Finally, the night Celtics fans have been waiting months for – nearly a full year – is here. It’s NBA Draft Night.
As you well know by now, the Celts are slated to pick at No. 6 and No. 17 in the first-round after Lady Luck disappeared on Draft Lottery Night, but that hardly means that’s what onlookers should expect.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has a history of staying very busy at the draft, including first round Draft Night trades in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2013 over the last 11 years. There’s no reason to believe he won’t pursue the same course of action this evening with the franchise in the early stages of a massive rebuild and the promise of “fireworks” this offseason.
So, what will Ainge do? We assembled our Boston.com panel of Celtics insiders to explore that very topic. Here’s a look into their crystal balls.
Gary Dzen: What will Danny Ainge do? What won't he do? My guess is the Celtics will make 3 to 5 moves on draft night. One of them may or may not be for a player as notable as Kevin Love or involve Rajon Rondo, but all the talk about the fireworks this offseason will pay off in the form of action.
You know what my gut is? I think that given Ainge's penchant to talk this draft class down for the last nine months, he's actually going to make a move to get another top-10 pick. I envision the team making three picks in the first round, moving a couple of players on the active roster, and driving us all insane.
Oh, and they're drafting Dario Saric.
Jeremy Gottlieb: Who knows? The answer is, no one, perhaps not even Ainge himself. The Celtics basketball chief has proven himself to be one of the NBA's great shadow operators over the course of his tenure, with last summer the most recent, shining example. Minimal noise accompanied the Celts’ trade with Dallas to move up three spots and select Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 in 2013's first round. The enormous, franchise altering trade of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn was discussed a little bit on a cursory level but still felt like an earthquake hit when it actually went down. And of course, the hiring of Brad Stevens as head coach on the Fourth of July eve left pretty much everyone paying even the slightest amount of attention slack jawed.
Now then, since this question at its essence is impossible to answer, let's discuss what Ainge should do. The Celtics must continue to pursue Minnesota's Kevin Love and Tuesday's reports of Ainge possibly inquiring of the consistently clueless Cleveland Cavaliers about the No. 1 overall pick, if true, mean that's what they're indeed doing. Ainge has to know that making the Celtics worse in an attempt to make the better (which is exactly what drafting Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, as ESPN's Chad Ford predicted in his last mock draft, would do) may seem to some like a good idea in theory, but will drive fans, his star point guard and maybe even his hand-picked phenom of a coach away in practice.
So again, who really knows? Maybe Ainge will convince Minnesota's Flip Saunders to do the deal for Love. Maybe a third team will get involved. Maybe another big name player we haven't even heard about will be routed to Boston. Maybe the Celts will keep their two first round picks and take Aaron Gordon and North Carolina State scorer T.J. Warren (my personal preference if there's no trade). Maybe the Celts will take a 76ers-style tack and draft a couple of guys who won't play for them in 2014-15 and shoot for the No. 1 overall selection next year. Maybe a mystery scenario no one sees coming will present itself, like the Stevens hire, and Ainge will privately laugh at all of us.
It's impossible to know for sure. Which makes the proceedings that much more fun.
Adam Kaufman: Don’t underestimate Danny Ainge. Everything and everyone is in play for the head of the Celtics’ basketball brass. In the immortal words of former star Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible!”
I’ve been saying for months – I firmly believe Ainge will trade at least the No. 6 selection and maybe both picks. In his time in Boston dating back to 2003, Ainge has never selected higher than 13th despite having two previous opportunities (No. 7 was dealt to Portland in 2006 and No. 5 was sent to Seattle in 2007, which worked out pretty well). If it turns out a trade doesn’t happen, it certainly won’t be from a lack of effort and I’d be willing to bet it’d be accompanied by internal disappointment.
I remain convinced Kevin Love will wind up in Boston, though a draft night deal is looking less and less likely unless Ainge can trade up and then spin the pick to Minnesota for the star’s services. As for Rajon Rondo, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, which likely rules out Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart (profiled here) at No. 6 should the C’s retain the pick.
If the Celts do draft at their current spots, it’ll be hard to pass on Joel Embiid if he’s still on the board, though I’d encourage looking beyond the banged up Kansas talent. If Embiid isn’t an option, bet on a power forward. Draft Express reports Julius Randle (profiled here) would be the favorite, I like Noah Vonleh (profiled here), and Ainge reportedly loves Aaron Gordon (profiled here). So, clearly that pick’s a wild card.
At No. 17, I’d prefer T.J. Warren from N.C. State among the kids expected to be available, though Ainge likely would lean toward Dario Saric – a top-10 talent committed to play in Europe for at least the next two years.
One thing about Ainge is he’s unpredictable so, as the saying goes, expect the unexpected. If you came here looking for something definitive, not even someone inside the Celts’ War Room could give you that right now.
Brian Robb: The tough part about predicting exactly what Danny Ainge will do on draft night is the fact that Ainge himself won’t know exactly what his own plan is until the Celtics are on the clock with the No. 6 pick.
With that in mind, the one thing I do feel confident about is that Ainge will be active in some form this evening. He’s not going to sit idly by as other teams wheel and deal and make his two first round picks as planned without getting in on the action. The Celtics have too many assets with trade exceptions, future picks, and unguaranteed deals to not get involved. It might not be a major move like dealing for Kevin Love or dealing away Rajon Rondo if Ainge’s attempts to make a major addition to the roster are thwarted, but mark my words, it will be something.
For now, my best guess is it’s more likely that we see Ainge go the younger rebuilding route after his attempts to make a big move fall short. The Celtics have a couple bullets left in the barrel that they can fire when it comes to a Love deal, and I anticipate Ainge will up his offer to four first rounders and Jared Sullinger to try to land the stud forward.
If the Wolves refuse to bite though, Ainge’s goal shifts to stockpiling more assets. Whether it’s moving up for a player Boston’s front office really likes, or moving down to add another future selection or two to the team’s arsenal, look for Boston to be part of plenty of moves. I fully expect the Celtics to try to buy their way into the second round as well.
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