Remember Danny Ainge's pipe dream of pairing Kyrie Irving with Anthony Davis in the 2019 NBA offseason? Well, to say that the tables have turned wouldn't even begin to describe the Boston Celtics' current predicament.
Kyrie is surely signing with someone else -- perhaps the Brooklyn Nets -- and Anthony Davis is now repping the purple and gold threads with LeBron James in Los Angeles. In the fallout, Ainge is left with a core of Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and (possibly) Al Horford -- four players that can lead Boston to the playoffs next season, but not especially far. And despite the talent available on the open market this summer, the Celtics just don't have the clout they once did. The possibility that they can lure top free agents and win bidding wars with teams in New York and Los Angeles just isn't strong.
Now the AD is off the table, are there players that the #Celtics could target in free agency?— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 16, 2019
Here's a list of the top 35 free agents of the 2019 NBA offseason.https://t.co/5fBHaDdqOG pic.twitter.com/u7A0NI3wfe
For starters, Horford isn't getting any younger, and though he often plays like an ageless wizard on both ends, he doesn't have the kind of aura that will attract top free agents-- and that's assuming he even chooses to pick up his $30.1 million player option for next season. Hayward is only there because he played under Brad Stevens in college at Butler. Tatum and Brown notably struggled during their sophomore campaigns.
Combined with the fact that Boston isn't considered a "sexy" place to play, what exactly is the allure Ainge and Co. can offer?
Who should the #Celtics turn to at point guard in case Kyrie Irving leaves in free agency? @ASherrodblakely has some ideas of some vets who could be good fits in Boston... https://t.co/1U0P6A4j7S pic.twitter.com/jJIWooivDs— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) June 9, 2019
Kevin Durant? No chance. He'll re-sign with Golden State or take even more money elsewhere. Kawhi Leonard has not once been linked with Boston this summer. Kemba Walker is a possibility, but he has already uttered his intentions to remain in Charlotte, where he's eligible for a super-max contract. And Klay Thompson leaving the west coast just isn't happening.
That would leave the C's top choices as guys like DeMarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler, two players with polarizing public personas that would do little to quell the problems of Boston's locker room turmoil in 2018-19.
But hey, Mr. Ainge, keep acquiring those draft picks. Maybe one day they'll translate to an actual superstar. Because right now, that may be your only path.