WALTHAM -- The sky is not falling even though the Boston Celtics landed the third pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
“There are a lot more things to be disappointed about in this life,” a subdued Danny Ainge said after the lottery results were revealed. “It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been better. It is what it is. We’ll move on and do the best we can to build a great team.”
With the third pick, the Celtics won’t have the preeminent trade equity they would’ve had with the first or second pick -- which is likely the source of Ainge’s disappointment -- but they’re still in an advantageous position to make an impactful move.
It’s not like general managers will hang up the phone on Ainge now that the Celtics have the third pick. The rumored trade targets (Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeMarcus Cousins) shouldn’t be brushed away, it just won’t be as easy to acquire them.
“Trading the No. 3 pick will be difficult because there’s some good players at No. 3, but there are some players it wouldn’t be difficult for,” Ainge explained. “We’ll have a lot of communication to try and figure that out. But usually trades aren’t the ones that are so easy to figure out. They’re the ones that are most difficult because that’s what benefits both teams. We’ll be looking at all our options.”
In the event of a trade, the Celtics might end up just having to give more in the form of NBA level players or future picks in order to make a deal work. There’s still plenty of interest in the third slot, which is why it isn’t the end of the world if the Celtics end up keeping the pick.
It’s difficult to get a read on how any team’s draft board will look after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. It’s even harder for the playoff caliber Celtics, since they could either take a route that requires more patience or aim for one of the upperclassmen ready to contribute.
If the Celtics do keep the pick, the first player to have on your radar is Dragan Bender. He’s an 18-year-old 7-foot-1 forward that has the type of versatility the Celtics value since he can drain threes, pass, and switch on defense. But he presents risk since he’s so raw, though the talent is there for him to be a super glue guy that makes a winning impact in the NBA.
Another high-risk, high-reward pick is Jaylen Brown, a freshman forward from California. He’s comparable to Jae Crowder in regards to style of play because of his defensive versatility, but he’s also shown flashes as a go-to scorer. However, his poor decision-making and lack of efficiency limits his ability to contribute early in his career.
There’s also the guards projected to go high in the lottery, which isn’t exactly a position of need for the Celtics. Kris Dunn has the physical dimensions the Celtics value, but his skills are somewhat redundant with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier already on the roster. Jamal Murray has the potential to be a knockdown shooter, but he’s a defender that isn’t ready to be relied on at the pro level.
A lot can change between now and the draft though, and it’s premature to assume anything about the aforementioned young prospects.
“It’s still too early. There’s still a lot of evaluation,” Ainge said. “When you’re looking and evaluating, in some cases 18 and 19 year old kids, there’s a lot that changes between the end of their college careers and the draft. I wouldn’t say anything is in stone in how the draft order is gonna go. We’ll just evaluate them all and see how it falls.”
After evaluating all the young prospects, the Celtics may find they’re better off going with one of the NBA-ready upperclassmen. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield is an elite shooter with unlimited range. Though he’s underdeveloped in other areas, his elite work ethic does suggest he’ll make strides.
Denzel Valentine doesn’t get mentioned often as a high lottery pick, but he’s the type of player that could rise after pre-draft workouts. He has a flamethrower jumper, but he’s also capable of serving as a playmaker. His versatility, in addition to his length on defense, could make him an under-the-radar option for the Celtics.
With eight picks, the Celtics will bring these players into Boston to get the best idea they can of their NBA potential. That’ll happen in the form of interviews, but also small group workouts where players will go head-to-head.
Through that process the Celtics will determine who they’ll select if they keep the third pick.
The name of that player is still an unknown, but the type of player is already set in stone.
“Best player available, definitely," Ainge said. "Unless you can convince me otherwise. Nobody has, yet.”