NBA draft

Boston Is Preemptively Protecting Itself from Criticism on Fultz Trade

Hours after the deal became public, the Celtics front office started questioning Markelle Fultz's ability to be "a winner."

by Corbin Smith
Jun 19 2017, 10:23pm

© Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge traded the first overall pick in this week's NBA draft to the Philadelphia 76ers for the third overall pick and the Los Angeles Lakers' 2018 first-round pick, or the Sacramento Kings' 2019 first-round pick if the highly protected Lakers pick doesn't convey.

This move was…unexpected. The No. 1 pick in the NBA draft is insanely valuable and Washington guard Markelle Fultz, the presumed top pick (Joel is already stunting), is generally believed to be a sure thing—a 6'5" ball-handling guard with striking athleticism, a 6'10" wingspan, and a skill set that slides right into the modern game.

Ainge, idiosyncratic and aggressive if nothing else, appears to disagree with this common knowledge and acted accordingly. Trusting in himself and his ability implicitly, and for the most part ignoring the nattering of outside chatter and just following his own instincts, he is probably the GM who operates most like a former professional athlete. It's admirable, I suppose, but also the kind of aggro mindset that could make you do something stupid for no reason, like, for instance, passing on a spectacular guard talent on a weird hunch.

And when the world just kept bitching about this extremely weird, slightly-too-unexpected move, Ainge or someone close to him felt the need to respond:

"The Celtics' overflowing backcourt" consists of Isaiah Thomas, an excellent player with defensive limitations and a size disadvantage that makes every possible confrontation with injury or decline a threat to his very NBA existence; Avery Bradley, a defensive guard who sucks shit at most guard things; Marcus Smart, an honest-to-God 28 percent three-point shooter; and Terry Rozier, James Young, and Demetrius Jackson—all NBA players who very easily could not be in three years' time.

In short, there's no one, except MAYBE Thomas, who is so personally essential to the Celtics' precarious-ass playoff success that they couldn't stand to be nudged aside for a large, skilled, and athletic 19-year-old. Some sentimentalist goof-o who believed in the glory and power of every Boston Celtic might buy this excuse, but hardened basketball cynics roll their eyes at this puff-pastry-ass excuse.

And so, on grimier back channels, a grimier take on Fultz emerges:

Well, well, well. I see how it goes, Danny Boy. Ol' Markelle is a showboat, not a winner. We were very concerned with his Winning Attitude and I don't mind telling you I don't think anyone will be upset—you know his team didn't even make the tournament?

"Red Flags"?! What is this, an after-school special about your friend with the bloodshot eyes, and his relationship to demon weed? Jesus Christ. It took like six seconds for Boston's front office to get cold feet on what is maybe not the best move in the universe—or at least one that invites criticism—and start deflecting blame away from themselves and onto manufactured concerns about the universally well-regarded player's winning spirit or whatever the hell.

The only sunshine in this trade is that Fultz will be going to the Sixers, Boston's division rival, where he will get four cracks a year at these geniuses. He'll get chance after chance to pants these goons for passing on him for bullshit, over and over and over, until he and the magnificent Philadelphia 76ers finally throw this overrated, propped-up-by-a-shitty-conference squad in the goddamn garbage.

And maybe, just maybe, we can finally understand how fucked-up and goofy the systems of authority in the NBA are. That GMs with nothing on the line except money and pride are truly not cut out to build their own teams. That squads like the Warriors and the Cavs whose players stand front-forward, wielding power and influence over roster construction to create a team that actually wants to play with itself, are the future, and moldy-oldie squads run by shadowy ex-players with goofy-ass biases are relics of a time best left forgotten. It's time to free players from the draft and the tyranny of the front office altogether. NBA ANARCHY, a world without leaders, is the only future worth having.