Since the Boston Celtics introduced Danny Ainge as General Manager, they have been one of the busiest NBA teams on draft day. There have been negotiations to trade up to top ten picks, blockbuster deals to bring in superstars, and rewarding sleeper picks in the second round.
The Big Green has returned to the status of perennial contender, due in large part to aggressive moves in mid-June. However, don’t be disappointed if Ainge shies away from such aggression this year, because Boston is already in contention.
The trade rumors have been circulating around the Celtics, who do not hold a first-round draft pick for the first time since 2002. Among discussions are Rajon Rondo for the number two pick, in order to draft Ricky Rubio (Spain) or Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), or Ray Allen for New York’s number eight pick, in order to draft Tyreke Evans (Memphis).
But Ainge has gone on record saying that any deal is “possible, but unlikely.” Of course, his job is to be vague with the media when it comes to situations like this, but all signs point to a trade indeed being more unlikely than possible.
Sure, there is an argument that Paul Pierce could use some fresh reinforcements, with a hobbling Leon Powe and Kevin Garnett, and a point guard that can’t shoot with efficiency. And trading for young talent would surely save the Celts money in the long run, as Allen seeks a contract extension (he’s currently netting $20 mil a year) and Rondo is due a raise next season.
But taking apart a Championship squad would be totally counteractive to how Ainge took the Celtics to glory in the first place. He brought in Allen and Garnett to win as soon as possible, and for as long as possible.
The objective wasn’t “win one, then rebuild.” The objective was year-in and year-out domination.
The injuries to Powe and KG were the main factors hindering that objective this year, and they still made a run fairly deep into the playoffs. The odds are favorable for a Celtics-Lakers Finals rematch in 2010 if Boston can re-sign the troops, nurse the front line back to health, and draft a solid backup point guard or promising big man in the second round.
If there’s speculation as to whether Ainge can find professional talent at a pick like number 58, examine recent history.
Boston selected Ryan Gomes and Glen Davis in the second round, both of whom became valuable commodities in the NBA. The organization also traded for Leon Powe in the 2006 Draft (the same year they drafted Rondo), taking a second-round gem off of the Denver Nuggets’ hands.
The Boston Celtics know how to research the field, and turn an unknown into a household name.
Coincidentally, the 2009 draft class is filled with unknowns. The Celtics are one of six teams without a first-round pick, and they’re probably not missing out on much.
The only sure bet out there is the number one pick, and the Clippers have a firm grip on standout Blake Griffin.
Rubio is a good passer and has the patience to adapt to the professional level, and at 6’4” he can play both guard positions, but he is injury-prone and showed signs of weakness in the Olympics.
Thabeet, 7’3”, is too much height and too little body, and doesn’t appear ready for significant NBA impact.
Evans, a play-maker, and reportedly an Ainge favorite, has tremendous upside, but couldn’t hold a candle to Allen’s knowledge, numbers, or clutch shooting.
So, pick number 58, it is. The late second round is not as barren a field as one would imagine.
Power forward and center hybrid Vitor Faverini (7’0”, Malaga) and Vladimir Dasic (PF, Serbia) are quality prospects, and it wouldn’t be the first time Boston targeted international talent.
Other big men that could possibly slip down in the draft are power forwards Taj Gibson (6’10”, USC), Jeff Pendergraph (6’10”, Arizona St.), Robert Dozier (6’10”, Memphis), Goran Suton (6’10”, MSU), and Chris Johnson (6’11”, LSU).
Nick Calathes (6’5”, Florida) has attracted a lot of attention at the point, and could be the one who ends Boston’s search for a reliable backup to Rondo.
Of course, even if the Celtics do, in fact, stay conservative, and opt against wheeling and dealing next weekend, don’t expect an entire season void of acquisitions. They have a track record of signing veteran role players to mid-level exception contracts, and it is rumored that they have shown interest in Pistons’ big men Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, Nuggets’ banger Chris “Birdman” Anderson, and Mavs’ point guard Jason Kidd.
Who will be the next P.J. Brown? If it’s Wallace, the Celts will immediately gain experience, smarts, post presence, and defense. They’d undoubtedly lead the league in technical fouls, but the pros would outweigh the cons.
Who knows what the Boston Celtics roster will look like after next weekend?
Two years ago, fans were wondering who Ainge would pick at the number five spot. Then he unexpectedly traded for Allen, which sparked Garnett’s interest in waiving his no-trade clause and joining forces in a blockbuster deal.
Certainly, the Celtics’ GM has proved that he is anything but predictable. But whatever his move on draft day, there’s no doubt that he will improve the team in the long run.
“We’re trying to win a championship next season,” he said recently. “That’s my goal this summer.”
If he combines fresh talent with the current pieces intact, and the roster is healthy by November, that goal is very likely to come to fruition.