Markelle Fultz

John Hefti/USA Today Sports

Celtics’ 1st-round pick from Markelle Fultz deal already being devalued?

Nick Neville
July 12, 2017 - 3:04 pm

The trade that brought Jayson Tatum to Boston and Markelle Fultz to Philadelphia may already be putting the Celtics in a difficult position.

Though ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Tatum’s play has been universally praised by his peers in summer league, moves by the Lakers and Kings could be devaluing the pick the Celtics got in return.

After drafting Lonzo Ball, the Lakers signed 24-year-old Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal on Tuesday. The move lands an impact player and gives them the financial flexibility to compete in the potential LeBron James sweepstakes next summer.

The Kings, on the other hand, have signed a plethora of veterans to round out their roster. They drafted a potential franchise point guard in De’Aaron Fox as well as Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, who could play meaningful minutes next season. In addition, Sacramento added the trio of Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph in free agency.

Why does all this matter?

These moves directly affect the Celtics because the future first-rounder that they received from Philly is projected to either be Lakers’ 2018 pick or the more favorable of the 2019 pick from the Kings or 76ers.

Provided that the Lakers pick is No. 2, 3, 4, or 5 next season, the C’s own it. However, if the Lakers secure the first pick in the draft or drop below the top five, the pick shifts to 2019.

Adding Pope, who is regarded as one of the best two-way wing players in the league, makes the Lakers better. They’ve also been rumored to have interest in Rajon Rondo, which would provide a mentor for Ball. If LaVar Ball is right and the Lakers take the next step, expect the Celtics to own either the Kings or 76ers pick.

Fox is an exciting player to add to an already young roster in Sacramento. The veteran presence that Carter, Hill and Randolph provide could be very valuable to a team that has struggled to form an identity in recent years. Vince Carter is an eight-time All-Star and has scored the 27th-most points in NBA history (24,555). Zach Randolph changed the culture in Memphis and is a two-time All-Star. George Hill is coming off a career year in Utah with newly-acquired Celtic Gordon Hayward. The Kings will get better.

The 76ers added a pair of veterans as well (Amir Johnson and J.J. Redick), and they appear to be a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics could find themselves in a position where the only additional asset they receive from the Fultz trade is a low-lottery or worse pick in 2019.

Credit Sam Hinkie for putting the complicated pick protections into place. The only reason the Celtics had the top pick in this draft in the first place was because the Nets didn’t put any protections on it in the infamous Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce deal.

That being said, the Celtics still have a treasure trove of assets in future drafts. Punting on a high-lottery pick from the Fultz’ trade, while it would be a setback, would not be devastating for Danny Ainge and Celtics brass.

Boston still has the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick next year, which most likely will be in the top five, their own 2018 first-rounder, a top eight protected pick from the Grizzles in 2019, and a 2019 lottery-protected Clippers pick.

Years from now, assessing the latest Celtics trade will likely come down to a direct Tatum/Fultz comparison anyway.

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