The Boston Celtics’ front office has long been a supporter of the idea of shuffling the NBA draft after free agency and, given the uncertainty surrounding the team's roster this upcoming summer, director of player personnel Austin Ainge again championed the idea after Monday’s draft workout.
The Houston Rockets officially made a proposal to flip-flop the draft and free agency in April 2018, which the Celtics firmly backed, and there is hope that it will gain further momentum moving forward.
“I have been a big proponent of switching the draft and free agency,” said Ainge. "I think that most teams build from veteran players first. If you have a top-5 pick, you’re most likely a rebuilding team so free agency isn’t affecting that. If you have a top-5 pick, you’re probably going to pick with that first but free agency doesn’t affect you much.
"And then, all of the other teams, you more likely are fitting in draft picks in and around a veteran core group. So I think the calendar should follow our decision-making tree. So I think it should be switched.”
The Celtics find themselves particularly hamstrung this offseason. Boston owns three first-round picks and could be forced to pick players without any idea how its roster will look after free agency. It’d be easier to target a point guard in the draft if, say, you knew Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier were not going to be back in Boston.
It’d also give teams the ability to more easily discuss pre-draft trades. If the Celtics are to push for an Anthony Davis deal this month, they’ve ideally got to have something in place before draft night so New Orleans can select its desired players with any 2019 picks it might receive in such a swap.
It simply makes more sense for free agency to come before the draft and the Celtics have never quite gotten a good answer about why it doesn’t.
"It’s something I think we should look at very strongly,” said Ainge. "When I ask why it is the way it is, no one has a great answer. Just inertia. Just history.”
The NBA has been open-minded to changes that make more sense, even something as simple this year as the start of free agency shifting to 6 p.m. on June 30 instead of midnight on July 1, affording East Coast general managers a bit more convenience at the frenetic start of when teams can formally contact free agents.
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