This is the type of trade typically reserved for late nights on the ESPN Trade Machine. The kind of deal you can only make in NBA2K if you shut off the CPU override. The sort of thing your buddy retweeted but is only being reported by a Buffalo-area sports talk show host with a triple-digit follower count.
But this past weekend, an out-of-nowhere blockbuster deal that sends the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft from Boston to Philadelphia will become reality.
As a lifelong Sixers fan and dutiful truster of The Process, this whole thing still feels surreal to me. And I worry that at any moment I’ll wake up to discover that this has all been a dream, and that I must continue to pathetically convince myself that Josh Jackson might be just as good as Markelle Fultz. After four years of getting repeatedly punched in the gut by the cruel fists of the gods of the foot injuries and ping pong balls, this is vindication that I long worried would never come.
And that absolution applies not just to the fans who remained strong through the most hapless stretch of basketball the league has seen in recent history and the defeaning chorus of hot takes that accompanied it. Nor does it only affect the legacy of the plan’s bookish architect, Sam Hinkie, whose April 2016
firing resignation sent shockwaves through The Process community. Even The Process’ aloof stepdad, Bryan Colangelo, has been granted an exoneration from his toxic reputation among the Sixers’ most ardent tank-thusiasts as a result of this deal.
When all is said and done, the Sixers will have given up the No. 3 pick and a 2-through-5 reverse-protected selection from the Lakers in 2018 (or an unprotected 2019 first from Sacramento) for the right to take 19-year-old phenom Markelle Fultz with the first-overall pick. It’s a moment of catharsis for Sixers fans, who spent the better part of the decade that preceded Hinkie’s tenure trapped in NBA purgatory and the four years since it began patiently waiting to lift themselves out of the deep hole they’d strategically dug. And the fact that the trade serves as a welcomed bridge between the assets Hinkie dutifully acquired and Colangelo’s desire to strategically and responsibly spend them will hopefully bring together a fanbase that has grown increasingly divided since the team hired Colangelo’s father, Jerry, to oversee (and eventually oust) Hinkie in December 2015.
Adding one of Butler or George along with Hayward to a core that includes Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown could give Boston the requisite firepower to at least put up a decent fight against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the East.
Gauging early reaction to the deal online, the obvious consensus is that the Sixers did something rare, getting the best of Celtics general manager Danny Ainge in a trade. Just head over to reddit, and r/Sixers is currently having a hot debate about the size of Colangelo’s penis they seem to think it’s quite large), while r/Celtics has only just graduated from blind rage to blind homerism. But the reality is that while this trade is—in a vacuum—undeniably lopsided in Philadelphia’s favor, both teams actually have a decent chance of coming away satisfied when all is said and done.
Thanks to the generosity of former Nets GM Billy King and the three first-round picks and a pick swap he sent to Boston in return for the corpses of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett four years ago, the Celtics have in recent years been able to remain competitive while allowing Brooklyn to faithfully farm young, tradable assets for them to use in a deal for the star they need to get over the top. And while it may seem counterintuitive that Ainge would want to trade down in a draft that, while deep, clearly features one player whose upside widely surpasses that of his peers, rumors continue to swirl that the Celtics could be angling to flip the No. 3 pick for a win-now piece like Jimmy Butler of the Bulls or Paul George of the Pacers while pocketing the future first from the Lakers or Kings to use down the road.
With the ability to fairly easily clear up around $40 million in cap space this summer, Boston could swing a big trade and still have room to sign someone like Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward, who played for Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Adding one of Butler or George along with Hayward to a core that includes Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown could give Boston the requisite firepower to at least put up a decent fight against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the East. And if Danny Ainge is finally able to cash in his assets and turn Boston into a true contender, Celtics fans will soon be bragging about his dick on the internet too.