Celtics still in actionable position despite landing No. 3 pick in NBA Draft

Celtics still in actionable position despite landing No. 3 pick in NBA Draft

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.”

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.