By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There were no fireworks for the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. As usual, all the pre-NBA Draft smoke surrounding the team dissipated without anything big going off.
It’s always a bit disappointing when the days and weeks leading up to the draft are filled with endless rumors that amount to nothing, and the anger usually grows when everything the Celtics were in on but couldn’t pull off gets leaked out. And, yes, that is really annoying. We get it, Danny, you explore everything and you like to let us know it.
But Celtics fans should be used to this by now, and with that quick vent session complete, we’ll now tell you that the Celtics did indeed address two very important needs with the team’s two first-round picks on Wednesday evening: Shooting, and more shooting. And they are far from done when it comes to tinkering with the roster, with the real work set to begin on Thursday (Gordon Hayward’s new deadline day) and Friday (NBA FREE AGENCY SEASON!!!).
But before we dive into the next steps of the offseason, let’s look back at everything the Celtics did and didn’t do at the 2020 NBA Draft.
First up, here’s everything that Ainge was able to accomplish on Wednesday night:
Ainge picked up a pure shooter with Boston’s first pick, taking Vanderbilt small forward Aaron Nesmith 14th overall. The kid can light it up from deep, hitting 52 percent of his threes last season, and should be able to make a difference off the Boston bench as a rookie.
“He could outshoot most of our guys right now. Well, Jayson Tatum might have something to say about that though,” Ainge said with a chuckle after the draft.
What was the biggest need for the Celtics last season? More shooting. Nesmith will be an immediate help in that department.
Given Kemba Walker’s health issues, adding another point guard this offseason was on Ainge’s Must-Do list. He took care of that with his second first-round pick, adding a kid who served as the floor general for the Oregon Ducks the last four years.
Pritchard has a lot of experience and brings a “winning attitude” to Boston, which fans are going to absolutely love. The 22-year-old averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game during his senior season, taking home Pac-12 Player of the Year honors along with the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best collegiate point guard in the nation.
“Payton is a guy that I’ve been attracted to the way he plays,” said Ainge. “He brings a great intensity, even as a freshman. Watching his development into his senior year, when he carried more of an offensive load, I think he can play in any system with any players. I love how he plays with pace and makes the guys run. He gets the ball up the court very quickly, and that will be a help to get the other guys up the court very quickly. He’s a fun player and we’re very excited to get him.”
Pritchard can shoot as well, knocking down 47 percent of his shots as a senior and 44 percent overall during his college career.
With Pritchard in the mix, restricted free agent Brad Wannamaker probably won’t be back next season.
– Traded Pick No. 30 For Two Future Picks
It took a while, but the Celtics finally pulled off a trade at the end of the first round. The C’s roster has no room for a third rookie, and with no draft-and-stash options when their turn came up at No. 30, Ainge dealt the pick to Memphis for a pair of future second-round picks.
Hey, it was something.
– Drafted Yam Madar At No. 47
Boston did get a draft-and-stash player with its final pick, taking 6-foot-3 point guard Yam Madar in the second round. Madar, 19, has played the last three years in Isreal for Hapoel Tel Aviv, and is an energetic two-way player with some blistering speed.
Ainge said that Madar would play overseas for at least one more season.
Takeaway: The Celtics were able to add two players who can make shots and provide some pop off the bench. Shooting — especially shooting in the second unit — was a giant need for Boston this offseason, and they snagged a few players who should be able to help in that department right away. After years of drafting players that have needed to develop their shot, it’s refreshing to have a pair of rookies that can come in and put the ball in the hoop.
Ainge said that they were involved in some trade talks, but in the end, one of the guys they wanted was available when their turn came up.
“We were just trying to take the best players available. We feel like we got two really good players,” Ainge said of Nesmith and Pritchard. “Great people, two really mature kids. Aaron is a great shooter with good size, and we felt he was the best guy we could get there. Payton is a fun player, a four-year college player who can step in and play in the NBA in my opinion.
“I didn’t want to add four rookies. I think two is about the right number,” Ainge added.
What Boston Didn’t Do…
Fans get so mad when they hear a bunch of rumors that don’t come to fruition, and none of the rumors that we heard leading up the draft came to fruition.
– We heard rumors of Boston trying to trade into the Top 10, and then Wednesday morning, that was upgraded to Ainge trying to trade into the Top 3. No dice.
“There was a lot of trade discussion before the draft, so I think we anticipated there to be more during the draft,” Ainge said. “There was a lot of discussion but not anything that was really tempting for us in the first part of the draft. It was not as eventful as we thought, but we did have some discussions about moving up and then about moving back.”
None of it happened.
There was also a report that the Celtics talked with the Warriors about a swap for the No. 2 overall pick, with Marcus Smart’s name coming up in that talk, but many believe that was an exploratory conversation that ended fairly quickly.
– The Celtics didn’t get Clippers guard Landry Shamet in a trade, and that is a bit disappointing. He would have been perfect for the bench. It’s even worse that he’s now going to Brooklyn.
Luke Kennard to LA Clippers, Landry Shamet to the Nets, Pistons with another pick at 19. Shamet was in discussions for a bigger deal with the Celtics days ago, according to sources
— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) November 19, 2020
– The Celtics didn’t add a young big man, which is a bit surprising. It’s a crowded bunch at the moment with Daniel Theis, Robert Williams III, Vincent Poirier and Tacko Fall, with Enes Kanter currently in limbo with a player option.
With free agency set to begin, not to mention potential trade options with Gordon Hayward, a new big man may be coming to Boston in the very near future.
– We’re still waiting for a solution to the Gordon Hayward drama. He’s still in limbo with a 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday to pick up or decline his player option for next season. He initially had a 5 p.m. deadline on Tuesday, but Hayward and the C’s agreed to move it a few days.
There are a few options on this front. The C’s and Hayward are probably looking for a sign-and-trade, one that leaves both parties happy. The could also be working on an extension that will give Hayward more years in Boston, and the Celtics a little more financial flexibility. Or, if Hayward doesn’t like any of those options, he can simply opt out and the Celtics get nothing to show for it.
Ainge didn’t comment on the Hayward situation after the draft, adding that the Celtics would start working on free agency on Thursday.
“A lot to get done in a short period of time. A lot to prepare for in free agency,” he said.
Wednesday night was just the beginning to what should be a short — but busy — offseason for the Celtics. There is just over a month until the new NBA season begins on Dec. 22.