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DeAndre Jordan Free Agency Decision Could Have Major Impact On Celtics Future Draft Pick

SALT LAKE CITY (CBS) – The biggest soap opera of the NBA free agency period unfolding Wednesday night in the heart of Texas, featuring old friends Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce.

The saga was centered on unrestricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan. The seven-footer agreed last week to sign a four-year, $80 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and leave his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Rivers reportedly offered Jordan five years and $110 million to stay with the Western Conference contender, but was spurned by Jordan for a bigger role with the Mavericks.

The situation was on the verge of ruining the Clips summer. The team has no salary cap room to sign a replacement after Jordan opted to depart and also lacksd movable assets on the rest of the roster and draft picks to acquire an adequate center via trade. With no appealing alternatives in play, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Doc made a second plea to Jordan to remain with his original team, using teammates to help convince to him to change his decision.

The NBA's moratorium period ends on Thursday, which means no contract can be signed until then, but both Rivers and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reportedly made last minute pitches to Jordan this evening for his services. But Jordan went back on his original agreement with the Mavs, and reportedly told the Clippers he's coming back late Wednesday.

From afar, the whole situation is entertaining to watch, but you can bet the Celtics' front office was keeping close tabs on Jordan's decision since his choice affects them directly. The Celtics own the Mavericks' first-round pick in 2016, which is top-seven protected. Outside of Jae Crowder, that pick was one of the key elements of the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas last December.

After an uninspiring first-round exit from the postseason last year, the Mavericks appear poised to take a step back this summer before landing Jordan. Tyson Chandler signed with Phoenix, Monta Ellis headed to Indiana, Rajon Rondo moved onto Sacramento, leaving Dallas with a core of Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Devin Harris and some spare parts.

They took a gamble on trying to land Wesley Matthews, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, but the centerpiece of their offseason was landing Jordan. In order to stay competitive in the Western Conference, they needed to replace Chandler at center and Jordan was their meal ticket. Without landing him, team owner Mark Cuban admitted the team was looking at tanking next season, in order to allow the team to keep their first-round pick and not send it to the Celtics.

Here's Cuban explaining the potential option on the 1310 The Ticket radio in Dallas:

"We literally had the discussion, if we couldn't get a serious free agent whether it was one of the other guys out there or one of the earlier ones that went, that it was time to take a step back. The reason why we thought this year versus other years was simple math. Over the last few years, there was a race to the bottom with six or seven teams trying to have the worst record, but most of those teams have improved themselves significantly through the draft or free agency or both, or just getting older and playing longer together, like an Orlando.

"This year, there aren't going to be six teams in the race to the bottom, particularly in the Western Conference…Because there are only going to be two or three teams in the race to the bottom, we said okay, this could be our David Robinson year. We go out and get somebody that we think we can develop as opposed to an impact player. We take our lumps and have lots of cap room and we do lots of trades to add lots of draft picks, because draft picks, with the way the cap is going are going to increase in value significantly. Fortunately, that didn't happen."

That tanking situation is now on the table once again. However, things have become more complicated for the Mavericks on that front. With Wesley Matthews in the fold, it will be tough for Dallas to fall into the bottom seven teams of the league, and you can bet the NBA will be watching them closely after these candid tanking comments from Cuban.

Instead, missing out on the playoffs by a few spots could land Dallas in the 8-to-14 pick range in the lottery, meaning the Celtics would receive said pick and have an extra appealing asset at their disposal next summer. We all saw this past draft how important lottery picks can be since it's tough to move up in the draft without them Even though Danny Ainge has accumulated a vast number of first-round picks, only a few have the potential to fall in the lottery (primarily the Brooklyn picks).

For Boston to land a young building block via a draft or trade, they need their assets to rise in value. Jordan electing to spurn Dallas and return to the Clippers could be a major help in that department.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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