Another NBA draft, another bevy of first-round picks for the Boston Celtics. Been there, done that, I know.
If the NBA draft were today, the Celtics would be on the clock three times with picks No. 17, No. 26 and No. 30.
Having so many first-round picks seems like a good thing, right?
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Not so much when your roster already has a large share of players relatively new to the NBA like the Celtics.
More than half of the Celtics current roster (eight players) are still on their rookie deals, and that doesn’t include two-way players Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall. That’s why the likelihood of Boston trading at least one of their three first-round picks this year seems very likely.
And while trading first-round picks is always on the Danny Ainge à la carte menu of draft-day options, the results have been mixed in recent years.
2019 NBA DRAFT
The Celtics traded the No. 20 pick (Matisse Thybulle) to Philadelphia in exchange for two picks: No. 24 (used to select Ty Jerome) and No. 33 (Carsen Edwards).
Jerome was immediately shipped out to Phoenix as part of the trade package which also sent Aron Baynes to the Suns. So this trade was essentially Thybulle for Edwards.
It’s still early, but Thybulle has been the best player involved in this trade.
He has elite, All-NBA defensive potential, the kind of player who would have formed a hellacious backcourt defensively if you paired him up with Marcus Smart.
NBA.com stats show that Thybulle limited opponents to just 37.4 percent on shots at least 15 feet from the rim.
To put that in perspective, Smart, who was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team last season, held opponents to 38.4 percent shooting from 15 or more feet away from the rim.
Meanwhile, Jerome and Edwards played limited minutes and struggled for the most part when they got on the floor.
2017 NBA DRAFT
The Boston Celtics finally got the number one overall pick in the draft … only to trade it away!
Boston traded the top overall pick (Markelle Fultz) to the Sixers in exchange for moving down two spots to select Jayson Tatum along with adding a future first-round pick that was used in 2019 to select Romeo Langford.
While not much time has passed since this draft went down, it has clearly been one that the Celtics won by a decisive margin.
And remember, the Celtics didn’t have to be bad in order to wind up with the top overall pick.
It was part of the team’s blockbuster deal in 2013 with Brooklyn that allowed the Celtics the right to swap first-round picks in 2017.
The 22-year-old Tatum is already an All-Star, displaying the kind of game that will soon have him in the league MVP conversation based upon the rate at which his game has been improving.
He is averaging a team-best 23.6 points per game this season, along with 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals — all career highs for the third-year forward.
Not only has Fultz not played anywhere close to the level of Tatum, but Philly’s top pick in 2017 has already been moved on to another team after being acquired via trade by Orlando.
Fultz has fared better with the Magic with career highs this season in points per game (12.1), assists (5.2) and shooting (47.3 percent).
But his improved play still lags behind the overall impact made by Tatum.
As for Langford, he saw limited time as a rookie primarily because of injuries. But as the season progressed, Langford’s defense earned him increased playing time and maybe just as important, more trust from head coach Brad Stevens. He has appeared in 26 games while averaging 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.
2013 NBA DRAFT
When the Boston Celtics moved up three spots to the No. 13 spot via trade while sending the No. 16 pick to the Dallas Mavericks, there was some talk that the move was being made to make a run at Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Instead, the Celtics picked Kelly Olynyk while Antetokounmpo, now the reigning league MVP, was Milwaukee’s pick at No. 15 — one spot before Boston’s slot prior to flipping picks with the Mavericks.
The Mavericks used the 16th overall pick from Boston to acquire Lucas Noguiera, who wound up being traded by Dallas to Atlanta (Dallas was focused on creating additional cap space by flipping the pick), before eventually landing in Toronto where he played four seasons. The 7-foot Brazilian center has returned to playing internationally, having not been on an NBA roster since 2018.
Boston was among the teams that whiffed on taking Antetokounmpo, obviously.
But considering who the Celtics made the trade with to acquire Olynyk, this would qualify as a trade that worked out better for Boston than their trading partner.
2011 NBA DRAFT
Coming off a second-round playoff loss to the Miami Heat, the Celtics looked very much like a veteran team in desperate need of an influx of young talent — particularly in the frontcourt.
Picking near the end of the first round, the Celtics swapped the No. 25 pick (MarShon Brooks from nearby Providence College) for Brooklyn’s No. 27 selection which was used on JaJuan Johnson.
This trade didn’t work out for either team, although Brooks enjoyed a much more fruitful NBA career.
Making matters worse, the Celtics were one of the many teams that whiffed on Jimmy Butler in this draft, as the five-time All-Star wound up being selected by Chicago with the 30th overall pick of the first round.
Johnson played just 36 games in the NBA, all with Boston, before being traded to Houston (and waived before the start of the 2012-2013 season) as part of a three-team trade.
The 6-foot-10 forward has spent the bulk of his career playing internationally with his most recent stint coming with Bahçeşehir Koleji of the Turkish Super Basketball League.
Brooks has played five seasons in the NBA for five different teams, including a 10-game stint with the Celtics.
After averaging a career-high 12.6 points per game as a rookie with the Nets, Brooks struggled to latch on with any team beyond a season or so before ultimately taking his talents overseas.
Like Johnson, his best years professionally have come while playing internationally. He spent this past season with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.