Rumors that NBA agents were luring their clients away from workouts in Boston was a mildly interesting 24 hour story but now that the Celtics have the number one pick and have their choice of Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz the landscape has suddenly changed. The number one pick is the number one pick. Who turns their client away from that luxury? Winning the draft, not to mention the money that comes with it, has its rewards.
In this pre-draft season, agents have kept lottery bound clients from participating in the draft combine and many do not share medical reports with league physicians before the draft as a way of leverage. The tail is wagging the dog, so to speak, as agents are angling on behalf of themselves and their clients for the perfect situation (translation: a lot of playing time). Agents of Ball and Fultz have to deconstruct what has a higher value. The number one pick in Boston or the number two pick in L.A. In Boston, there will be a lot of group success but limited minutes. In no one’s world is Ball or Fultz beating out Isaiah Thomas. No beating out Avery Bradley either, because Bradley’s gift is defense; the development of Bradley as a scorer is a bonus. So Fultz or Ball will orchestrate the second team, not the first.
But in Los Angeles, there is playing time galore albeit in another non-playoff year unless the Lakers score big on a the veteran market and even then it’s dicey.
Lonzo Ball’s agent is a rookie. Harrison Gaines has his first and only client in Ball which is good news. The bad news is he is working for LaVar Ball, not Lonzo and LaVar intends to keep Lonzo out of Boston, daring the Celtics to draft the Lakers wannabe without a workout.
The problem with the agents and their will-not-work-out-for-you-list is that no one can predict the future. From the looks of it, on a veteran team, neither Ball or Fultz will play much. But Magic Johnson played on a veteran team and was in the NBA Finals. Boston, with the number one pick is attractive: big sports town, avid fanbase, great team, exceptional coaching- but the Celtics are not immune. Boston has negatives too, like, do you really think you are skilled enough to earn time in Brad Stevens system. And the fans are expecting a number one pick to act like a number one pick.
Further complicating matters for the Celtics is Isaiah Thomas who will be a free agent at the end of next year. Danny Ainge has to evaluate Thomas through the prism of max player. Is he one? Would Ainge be willing to let Thomas walk and then slide Ball or Fultz in his place, after a one year tutorial? Ainge does swing for the fences.
It is no secret the Celtics are looking for a star, a player in his prime like Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook. If Fultz or Ball fits that profile, it is way to early to know. They are 19 year old kids. They have to learn the NBA game, take their lumps, take it on the chin. One and done point guards take the longest time to develop because they are, in essence, controlling the pace, creating tempo, incentivizing pick and roll, or pick and pop, or dribble drive to the rim, or down screens, or assists. They have the added responsibility of trying to defend the toughest players to defend: point guards.
Rookies meet Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry and James Harden and John Wall and triple double machine Russell Westbrook. Try to keep them out the paint and contest their shots.
Either way the Celtics go they are getting a good player and Danny Ainge’s bold move to end the Big Three and fleece the Nets is paying dividends four years later. The threat by agents to treat Boston like you treat an infectious disease, stay away, quarantine on demand, would have worked if the C’s had the #6 pick. They don’t. They are at the top of the hill in the 2017 Draft.
You have to go through Boston.
photo via llananba