BOSTON – For the first time in NBA Draft Lottery history on Tuesday night, the selection process went according to plan.

That was both good and bad news for the Boston Celtics, who maintained their No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft (via Brooklyn). While the franchise avoided adding to their long list of past lottery nightmares, the streak of lottery appearances in which the Celtics have not improved their predraft lottery standing was extended to ten.

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That fact was made a bit more painful once the Celtics had a chance to dream big about landing a top-two pick for a few brief moments during a commercial break during the broadcast before the top-three was revealed.

“I think the buildup, once we weren’t sixth and we weren’t five and we weren’t four, there was a lot of hope that we could get a good pick,” Ainge said. “But we’ll take [the No. 3 pick]. We’ll give Isaiah [Thomas, the Celtics representative on stage at Barclays Center] a passing grade. We’ll keep him.”


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With the hopes of landing a Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons likely dashed, the tough part now comes for Boston’s brass: What the heck are they going to do with the No. 3 pick?

The easy answer is to trade it, but that’s where plenty of uncertainty lies when it comes to its value. Without the prospect of dangling a player like Ingram or Simmons to potential suitors, the idea that the No. 3 pick can be the centerpiece of a trade for a star the Celtics are looking for has to be a concern.

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That reality is complicated by the fact that one other team that will be likely chasing those stars (the LA Lakers) are picking from the No. 2 spot in the 2016 NBA Draft. That choice, combined with a young core of talent (Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson), could give the Lakers the inside track over Boston in landing a star like DeMarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler if either is made available.

The good news is that the Celtics have still stockpiled enough assets over the past three years to keep them in the mix for any trade scenario, but owning the third pick will force them to dig deeper into those assets to keep pace with a bidder like the Lakers, since the dropoff in value from No. 2 to No. 3 is substantial.


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So while the price of doing business with teams just went up, it’s still may be a bit optimistic to believe that someone out of the Cousins/Butler/Blake Griffin bunch will even be made available by their respective teams in a deal this summer.

What Ainge does in that scenario (no big names being dealt) will have a dramatic effect on his team’s rebuilding timeline. Does he move the pick for a proven veteran (non-star) in hopes of making the Celtics a more appealing destination in free agency? Or is the allure of a player with high potential upside (like Dragan Bender or Jamal Murray) at No. 3 outweigh the patience needed to let a 19-year-old develop on a roster that’s built to win 50-plus games now.

There are no clear answers to any of these questions on May 18, meaning the Celtics’ brass have a busy month-plus ahead of them as they try to formulate a successful offseason gameplan.

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