Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

The last couple of years have answered the question of whether Danny Ainge can draft. When making his first choice in 2016 and 2017, he was higher on his guy than most. In both cases, he was right. 

No major publication considered Jayson Tatum the best player last year; Ainge would have taken him No. 1 but was able to trade down because the Sixers were trading up for Markelle Fultz and the Lakers for some reason wanted to sign up for the Lonzo Ball life.

Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in 2016? You remember the boos, and you can understand why they happened. Fans were confused. If they'd been checking nbadraft.net like we all did, they expected him to be the ninth pick. 

Yet in both cases, Ainge and Co. were clearly right. Holding a high pick with no consensus option awaiting him, they wound up with the best player available. 

What's more impressive is that they've also done it later in the draft, and the further down the board you go to make your first pick, the easier it is to take a guy who won't amount to anything, let alone prove to be the best possible selection. 

That's what the Celtics did three years ago with Terry Rozier at No. 16. At the time, Bleacher Report Senior NBA writer Howard Beck deemed that selection the "biggest reach" of the draft; at the very least, the Celtics were heavily criticized for taking him where they did.

Go look at that draft and the players who were selected after Rozier. Would you rather any of those guys over Rozier? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe? Probably not, though? 

Now, here's where we need to note that the 2015 draft, for as good as it looks now for the Celtics, could have greatly derailed what's been an excellent rebuild. As the legend goes, Ainge intended to trade a whole lot to get from No. 16 to No. 9 in order to select Justise Winslow, who just had a worse third NBA season than Rozier. 

How badly did Ainge want to move up? According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg that summer, Ainge offered Charlotte "as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections," only to have the deal rejected. Keep in mind that the Celtics still had three Brooklyn picks (which would turn into Brown, Tatum and Kyrie Irving) at that point. 

At any rate, the basketball gods saved Ainge from himself and he followed it up by making the right selection. The latter has happened three straight years now. 

Before that, the Celtics looked more human at the draft. Using 2010 as the cutoff (they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009, so 2010 seemed like a good place to keep it semi-recent), the Celtics have had their fair share of not-quite-misses-but-not-quite-home-runs. The Marcus Smart pick (No. 6 overall in 2014) could have been better spent on Dario Saric. Jared Sullinger (21st overall in 2012) could have instead been Draymond Green (No. 35). Three picks after the Celtics took JaJuan Johnson at 27 (via New Jersey), the Bulls took Jimmy Butler.

Of course, there's no more devastating "what if?" to play than looking back at 2013, when the Celtics got Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 (via Dallas), only to later learn they'd passed on the best player in that draft (Giannis Antetokounmpo). 

Yet that three-year run on not getting the best player has been sandwiched by stronger drafting. In 2010, the C's' selection over Avery Bradley at No. 19 proved to be the best pick they could have made. 

The Celtics are slotted to pick at No. 27 Thursday, a spot that promises very little, though they've got more than enough ammunition to move up. Even if they get whoever proves to be the best NBA player of the guys on the board, there's no promise that said player will have much of an NBA career. Their last three top picks have shown that if they do jump up, they'll get the right guy. 

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No Celtics earn All-NBA honors

No Celtics earn All-NBA honors

The Celtics placed no one on the All-NBA teams announced Thursday.

Though they have eliminated from the playoffs two second-team selections (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid) and are a win away from eliminating a first-team pick (LeBron James). And they could be facing another first-teamer (Kevin Durant) and a third-teamer (Stephen Curry) in the NBA Finals.

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford of the Celtics missed out on the third team but placed high among others receiving votes.

James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Durant of the Golden State Warriors make up the first team.

The full All-NBA teams: 

Game 7 another lesson in the education of these C's

Game 7 another lesson in the education of these C's

BOSTON - For most of this season, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been reminded by the media about losing Gordon Hayward at the start of the season and most recently, being without Kyrie Irving for the playoffs.

In between, there were more injuries, more setbacks, more justifiable reasons for this team to come up short in its goals, its dreams, its aspirations to be one of the last teams standing.

To handle all that and still be one of the top teams was not easy.

So, it seems only fitting that a not-so-smooth path lies ahead of them if they are to advance to the next round, where they would face the well-rested Philadelphia 76ers.

Still, any talk about Philly will have to wait.

Because Boston must first put away the Milwaukee Bucks tonight in a winner-moves-on Game 7.

And while most of the Celtics will experience a playoff Game 7 for the first time tonight, the basketball setbacks and adversity experienced by them this season has developed a Teflon-tough mindset to where if they don't play well, it won't be because the moment was too big for them.

“We got nothing to lose,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Everybody has been writing us off anyway. We got our backs on the wall, we're at home. We're going to come out, bust through that wall, whatever it takes.”

Stevens has been able to maintain more of a real-world outlook on some of the unexpected challenges Boston has faced and more often than not, found a way to overcome.

"First of all, the way we talked about it in this locker room and around is this isn't real adversity, right?" said Stevens. "We're really fortunate to do what we do. The injuries stink, but at the end of the day, those guys are gonna come back fully healthy. And their careers won't be impacted by those at all. So ultimately, it's opportunity. And the opportunity is for the guys that are in the building and the guys that are playing."

Tonight's Game 7 falls in line with what has been the season-long education of the Celtics.

"You know, this is again, everything that we have over these first six games of the playoffs is new for a lot of these guys," Stevens said. "And it's just more opportunity to experience new things. And so, Game 7 in TD Garden on a Saturday night, after things didn't go your way in Game 6, you know...let's play!"

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight's Game 7 battle:

MILWAUKEE'S LENGTH


You hear coaches and players talk about Milwaukee and its army of long-armed bodies at every position, but how big a deal is all that length? Well, it has manifested itself into some impressive numbers defensively. Milwaukee leads all playoff teams in contested shots with 71.2 per game, a direct result of having the kind of across-the-board length that even when they aren't in the best position defensively, their length provides a way in which they can still alter a shot. And Boston, which came into the playoffs as arguably the best team defensively, has contested 58.0 of Milwaukee's shots, which is next-to-last (15th) among playoff teams.

SECOND-CHANCE POINTS


Boston seemingly had its way when it came to second-chance points through the first four games, averaging 19.3 second-chance points per game. But the number has dropped to just seven points per game in Games 5 and 6. Milwaukee has shot the ball so well in this series, that second-chance opportunities have been limited which is why they have scored nine or less second-chance points in each of the six games in this series.

ROZIER THE PASSER


One of the more stealth strengths of Terry Rozier in these first six games has been his exceptional assists-to-turnover ratio. His 4.22:1 assists-to-turnover ratio ranks 10th in the NBA among playoff teams. And when it comes to wins, Rozier's 8:1 assists-to-turnover ratio is tops among all players whose teams won at least two games.

BOSTON, DRIVE-THRU LANES


We know how important driving the ball to the basket is for the Milwaukee Bucks. But looking at the numbers, it's pretty meaningful to the Celtics as well especially when it comes to winning. According to NBA.com/stats, the Celtics get 53.3 percent of their points on drives in their three wins, but that number dips to just 37.2 percent in their three losses. Meanwhile, the Bucks are pretty much the same win (51.6 percent) or lose (51.3 percent).

GAME 7 FACTS


The Celtics are 22-8 all-time in Game 7s, which includes a 19-4 record at home...This will be the third time these two teams have met in a Game 7. The Celtics emerged victorious in both of the previous meetings, a 102-87 win for the Tommy Heinsohn-coached C's in the 1974 NBA Finals and a 119-113 victory in the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1987...Al Horford has a 4-3 record in Game 7s, which equals the number of wins by the rest of the Celtics in Game 7s combined. For the Bucks, Jason Terry is 3-0 in Game 7s. But after having not played (coaches decision) in the past four games, it's unlikely he'll see any action tonight.

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