Last season, Danny Ainge said that you could never have too many draft picks. The Celtics organization is about to find out this summer whether that statement holds true.
Over the past few years, Boston’s front office has amassed eight picks for the 2016 NBA Draft, enough selections to fill up more than half of an NBA roster. With 11 players already under contract for the 2016-17 season, it’s fair to assume that Ainge won’t be keeping all of those selections in 2016.
The team will likely draft some international players to let them develop overseas for the time being, but odds are a healthy number of the picks will be packaged together in some kind of trade.
When trading draft selections in the NBA, the number of picks doesn’t matter as much as where the picks are located in the draft order. The Celtics dealt with that issue firsthand in 2015 when the Charlotte Hornets reportedly rejected a package of six draft picks for the No. 10 overall selection.
Boston’s ability to target a prized prospect or a star upgrade will depend mainly on where their current collection of draft picks falls. While Celtics fans will be keeping a close eye on Boston’s prospect in the playoff race, they should also be monitoring the progress of the teams listed below since their finishes will directly impact Boston’s future. With that in mind, let’s check in on the statuses of the relevant teams and examine where the Celtics will be picking from (or trading to) this June.
THE CROWN JEWEL
2016 Brooklyn first-round pick (unprotected)
Current record: 17-43
Games remaining: 22 (Home: 8 Away: 14)
Games vs. teams “fighting’’ for playoff spots or positioning: 14
Acquired via Garnett/Pierce trade in July 2013
Projected pick range: 3-5
Overview: With the Nets improving to 2-0 in the post-Joe Johnson era, any dreams Boston had of landing top-two odds for the May lottery are out the window. As it stands now, it appears to be a three-horse race between the Nets, Suns and Timberwolves for the 3-5 slots in the draft lottery.
3. Suns 15-44
4. Nets 17-42
5. Wolves 19-41
Phoenix has dropped 12 of its last 13 games overall and currently holds a two-game edge over the Nets for the third-best odds. The good news for Celtics fans is that the Nets have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league, playing 15 of their final 23 games away from the Barclays Center. The team is still playing hard and has no reason to “tank,’’ unlike Minnesota and Phoenix, but there should be sufficient challenging games remaining for the Celtics to gain enough ping pong balls for the fourth-best odds during May’s lottery.
MORE FIRST-ROUND AMMO
2016 Dallas first-round pick (Top-7 protected)
Current record: 32-28
Games remaining: 22 (Home: 11 Away: 11)
Games vs. teams “fighting’’ for playoff spots or positioning: 18
Acquired via Rajon Rondo trade in December 2015
Projected pick range: 12-24
2016 Boston first-round pick
Current record: 35-25
Games remaining: 22 (Home: 12 Away: 10)
Games vs. teams “fighting’’ for playoff spots or positioning: 16
Projected pick range: 12-24
Overview: There is a lot of parity in the NBA right now below the championship contenders, and that’s reflected in the range for Boston’s next two first-round picks. The Celtics’ own selection will likely land in the early twenties based on their recent play, but with just four games separating them from a trip to the lottery, they can’t feel secure about their position for another couple weeks.
The Mavericks face a stiff challenge of their own to hold onto a playoff spot down the stretch. They currently possess a three-game lead over the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz from the No. 6 spot in the West, but with 75 percent of their remaining games coming against teams with something to play for, they still have plenty of work to do. That tough slate should make the Celtics’ brass feel confident about this pick ending up somewhere in the teens, but another late-lottery pick can’t be ruled out either.
2016 Philadelphia second-round pick (unprotected)
Current record: 8-51
Acquired via Joel Anthony trade in January 2014
Pick range: 31-32
2016 Minnesota second-round pick (unprotected)
Current record: 19-41
Acquired via Brandan Wright trade (from Phoenix) in January 2015
Pick range: 33-35
2016 Dallas/Memphis second-round pick (Celtics get more favorable of picks)
Current record: 32-28
Acquired via Rajon Rondo trade in December 2014 Pick range: 42-54 2016 Miami second round pick (unprotected) Current record: 33-26 Acquired via Joel Anthony three-team trade in January 2014
Pick range: 42-54 2016
Cleveland second-round pick (unprotected)
Current record: 41-17
Acquired via Keith Bogans trade in September 2014
Pick range: 55-58
Overview: The first two of these five selections from Philadelphia and Minnesota stand to be useful trade assets for Boston this draft, given their location in the draft and the flexibility teams have in structuring contracts for second-round picks. Hidden gems (ex: Jordan Mickey) can be found in these spots, and Boston has used second-round picks in the past to move up a couple slots in the draft (ex: Kelly Olynyk in 2014).
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