The Concord Monitor is launching its Environmental Reporting Lab, a long-term effort to better inform the community about the New Hampshire environment. To launch phase 1 of this effort, we need your help. The money raised will go toward hiring a full-time environmental reporter.

Please consider donating to this effort.


Honest truth? Celtics don’t need to stockpile rookies Honest truth? Celtics don’t need to stockpile rookies

Last modified: 6/28/2015 12:25:45 AM
Danny Ainge is using a rare pre-draft strategy with the media – honesty. Or at least he seems to be.

“We’re having discussions to move up with both of our picks in the first round. We’re trying to move up with at least one of them. I think there will be some movement,” Ainge told reporters at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Mass., on Tuesday.

“Right now we don’t even know where we are drafting or the position we’ll be in. We think there’s going to be a lot of activity on draft night. So stay tuned. Our draft pick may have been traded before we even make the pick. I’m excited about the draft, it’s going to be a fun day.”

Most NBA executives deal in half truths and rumors in the days leading up to the draft – which begins Thursday at 7 – including Ainge. They’re fearful of tipping their hand when it comes to player they like or moves they want to make, worried that any nugget of honesty will weaken their position. That’s not a knock on anyone’s integrity or intelligence. Such deception is simply part of the game.

There’s always the chance that Ainge is still playing that game. Maybe he doesn’t want to move up. Maybe he’s happy with Boston’s four picks – 16, 28, 33 and 45 – and will gladly use

all of them. Maybe, but unlikely. It just wouldn’t make any sense.

The Celtics are already loaded with young players like James Young (19 years old), Marcus Smart (21) and Jared Sullinger (23). Even the players who qualify as graybeards on this team are young – Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are both 24 and Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner are 26. The last thing Boston needs to add to that mix are four more rookies, and Ainge knows it.

“I don’t want five or six guys,” he said. “There’s guys we are targeting, that we unanimously in the organization would love to have, and others who are a tough call – guys in different development stages.”

Ainge may have been adding in a couple of potential undrafted rookies to come to that total of “five or six,” or perhaps he was using hyperbole to make a point, or maybe it was a Freudian slip from an executive who is simply accustomed to cloak-and-dagger pre-draft press conferences. Whatever the case, he’s right. The Celtics don’t need five or six new guys, or even four.

What’s more, Boston is likely to have nine first-round picks and eight second-rounders in the four drafts from 2016-19 (some potential picks are protected and could be pushed back into later years). It would be virtually impossible for the Celtics to make all those picks and bring them on the team. Since they have to trade some of them, they might as well start now.

So the real questions become how high can they move up and who are the players they’re targeting?

There’s no way the Celtics are moving into one of the top two spots. They don’t have enough to offer to make such a leap and Minnesota (which owns the No. 1 pick) and the Lakers (No. 2) aren’t going anywhere, not with uber-prospects Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor on the board.

There have been rumors that Ainge has contacted Philadelphia about the No. 3 pick, offering No. 16, No. 28 and Smart for No. 3 and Nerlens Noel, the former Tilton School player. The 76ers allegedly rejected the alleged offer, which was the right alleged move on their part. Like the Celtics, the Sixers have more young players than they know what to do with, so adding more picks doesn’t make sense.

After that, however, things become more interesting and maybe even realistic. The hot-mess Knicks may be willing to part with the No. 4 pick as Phil Jackson tries to overhaul the roster, but the price would be high to move up to No. 4 and it’s always touchy business trading within the division. Sacramento (No. 6) and Charlotte (No. 9) are also rumored to be teams willing to trade.

If the Celtics do make a move into the top 10, it will be for a specific player, but who? Boston’s most obvious weakness is the lack of a rim protector. And since this draft is heavy with centers, it seems like the Celtics could fill that area of need.

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein (7-feet, 242 pounds) and Texas’s Myles Turner (6-11, 240) are rim-protecting big men who should be available in the 8-12 range and are logical targets for the Celtics if they move up. Cauley-Stein is a defensive specialist who is quick enough to guard wings players on switches and big enough to handle defense in the paint. Tuner has more offensive ability and averaged 2.6 blocks per game for the Longhorns, but he does have health (leg) concerns.

If Boston doesn’t get a big man in the first round, it could always use a second-round pick on centers like Washington’s Robert Upshaw, Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson or UMass’s Cady Lalanne.

There is a (potentially major) concern with trading away multiple assets to move up and take a big man – the evolution of the game. If you watched the NBA Finals, you know that Golden State’s Andrew Bogut, an All-Defensive Second Team center this year, was relegated to the bench because he simply couldn’t keep up with the speed of the game. When Steve Kerr decided to go small by starting 6-6 Andre Iguodala in Bogut’s place, the Warriors improved drastically, and it forced Cleveland to stop using its talented center, Timofey Mozgov.

Iguodala wound up winning the Finals MVP, in large part because of his defensive work on LeBron James, who really could have become just the second player to win the Finals MVP award from a losing team.

What that tells us is the league is moving in a direction where 6-6 to 6-9 players with versatile skill sets are the key. The 2014 Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, fits that mold perfectly. The only player on Boston’s roster who truly fits that mold is Crowder, but he’s a (very) poor man’s version of players like Leonard and Iguodala. But there are some players in the draft who may become stars in that diverse wing role – Duke’s Justise Winslow, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Croatia’s Mario Hezonja.

All three are high-level athletes, although Winslow is probably the most athletic and he has the most versatile offensive game, which means Boston would likely have to move up No. 6 to get him. Hezonja is the best pure shooter of the three and will likely be a top-10 pick. Dekker, who has struggled with jump shot consistency, is the most likely to fall and could be available at No. 16.

There could also be some talented wings available at the end of the first round, players like Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kansas’s Kelly Oubre and Virginia’s Justin Anderson.

No matter what the Celtics do, tonight’s draft will be key to their future and entertaining for their fans. It will be worth watching. Honest.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Concord Monitor, recently named the best paper of its size in New England.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy