The Boston Celtics have officially shipped their 1st overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the 3rd overall pick, as well as a conditional 2018 first round pick that could become a 2019 first round pick if it is not between the 2nd and 5th overall picks.
Confusing, sure, and a pretty big surprise for Celtics fans. While Markelle Fultz isn’t a no-brainer superstar, he was the unanimous top player in the draft and the Celtics decided to add additional draft picks instead of add him to the roster. It was a very Bill Belichick trade in that regard.
Fultz plays a position that is currently filled with talent on the roster and the Celtics apparently have a few players grouped together with the same value. This is like when the Patriots traded down in the 2010 draft with the intention of always selecting DB Devin McCourty- the Patriots got their guy and added some draft capital.
Still, trading away the 1st overall pick almost never happens and that makes this trade a big surprise. With that in mind, let’s look at the most surprising player trades of the Bill Belichick era.
2004: RB Corey Dillon for 2004 second round pick
The Patriots acquired Dillon before the draft after Dillon didn’t like how new head coach Marvin Lewis utilized him in the offense. The move was questioned at the time due to all of Dillon’s off-the-field problems that seemed to run counter to the new “Patriot Way.” But New England needed to replace Antowain Smith and Dillon did a spectacular job.
2006: WR Deion Branch for a 2007 first round pick
The Patriots sent Branch to the Seahawks at the start of the 2006 season and it was a major shock to the system. Branch was the favorite target of QB Tom Brady and the team didn’t have much depth at the position. While the receiver wanted a new contract, the players didn’t consider it to be much of a distraction at the time.
The Patriots selected S Brandon Meriweather with their new pick. The Patriots probably would have won the Super Bowl in 2006 if Branch remained with the team. This is one the team might have not made in retrospect.
2007: WR Wes Welker for 2007 second and seventh round picks
2007: WR Randy Moss for a 2007 fourth round pick
Part of the Patriots moving on from Branch and coming up short in 2006 was a realization that they needed more talent in the offense. Welker and Moss joined the Patriots to create the most efficient offense in NFL history. The fact that the Patriots swiped the Dolphins top receiver and got Randy Freaking Moss made these moves even more incredible, even if they weren’t a sure bet at the time.
2009: DL Richard Seymour for a 2011 first round pick
It was September before the 2009 season and the Patriots traded away one of their cornerstone defenders for a future first round pick. They knew they weren’t going to re-sign the then-29-year-old Seymour and opted to retain the younger NT Vince Wilfork. This was a bigger shock than the Branch trade, but both happened moments before the start of the season.
2010: WR Randy Moss for a 2011 third round pick
2010: WR Deion Branch for a 2011 fourth round pick
The fact that the Patriots traded Moss was a big shock after he started to butt heads with the coaching staff, but the fact that the Patriots brought Branch back into the fold just five days later made this combination trade an incredible moment in Patriots history.
2011: DT Albert Haynesworth for a 2013 fifth round pick
2011: WR Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson for a 2012 fifth round pick and a 2013 sixth round pick
These two trades happened on July 28th and July 29th and brought two former All Pros to New England. Neither panned out, sure, but these were both extremely low-risk, but high-reward trades for the Patriots that made everyone’s collective jaw drop in surprise.
2012: CB Aqib Talib and a 2013 seventh round pick for a 2013 fourth round pick
The Patriots secondary in 2011 was the worst in franchise history and so the team acquired Talib in the middle of the 2012 season to try and fix the problem. Talib was outstanding and stuck around for another year before leaving for the Denver Broncos, but this was a great year-and-a-half rental for New England that was a surprise for the quality of player that was involved.
2014: OG Logan Mankins for TE Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth round pick
Like Branch and Seymour before him, the Patriots shipped Mankins away almost right before the start of the season. Mankins never won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, but the team won the year before drafting him and the year after sending him away. Wright was a nice contributor to the Patriots Super Bowl victory and that draft pick turned into EDGE Trey Flowers.
2016: EDGE Chandler Jones for OG Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second round pick
2016: TE Martellus Bennett and a 2016 sixth round pick for a 2016 fourth round pick
2016: LB Jamie Collins for a conditional 2017 third round pick
The Patriots were trade monsters in 2016 and moved around three blue chip players in exchange for draft picks. Bennett was a huge part of the team’s Super Bowl victory, while the Patriots knew they wouldn’t be able to retain either Jones or Collins and opted to move in a different direction.
2017: WR Brandin Cooks and a 2017 fourth round pick for 2017 first and third round picks
People have asked for the Patriots to acquire Tom Brady a blue chip receiver ever since the departure of Randy Moss and they finally did it by acquiring Cooks from the Saints. We’ll have to wait and see how this move pans out, but Cooks should be under contract for the next two seasons.