BOSTON – The TD Garden had a definite buzz about it Thursday night with season ticket holders eagerly awaiting to see what the Celtics would do with the third overall pick in the draft.
Trade it as part of a package for an established star?
Trade it down for a player they like and a future asset?
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
And then they made the pick.
Cal’s Jaylen Brown was the guy they wanted.
It wasn’t the sexiest pick they could have made. It wasn’t a no-brainer pick, either. And it doesn’t magically transform the Celtics into an NBA title contender or anything like that.
It once again puts this whole ‘In Danny (Ainge) we trust’ mantra among Celtics fans to the test.
This was not a player that immediately energized the Celtics fan base, evident by the number of boos that echoed throughout the Garden upon him being selected.
But this is what makes Ainge so good at his job. He will not pander to what’s popular or easily accepted.
Ainge has had a very simple philosophy when it comes to drafting players. He’ll take whoever helps the Celtics the most, which is why Dragan Bender and Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield – and yes, Kris Dunn of Providence College – were all passed over for Brown.
Those players all have clear strengths which validate them being among the top players in the draft.
But Ainge evaluates more than talent.
He’s also looking for toughness, the right fit both on and off the court.
But Brown brings something more to the game. The minute he steps on the floor for his first Celtics practice, he will be their best athlete. And with a 7-foot wingspan, Brown has the kind of length that could become a factor immediately on the defensive side of the ball.
Providence College guard Kris Dunn was the player that fans wanted Ainge to select, and multiple league sources told CSNNE.com that Dunn was given “strong consideration” with the number three pick by Boston.
The Celtics were engaged in a number of potential trades, but rebuffed them all because teams were trying to hustle the Celtics asking for a lot more than the Celtics were willing to part with.
And to follow that up with a pair of draft-and-stash picks in the first round with picks No. 16 and No. 23, fans were once again left feeling as though this draft was a dud for the Green Team.
But there was a method to Ainge’s approach to the 16th and 23rd picks.
By drafting those two players and not having them come over immediately, that will give the Celtics a little more flexibility to potentially sign a pair of max-salaried players this summer.
As far as their second round picks, Boston can either sign them to short-term, minimum salary deals or have them play overseas and thus maintain more cap flexibility going into this summer.
And going into the summer, the Celtics will be well-positioned to pursue the best players available and not be consumed with trying to figure out if they can make it work financially.
This road back to being an elite team is not an easy one for a Celtics fan base that’s clamoring for a team that can legitimately bring home Banner 18.
It will require adding elite talent, continued improvement among their young core of players and yes … trust in Ainge.