5 Ways From Wednesday: The Celtics’ Many Roads in the NBA Draft
5 ways from Wednesday: The Celtics’ many roads in the NBA draft
The Celtics finished the season just two games shy of making an NBA Finals appearance. And while president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and assistant general manager Mike Zarren will likely bolster their young team with veteran pieces in free agency, the Celtics also have to consider how to best approach the upcoming NBA Draft.
With three picks at No. 14, 26, and 30 respectively, the C’s have some ammunition in a class loaded with quality NBA level role players and maybe a few hidden stars. Guessing the moves Boston will make is a fool’s errand, so of course, I tried to guess the moves they will make.
Being a smart gambler, I hedged my bets with five possible scenarios outlined below. (Let me know what you think in the comments.)
Option 1. The Celtics stand pat
The Celtics' most likely path is also the safest, most boring play. Despite the nickname, “Trader Danny” is often at his best when he shows restraint.
With potentially several holes in their roster, the Celtics have plenty of reasons to take as many bites at the apple as possible and hope they hit on one in the Draft. Given that especially beyond the Lottery, the draft is mostly a crapshoot, it wouldn't be shocking for Ainge to simply take the players that are just there, still on the board.
It’s unlikely that the Celtics will have the roster space to bring all their picks aboard this year; if the Celtics choose this route, look for Ainge to take a prospect with a later pick that he could stash in Europe. Barcelona forward Leandro Bolmaro might fit the bill.
Option 2. The Celtics trade up into the Lottery
Boston has plenty of young guys already on the roster - it might make sense to consolidate draft assets. There have been murmurs from Kevin O’Connor and others that the Celtics Brass is making heart-eyes at Onyeka Okongwu, the USC center flying up the draft boards. In theory, this makes sense if the Celtics are looking at long term options in the frontcourt.
The reality is that the teams at the top will likely want more than three middling picks. This path will depend on what or who Ainge is willing to give up more than anything. Are Robert Williams or Romeo Langford on the table? Will that be enough? Keep an eye on teams like Atlanta, Detroit, and New York here. Golden State or Minnesota is a pipe dream, but crazier things have happened in the NBA.
Option 3. The Celtics trade some of their picks, land two selections in the teens
This draft has been thrown into flux; pandemics have a way of doing that to a lot of things. The general assessment from folks across the internet is that this draft has several high floor players, but maybe nobody with a truly elite ceiling.
Given all of this and the potential reluctance of top teams to deal with the Green, it might make more sense for the Celtics to consolidate picks No. 26 and No. 30 into another mid first-round pick if they have certain players in mind.
RJ Hampton, Precious Achiuwa, Saddiq Bey, Kira Lewis Jr., and others have been mentioned as possibilities depending on how the draft shakes out, and it might be easier for the Celtics front office to trade into the middle of the draft than into the Lottery.
Option 4. The Celtics trade picks for a veteran player
The Celtics were a few bad fourth quarters away from a trip to the Finals, and the world saw Jayson Tatum become a true superstar along the way. With a draft that lacks any sure-fire prospects, Ainge could go all-in with Boston’s current core, bolstering the roster on the margins.
There are whispers that Gordon Hayward is ready to move on, but perhaps there aren’t many teams lining up to pay him. Could we see Hayward and some of this year's picks moved for a veteran or two?
The trade most often brought up in this scenario has been some form of a deal involving Myles Turner from the Pacers. Something like Hayward, picks, Turner, and Doug McDermott sounds plausible, but these are the kind of deals that Ainge has typically balked at in the past. If Ainge really wants to go big, maybe he pulls the trigger on a megadeal for New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday.
Keep in mind, if Ainge trades for veteran help it is almost always the move that you don’t hear about days beforehand. Danny keeps things close to the vest.
Option 5. The Celtics roll picks over
Keep an eye on this move. Ainge has rolled over draft picks more than a few times. This might be the option of least resistance if he doesn’t see anyone he really loves on the board.
It’s unclear what moving parts would be involved in this situation, 26 and 30 likely wouldn't net much by themselves, but maybe if you throw in a few G-league prospects, you get a slightly better offer. If there is a college basketball season this year, the Celtics might punt on this draft in favor of one that they can better scout and make most of their moves in free agency this year.
This strategy carries some risk to it, as it is hard to predict how teams will finish from year to year in the NBA, but if there is one thing Ainge has proven to love, it is future picks. Regardless of what Dealin’ Dan has in mind, the Celtics are ultimately in a great position heading into this draft.
Boston has the assets in place to act as buyers, sellers, and facilitators, and while draft night is sure to provide some curveball, fear not, Celtics fans - Danny Ainge has seen a few in his time as well.