Boston Celtics Left with More Questions Than Answers After Puzzling Draft Night

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2016

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Jaylen Brown poses with Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted third overall by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It won't make disgruntled Boston Celtics fans any happier, but the disappointing night that materialized Thursday was always a possibility.

Boston, in theory, controlled the 2016 NBA draft. It had eight picks, the most any team has owned since the event became a two-round affair in 1989, according to ESPN Stats & Info. All of those assets (and especially the No. 3 selection) were supposed to net a franchise-altering return.

Instead, the Celtics surprised many by reaching for Cal's Jaylen Brown with the third choice, grabbing a likely draft-and-stash commodity in Guerschon Yabusele and project in Ante Zizic with their next two picks, adding yet another point guard to an already bloated backcourt and...well, let's just throw up a chart to chronicle the whole thing:

Boston Celtics' 2016 Draft Picks
3Jaylen Brown, SF, Cal
16Guerschon Yabusele, PF, France
23Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
31Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State (traded to MEM)
35Rade Zagorac, SF, Serbia (traded to MEM)
45Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
51Ben Bentil, PF, Providence
58Abdel Nader, SF, Iowa State

The draft is nothing if not a crapshoot, so it's entirely too early to write off any of these players. But that's not really the point.

This is about what the Celtics didn't do. They didn't swing a deal, and all indications are that they never even got close to one that would have appreciably altered their fortunes in the coming season. This, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, was as good as it got:

Meh, right?

You could argue Robert Covington's shooting and Nerlens Noel's defensive potential could have helped the Celtics improve a bit. But that unconsummated deal was hardly a put-you-over-the-top move. Any additional picks likely would have been as unsatisfying to optimistic Celtics fans as the ones Boston made later in the draft.

Owner Wyc Grousbeck was direct in stating his team never fielded any better offers, via CBS Sports' Adam Kaufman:

Adam Kaufman @AdamMKaufman

Wyc Grousbeck: "We did not SNIFF a trade today. It was a collection of rip-off attempts, and we laughed at them." #Celtics owner heated.

That, of course, didn't save him from the wrath of a fanbase that expected more:

Hey, we get it. Ever since the Celtics hauled in picks from the Brooklyn Nets during the 2013 teardown deal that sent away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, it seemed like a matter of time until something big materialized. The hope, stoked frequently in recent years by the pairing of the terms "Danny Ainge" and "aggressive," was that there'd eventually be a trade significant enough to take the Celtics out of the mid-tier playoff picture and move them closer to serious contention.

Picking Brown at No. 3 is perfectly defensible, especially if we take the Celtics at their word that there just weren't any reasonable trade opportunities. He is talented, but he's a rookie and won't be a star right away. You could argue he's a little duplicative with Jae Crowder around, but it's hard to make the case anyone can ever have too many Crowders.

And when you've got a ridiculous eight picks to make, stashing the likes of Yabusele and possibly Zizic makes sense, too.

Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, said as much to reporters two weeks before the draft: "I think that all of those things are on the table, and we need to look at all of those. I think [head coach] Brad [Stevens] asked in his contract extension to not have eight rookies this year. I think that was specifically written in."

If Boston couldn't turn three or four middling picks into one good one, stashing some and trading others was always going to be a must.

An asset is only worth what somebody's willing to pay for it. If the Celtics couldn't find someone to give them what they wanted for all those picks, if the right market conditions didn't exist—hey, at least they didn't swing a bad deal just for the sake of doing something.

And it's not as though inaction on draft night forecloses the possibility of the big trade everyone wants to see.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The Sacramento Kings went a little wild (as they do), drafting a bunch of centers onto a roster that already had too many. Maybe that positional glut means the long-anticipated DeMarcus Cousins trade is on the horizon. Or maybe the Celtics could swoop into the stalled talks between the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves to snatch Jimmy Butler.

Boston didn't make the big swap many thought it would, but it's not exactly in bad shape.

And though talk of more assets almost feels cruel at this point, it's still got swap rights on the Brooklyn Nets' 2017 first-rounder and outright ownership of the Nets' top selection in 2018. There'll be plenty more chances to make a splash—the next two drafts look far stronger than this one, and Brooklyn looks to be just as bad as it was this season.

In the meantime, the Celtics can stay patient, loaded and competitive.

There are worse fates.

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