Feeling a draft
June, 27, 2013
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Oh, hey, NBA Draft. You sorta sneaked up on us this year with all the chaos surrounding the Doc Rivers saga the past few weeks in Boston. Let's set the table for tonight's big event (7 p.m., ESPN):
* THE PICK(S): The Celtics currently own just one selection in this year's draft, No. 16 overall (based on their win-loss record from the 2012-13 season). At one point, Boston owned two second-round picks (its own and one as compensation from Oklahoma City after Jeff Green missed the entire 2011-12 season due to a heart ailment), but it traded both of those selections away as part of a three-team, sign-and-trade deal that landed Courtney Lee last summer.
* THE NEEDS: This isn't a particularly easy one to answer. While the Celtics currently have 14 of the 15 players from the end-of-season roster under contract for next year, there's the very real possibility of an overhaul that could usher in a rebuilding process after Rivers' departure. If Boston did elect to bring back its veteran core and much of last year's personnel, its targets would likely be point guard and center. Both of those spots were glaring needs last year, especially serviceable ball-handling after Rajon Rondo was lost due to an ACL tear. The Celtics also needed legitimate size last season, which could have taken some wear-and-tear off Kevin Garnett after he was forced to log extended minutes at the center position as Boston leaned on smaller lineups. If the Celtics do plan to rip up their roster, then they would likely just target the best available body when they make their selection as talent overrides need at that point (and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge often subscribes to that theory regardless of need).
* ON THE MOVE? The general consensus on this draft is that it's a little weaker than usual at the top, but there's good value in the middle of the first round. There's a belief that, after the top 10, it gets very murky and the talent drafted in the teens might be comparable to the talent available early in the second round. It makes you wonder if the Celtics, who worked out a noteworthy amount of second-round talent in pre-draft sessions, might consider shuffling back a bit and picking up additional picks (either this year or in the future) if a team desired to move up to its spot. If Boston isn't overwhelmed by what's available at No. 16, it might be better off trying to attract a future pick as it stockpiles for the rebuilding process. As Ainge told the Associated Press this week: "I think it's a fairly deep draft. I just don't think it's a star-laden draft. I definitely think there are some good role players in the draft."
* EYES ON THE CAPTAIN: By now you know the story with Celtics captain Paul Pierce. His contract for the 2013-14 season is only $5 million guaranteed until June 30, which means Boston could save roughly $10.3 million by waiving him before that point (it won't offer much in salary cap relief, but could help the team avoid the luxury line). That nonguaranteed money might also open up additional trade options, which already existed because, even with a full $15.3 million salary for next season, Pierce is an attractive option for a contender (especially as an expiring deal). All of which is to say that there's some additional intrigue about whether Pierce's name could be involved in any draft-night deal. There's still a good chance that Boston will simply allow the June 30 deadline to pass and examine options this summer (which could include bringing Pierce back and, should Boston not be a contender, examining trade options at the February trade deadline when his value might be even greater to those looking to stock up for a playoff push).
* NAMES TO WATCH: If the Celtics keep their No. 16 pick, it might mean that a big man like Pittsburgh's Steven Adams, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, or Duke's Mason Plumlee is their target (or the team could move back a bit if teams are worried about the knees of Louisville's Gorgui Dieng). If Boston looks for a point guard, the options might include Miami's Shane Larkin or Germany's Dennis Schroeder. UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad is an intriguing option if he slides, while an overseas player like 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo could allow Boston to save some money next season if he was stashed in Greece while continuing to develop. Providence shooting guard Ricky Ledo, and Missouri point guard Phil Pressey (the son of former Celtics assist coach Paul Pressey).