BOSTON – Since the regular season ended, much of the draft speculation around Boston centered on the top-six pick they were going to receive from a 2013 trade with Brooklyn.
Since last week’s NBA draft lottery confirmed that the pick will be the third overall, It has overshadowed at times the fact that the Celtics will have another pair of first-round picks with the first being the 16th overall selection.
So as Boston focuses much of its energy on getting the No. 3 pick right, this draft has the potential to be one where a difference-maker could be found in the latter stages of the first round as well.
“The higher the draft pick, you just have a better chance. There’s going to be really good players available at 16,” said Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel. “There’s going to be really good players available at 23. It’s just harder to identify in that range.”
Especially at this early juncture in the evaluation process. Teams are still shuffling players in and out for workouts, gradually developing their own individual pecking order based on the workouts as well as other data compiled over years when it comes to some prospects.
Croatian big man Dragan Bender, considered by some as the Celtics’ likely selection with the No. 3 pick, is a player that has been on the NBA radar for years despite him being just 18 years of age.
And while Bender has seen limited time with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the fact that he’s on the roster of one of the top teams overseas speaks to some degree about his potential.
There are others in the draft like Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, who finished his career with the Cavaliers as one of the most decorated players in school history. But it wasn’t until this past season when he earned ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year (for the second year in a row) while becoming a First Team All-American, did he emerge as a potential first-round pick that's likely to be on the board when the Celtics are picking at 16.
Ainge knows he and the rest of the Celtics’ brass will be looking far and wide to find not just the best talent in next month's draft, but the talent that fits best in with Boston’s needs both in the short and long-term.
“We’re going to work really hard to do the best that we can,” Ainge said.
A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter @SherrodbCSN.