BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics own the sixth and 17th overall picks in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, but you may as well flip a coin to figure out if Danny Ainge actually uses them.
Ainge has had hits and misses over the course of his career in the draft, but you always have to pay attention because you never know when he has a blockbuster trade in the works. Ainge’s record shows that he’s never afraid to make a draft night trade, as he’s done five times in his 11 years at the helm, and some would argue he prefers trading for veterans over using his picks.
The Celtics have welcomed a truckload of prospects in for workouts this summer, from potential sixth overall picks like Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle, to the bevy of hopefuls at 17 like T.J. Warren, Shabazz Nappier, and P.J. Hairston.
But with all those workouts, there have been just as many trade rumors. Kevin Love is still in the mix, though the latest reports have Golden State as the favorites, and there are probably a handful of trades Ainge has discussed behind closed doors that haven’t leaked out.
The Celtics also do not have a second round pick, which is where Ainge tends to make the most out of selections. Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe and Glen Davis are just a few examples, so don’t expect Ainge to sit back after the 17th pick — if they choose to use it.
Sometimes the best way to predict the future is to look in the past (pretty deep, we know), so here is a look at Ainge’s draft nights since he took over the Celtics in 2003.
Danny Ainge made a draft night trade for the fifth time in his tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations in 2013, moving up three spots to land Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk. The Mavericks selected the seven-footer for the Celtics with the 13th overall pick, and then received the rights to Lucas Nogueira (drafted 16th overall) and two future second round picks in return. Being the NBA though, the trade couldn’t be formally announced until after Nogueria was selected, so the kid had to walk up on stage and attempt to put on a Celtics hat despite the fact he knew he was heading to Dallas (and then later in the evening, the Atlanta Hawks). And at least Olynyk’s hair is almost as entertaining as Nogueira’s.
Though 13th overall was a little high for Olynyk according to all the experts, he put together a solid rookie season. In 70 games (nine starts) Olynyk averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He played in the Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weekend, and finished the season strong by averaging 12 points and six rebounds per game over the final 22 games of the season. He closed his rookie year with three straight 20+ point games, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team.
Ainge also grabbed a seven-footer in the second round, sending cash considerations to the Indiana Pacers for Colton Iverson out of Colorado State. Iverson did not play for the Celtics last season, instead heading to Turkey to play full-time, but the team is hoping he can become a role player in the NBA.
The Celtics owned two first-round picks in 2012, their own at 21st and 22nd (from the Thunder, via the Clippers, as part of the Jeff Green trade) overall, and Ainge went for two big-men with HUGE question marks.
Ainge took Jared Sullinger 21st overall, who would have been a top five pick in the 2011 draft if he had declared after his freshman season. He put up 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Ohio State, but back issues dropped his draft stock drastically and he fell to the Celtics. Sullinger played in 45 games as a rookie, averaging six points and six rebounds per game until his back pain became too much and required surgery.
In his second NBA season Sullinger took a few big steps forward, averaging 13.3 points and eight rebounds per game, often playing out of position at center. He also added a three-point shot to his arsenal, though he only shot 27 percent from beyond the arc. With the back surgery behind him, it looks like Sullinger will be a solid pro for years to come, or some very good trade bait for Ainge.
The same cannot be said for Boston’s second first-round selection in 2012, center Fab Melo from Syracuse. Melo came out of school as a seven-footer who could not rebound, and his two biggest claims to fame are breaking a folding chair and suffering a concussion after walking into a door frame — not exactly what you’re looking for from a first round pick.
Melo did have some success with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League, but played just 36 minutes for the Celtics. Ainge pulled the cord on the Melo experiment last August, sending him to Memphis Grizzlies for a player who never played a minute for the Celtics. Melo was cut by Memphis and signed with the Dallas Mavericks, but was waived before the season started. He played for the Texas Stampede of the NBADL last season, and could go down as one of Ainge’s worst picks in the draft.
Not to be forgotten from the 2012 Celtics draft class is Kris Joseph, who they took 51st overall. Joseph, also out of Syracuse, spent most of his rookie season with the Maine Red Claws (though avoided walking into any doors) and was waived in January 2013.
Ainge was wheeling and dealing again on draft night in 2011, drafting MarShon Brooks 25th overall before sending him to New Jersey in exchange for power forward JaJuan Johnson (selected 27th overall) and a 2014 second round pick. But the 6-10 product from Purdue never really did much with the Celtics, appearing in just 36 games as a rookie, and was sent to the Houston Rockets as part of a three-team trade that landed the Celtics guard Courtney Lee in July 2012.
One Boilermaker wasn’t enough for Ainge that draft night though, as he also selected guard E’Twaun Moore 55th overall. Moore had a better Celtics career than Johnson, playing in 38 games and averaging nearly three points over eight minutes per game. He too was sent to Houston in the Courtney Lee trade, and then went on to have success with the Orlando Magic. Moore has averaged 7.1 points on 41 percent shooting over the last two seasons with the Magic.
With the 19th overall pick, Ainge drafted freshman guard Avery Bradley out of Texas. Some feel if Bradley stayed in school for another year, he could have been a top prospect in a weaker 2011 draft. He played just 31 games as a rookie in 2010, but emerged as a solid defender in his sophomore season. Bradley took over for Ray Allen in the C’s starting lineup during the regular season, and played well during the Celtics playoff run until a pair of shoulder injuries forced him to miss the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals.
Health has always been a concern with Bradley, but when they’re both healthy he forms a very talented duo of guards with Rajon Rondo. The 23-year-old is a restricted free agent this off-season, so the Celtics can match any offer sheet, but Bradley is looking for a raise and long-term security.
Ainge also selected forward Luke Harangody out of Notre Dame in 2010 with the 52nd overall pick. An undersized big-man, Ainge went with the four-year college player who had a lot of success playing in the Big East. Harangody showed some flashes when given the opportunity, but was shipped to Cleveland with Semih Erden at the trade deadline to clear roster spots for future veteran additions.
The Celtics did not own a first round pick, sending it to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade (28th overall, used to select guard Wayne Ellington). Ainge drafted guard Lester Hudson with the 58th pick, who did not play much during his time in Boston. He appeared in just 16 games for the Celtics, averaging 1.4 points in 4.4 minutes, before being waived in January 2011. He was claimed by the Memphis Grizzlies, but later waived by them as well. He’s bounced between the NBA and China over the last two seasons. (Continued)