Robb: Five Takeaways From Celtics’ NBA Draft Night

Brian Robb joined Toucher & Rich in studio on Friday morning after the NBA Draft to break down everything that happened — and didn’t happen — for the Celtics. Listen above.

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston

BOSTON — Despite an endless slate of rumors, the Celtics ended up standing pat with all four of their picks on draft night. The team appears set on keeping the No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum, while a fresh influx of second-round picks will be fighting for spots at the bottom of the C’s roster this summer.

What did we learn beyond the fact the Celtics will have a loaded summer league team for the third straight season? Let’s examine some takeaways from draft night.

1. The Celtics weren’t in love with Jimmy Butler.
One All-Star name that was endlessly linked to the Celtics in past two seasons was sent packing to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a very underwhelming price. The package of Kris Dunn (who looked unimpressive in his rookie year), Zach LaVine (coming off a torn ACL) and the No. 7 overall pick could have been easily topped by the Celtics. However, Danny Ainge wasn’t sold on investing assets in the now-former Bulls wing. With max cap space to target Gordon Hayward in free agency, Ainge was content to hold on to his key young pieces rather than team up the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Butler.

It’s the second time Ainge has turned down Butler in his career (he chose JaJuan Johnson over him in 2011 on draft night)

2. Jayson Tatum was the top player on the Celtics’ board.
Ainge hinted at this fact at a conference call this week and confirmed on Thursday night that had the Celtics held onto the No. 1 pick, Tatum would have been the choice.

“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting,” Ainge explained. “Intelligence, character. There’s a lot to like about Jayson; he’s going to be a terrific player. As are the other group of guys as well.”

The fact that the Celtics were able to pick up a potential top 5 pick next season and still get the top player on their board bodes well for the C’s asset management.

3. The Celtics’ collection of assets may be working against them in trade talks.
After swinging and missing on making a draft night deal for one more year, Ainge admitted that the Celtics might be getting squeezed by rivals in trade talks.

“There’s some truth in that,” Ainge told reporters. “I think you’re spot-on there a little bit. I mean, I know when I’m trying to do deals with teams, and I’m looking — Oh, I’m going to call that team because they have something I’m really excited about. I think people around the league know what we have and they are asking for some of our prime real estate.”

And was that a specific issue on Thursday night as the Celtics tried to wheel and deal?

“I don’t know,” Ainge declared. “I think over the last few trading periods, it’s been a little bit of a hurdle. Bottom line, we have to do the deals we really believe in. I think our team is on board with the ones we turn down and the ones we pursue longer and think more about. I think that we’re all on the same page, so we’ll continue to find the right deals.”

4. Rave reviews are coming in on the second-round picks.
There may not be room for them on the roster ultimately, but the Celtics landed some players with high upside in the second round, according to the experts. Semi Ojeleye was projected to go at No. 22 by Draftexpress and put up impressive offensive numbers at SMU last season.

“We were very excited that he was still there,” Ainge said. “We’re big fans. He’s a great kid, has a great work ethic. Again, very high character. He can shoot and we needed a guy like him. You know, sometimes when we didn’t have a guy like Jae Crowder, it got thin at both positions and it gives us more depth and a 245-pound body that can make 3’s.”

Arizona guard Kadeem Allen went at No. 53 and had some scouts raving about him like he was a first-round pick.

It’s unclear if either of those two or Jabari Bird will end up on the final roster, but they should provide some healthy competition to an already-talented summer league roster this July.

5. Josh Jackson didn’t want to be a Celtic.
Ainge confirmed the Kansas small forward cancelled a workout for the Celtics in California earlier this month. He also refused to work out for the team this week after they moved down to No. 3. The avoidance didn’t take him out of the running for Boston, but it did leave a sour taste in Ainge’s mouth at times.

“We never talked with Josh,” Ainge said. “No one in our organization did. I know someone wrote something that was different, but that’s not the case. They cancelled a workout on us when we flew out to Sacramento and they just decided to cancel it as we flew – as Brad [Stevens] and I and Mike Zarren flew cross-country. So there was something that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics.

“In spite of that, we watched Josh for two years and we’re fans. He’s a terrific kid and a good player. So we tried not to overreact to those kinds of things and make a big deal of it. Agents and players have all sorts of motivations to get to certain places, as we’ve seen in the past. Remember last year, Kris Dunn didn’t want to come here. We didn’t hold it against him. We just felt like we were taking the player that we wanted. And I think the same thing this time. I don’t think we were trying to penalize Josh too much. But we didn’t have – we didn’t get to see him or talk to him face to face.”

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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