have, I probably would have worked out for them,” Jackson said (with a straight face). “But I think everything worked out for the best.”

Yup.

Boston will once again be among the better teams in the East and will contend for the best record like they achieved this past season before their season ended in the Conference finals to Cleveland. 

Jackson will spend his rookie season playing a lot of minutes with a Suns team that probably won’t win as many games as he did a year ago at Kansas (33).

Enjoy.

Report: Celtics could land George if they sign Hayward

Report: Celtics could land George if they sign Hayward

As rumors swirl in this post-draft, pre-free agency week for the NBA, Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub reported Friday that the Celtics could land long-rumored target Gordon Hayward AND trade for Paul George. And Kaufman says George would be more than just a one-year rental.

Kaufman elaborated on a possible George deal on his "Celtics @ 7" show Saturday. He said the trade with the Indiana Pacers wouldn't cost Boston next year's Brooklyn pick, rather it would be the first-round pick (Lakers 2018 or Kings 2010) acquired this week from the Philadelphia 76ers when Boston traded down the No. 1 for No. 3, along with Jae Crowder and another salary filler. 

MORE CELTICS: 

Before you run out and buy that No. 13 Celtics Paul George jersey, Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com explains how financially disadvantageous it would be for George - long thought to want to head to the Lakers - to do this.