Austin Ainge: 'Good depth and talent' at this year's NBA draft combine

Austin Ainge: 'Good depth and talent' at this year's NBA draft combine

CHICAGO -- Having a trio of first-round picks is usually something to celebrate for an NBA team.

Still, for the Celtics, this has become more of the norm than an anomaly with Boston using the NBA draft combine to search out talent with picks No. 14, 20 and 22 at their disposal.

This will be the fourth time in the past six years that the Celtics have had multiple first-round picks. 

And it could have been more if the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick, which will be No. 2 overall, had fallen out of the top-8.

“We’re glad to only have three picks,” Austin Ainge, Celtics director of player personnel, told NBC Sports Boston. “We’re glad the fourth [Memphis pick] rolled over [to 2020 or '21] to space them out. It’s always good to have first-round picks, but it’s better to have them in multiple years than to have them all in one year. We are excited about this draft. There’s some good depth and talent there.”

And talent is definitely something the Celtics are in the market for. They may have several holes to fill between now and the start of next season.

While much of the attention involving the Celtics has centered around Kyrie Irving and his impending free agency, he’s one of seven potential Boston players who will be either unrestricted or restricted free agents this summer.

“As they say, need is a bad evaluator. So, we don’t take that into account too much,” Ainge said. “You also don’t count on rookies changing your whole roster, right? You usually start with the top free agents and your returning guys and fill in with rookies at the end. We’ll be taking the best players.”

But part of that also involves avoiding duplication, which may result in the Celtics selecting a player that might be a notch or two below another on their draft board, but in doing so prevents them from taking a pair of similarly-skilled players.

“The one thing about having three picks, you can’t take three shooting guards,” Ainge said. “You just can’t develop them. You can’t take three centers. So, we’ll have to take that into account a little bit as we go forward.”

The same can be said for the interview portion of the combine, which has varying levels of value, depending on the perspective of a particular franchise.

“It’s just a small portion,” Ainge said. “Most of these kids play at big programs and have done interviews their whole lives. So we have a good backlog. We like to ask about some specific questions we have. We do a lot of background research and we ask about what happened here, what about after this tough loss; what about this incident you had.”

Ainge said the interview is a factor in their evaluation process but not a major one.

With the camp winding down, Ainge has a clear vision for what would make for a successful combine for the Celtics.

“For us, if we can break any ties that would be great,” Ainge said. “If out here on the court, if some of the guys we liked play poorly so they fall to us that would nice, too. But you don’t want to put too much stock in the combine, so we try to keep it in perspective as part of [a player’s] whole career.”

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Team USA didn't finish the FIBA World Cup as expected, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament if you're a Celtics fan. 

Not only did Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart contribute to Team USA and certainly took some lessons from playing under Gregg Popovich, but Daniel Theis (Germany) and newly signed Vincent Poirier (France) got invaluable experience they can carry into the 2019-20 NBA season. 

Poirier signed with the Celtics during free agency on a two-year contract and should have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time in a Celtics' frontcourt that hopes to replace Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

Poirier's French teammate Nicolas Batum, who played with Walker in Charlotte over the last four years, dealt out some praise of the rookie center after France beat Australia for the FIBA bronze medal. 

"This guy, I think, just started basketball 5 years ago, so he's had a special career," Batum told John Schumann. "His energy was great. We can't count on Rudy (Gobert) every game... He was huge. He wasn't scared by Bogut & Baynes... He was amazing tonight."

France knocked the U.S. out of the knockout round by besting them in the quarterfinals. Poirier didn't play in that game, but has played a big role for France behind All-Star big man Rudy Gobert. 

"It's clear that he's a center that can block shots and control the paint," Batum said. "He's a terrific roller, can really catch a lob, and obviously has a lot of energy. It's a good pick-up for Boston, for sure."

The Celtics responded to Horford's departure and trading Baynes to Phoneix by signing Poirier and Enes Kanter to join Theis and Robert Williams at the center spot. Boston will probably have to solve their hole at that position by committee, but if Poirier can play consistent defense, rebound and protect the paint as Batum describes, he could earn himself backup minutes behind Kanter. 

Either way, it should be an interesting training camp to say the least for this new-look Celtics team. 

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One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

File photos

One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

Team Shamrock’s FIBA adventures ended with a whimper Saturday as — under the cloak of East Coast darkness — three of the four Celtics on Team USA logged DNPs (eight points for Jaylen Brown) while the Americans claimed seventh place with an 87-74 win over Poland. Combine that with the fact that Daniel Theis got limited reps with Germany’s early exit and Daniel Poirier hasn’t played big minutes while backing up Rudy Gobert for France and the World Cup experience wasn’t quite as robust as it could have been for the six Celtics players involved.

Still, there were positives to pluck and experiences gained by everyone involved, not the least of which is that a third of Boston’s roster will show up to camp on Oct. 1 in game-ready shape. Still, regardless of Team USA’s medal-less finish and the limited reps for Theis and Poirier, there’s at least one item or lesson that every player can bring with them into the new season.