By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft has arrived. In November.
We’re used to wearing shorts and t-shirts around Boston when this day usually arrives, but as we’ve come to learn, nothing is usual in 2020. Instead of teams playing games tonight, they’ll be making draft picks to shape the future of their franchise.
Or in the Celtics’ case this year, they’ll be looking to trade away a trio of first-round picks. And potentially one of their top four players in Gordon Hayward. Boston should be busy on Wednesday.
Danny Ainge has three first-round selections and a second-round pick at his disposal tonight, but don’t expect him to make all of those picks. If he does, things will have gone terribly wrong for Boston.
The Celtics simply don’t have room on the roster for four rookies. They barely have enough room for two. And for a team in win-now mode, it’d be a lot nicer if these picks can somehow turn into a veteran scorer for the bench. Draft picks are worth the world in the NBA — until it comes time to use them as draft picks.
There is a lot that could happen with the Celtics, but there is a lot that probably won’t happen with the Celtics. Will Ainge be able to swing a deal or two or three later this evening? Here’s a quick breakdown of what he and the Celtics are working with.
The 2020 NBA Draft will be held virtually, with picks set to start coming off the board around 8 p.m. Here is Boston’s collection of picks — for now:
No. 14 — First Round (from Memphis Grizzlies)
No. 26 — First Round (own selection)
No. 30 — First Round (from Milwaukee Bucks)
No. 47 — Second Round
It’s pretty easy to see what needs the Celtics have to address this offseason. They have needed a scorer off the bench for years, and that should be No. 1 on the list. Maybe they can find someone at No. 14 to do that right away, but a veteran would be a much better option. That would mean snagging one via trade or free agency (on the bargain bin).
Another need is at point guard depth, which is all the more important given Kemba Walker’s health. Maybe Boston’s new backup point guard could also fill that “scorer off the bench” role. Asking a rookie to man the second unit is always an iffy proposition, but they’ve got to learn somewhere.
And then there is center, which is always a need for the Celtics. Boston currently has Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter (if he opts in), Robert Williams III and Vincent Poirier on the depth chart, but that could use an upgrade. Williams remains a promising young big man, and we finally got to see glimpses of what he can do last season, so there is some young upside on the roster. Theis remains one of the best bargains in the league, one that many want to upgrade for a more flashy — and expensive — option, but he does what he needs to do for the team and he does it well.
Still, it can never hurt to have another young big to develop. They don’t grow on trees, so any chance you have to land one, you take it.
As always with Ainge and the Celtics, there have been a lot of them. And as always with Ainge and the Celtics, they will probably mean nothing in the end.
We’ve heard that the C’s would like to package their three first-round picks and turn it into something much better — like the No. 6 pick. We’ll see if the Atlanta Hawks — a team looking to jump into “win-now” mode — would rather have three young players over one of the top picks.
We heard about the C’s trying to turn those three picks into a Top 10 pick to then swing to New Orleans for Jrue Holiday, but the guard is now in Milwaukee, which is a damn shame. We’ve even had a James Harden rumors that doesn’t make much sense.
The most fascinating — and most likely to happen — is a trade involving Hayward. He now has until Thursday to decide on his player option for next season, giving the Celtics and Hayward’s camp extra time to find a trade both sides agree upon. The latest rumblings have the Atlanta Hawks interested in a sign-and-trade for Hayward, but if that doesn’t work out Atlanta has the cap space to sign Hayward outright if he opts for free agency on Thursday.
At this point, the Celtics getting nothing for Hayward would be a huge disappointment. It would also open another hole on the roster, considering Hayward is a great player, even if many don’t like to admit it.
So we’re likely heading for a night of waiting in grand anticipation for something — anything — to happen. Hayward is getting a lot of attention, but moving the picks is also pretty important for Ainge. It may come down to who is available at 14, 26 and 30 for teams to jump into trade talks. Consolidating the picks this year would be great, but Ainge doesn’t have any future first-round selections in a treasure chest anymore, so he could always address that vast emptiness with the latter two picks.
It’s fun to think about trading up into the Top 10 or adding a veteran with those picks, but let’s pretend for a minute that reality will become reality. The Celtics should have some decent options at No. 14, even if this is seen as a top-heavy draft that isn’t great overall.
We’ve heard a lot about Villanova’s Saddiq Bey, a versatile 3-and-D man who can score in a number of ways. RJ Hampton would also be an intriguing pick at No. 14 after he bypassed the NCAA and played in New Zealand last year. Hampton could provide that scoring pop off the bench that Boston seeks.
If Ainge wants a big man with Boston’s first pick, Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa is a name we’ve heard a lot about — and not just because of that unique name. He’s an energic big that can rebound and defend the rim. He’d be a fine fit off the Boston bench in Year 1. If Ainge is thinking offense-first with whatever big man he takes, Maryland’s Jalen Smith could be his pick.
For a deeper look at whom the Celtics could draft with their three first-round picks, check out our final Mock Draft Roundup.