Celtics fans who were gearing up for the NBA Draft suddenly find themselves staring at a relatively quiet offseason on that front. Boston held the No. 16 overall pick in this year’s draft, but shipped it away to the Thunder so the C’s could get financial flexibility with Kemba Walker’s contract off the books.
There were plenty of intriguing prospects in this year’s draft who could be a part of the Celtics’ future. But the Thunder elected to absorb another bad contract to up their draft capital. It’s a strange spot for Boston, which had been stacking up assets in the past several years — especially in the draft.
But C’s president Brad Stevens said Monday dealing Walker now was done specifically because of the timing of the move and draft. And that should bode well for the future: The Celtics didn’t have to dip into any future draft assets to deal Walker’s contract. Stevens said that was a major emphasis as the Celtics look toward the future, keeping not only financial freedom but also draft equity.
“We felt that one of things we wanted was the ability to be unencumbered moving forward and kind of have a road ahead,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of things that we have to address appropriately and this is really hard.”
The NBA Draft order was finally unveiled Tuesday with the lottery balls bouncing toward the Pistons, who own the No. 1 overall pick and a chance at Cade Cunningham. The Rockets are at second, Cavaliers at third and Raptors at fourth to round out the top-4 of the draft.
The Celtics still have the No. 45 overall pick in the second round, so it’s not completely bare. It’s just extremely lean compared to past years, when the pick swaps and trades were plentiful as Boston picked up plenty of intriguing pieces.
But the Celtics are at the point where they already have a few mid-first round picks from the past few years, who they’re hoping will take the next step. Guys like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford are intriguing wings, both of whom showed promise near the end of last season.
The Celtics also received a hopeful project in Moses Brown in the Thunder trade, almost taking the place of the first overall pick. Brown, 21, averaged 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season in his first real taste of consistent minutes in the NBA. Brown could be an intriguing piece going forward, which Stevens noted as he called the 7-foot-2 big an “upside player.”
“We had to look at it with the idea of moving that first-round pick this year,” Stevens said. “It gave us the opportunity to look at a road a head with a few more options, from the financial flexibility standpoint, with the picks, all of our future first-round picks past this year, which give you more options.”
Could the Celtics consider trading into the first?
The Celtics don’t have a first-round pick after Tuesday’s draft lottery, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be completely quiet during the draft. There are multiple options to deal for a first-round pick — especially if a prospect they like falls further than expected.
It’s still difficult to gauge how many assets Stevens is willing to give up if the Celtics do make some type of draft-day trades. It’s unlikely, as Stevens pointed out, that they give up any future draft capital since they do want to keep their options open.
Perhaps it’s more likely the Celtics end up going for a second-round pick that holds some intrigue. There are always a few players who slip through the ranks then end up being legitimate NBA players.
A stashed product
The Celtics have a hole at point guard after their Kemba Walker trade, leaving Marcus Smart as the only realistic option there. Al Horford’s playmaking abilities will certainly help, but Boston can use a pass-first guard who complements Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Perhaps the C’s will be interested in calling up Yam Madar, the No. 47 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Madar, the draft-and-stash guard, holds some intrigue while playing in the Israel Premier League, where he became the youngest ever to win the league’s Most Improved Player award.
The 6-foot-3 point guard could be a cheap option as a backup while also upping the youth and interest. He’s not completely undersized at his height, which is a nice change-of-pace after the C’s employed quite a few of those players last season (Walker, Carsen Edwards, Payton Pritchard, Tremont Waters).
But Madar does fill a position of need for now, though the Celtics will likely address their point guard issues throughout the offseason.
A draft anniversary
The NBA calendar is still skewed because of the pandemic, though next season should be more back to normal. There was an amusing happenstance that came from that, though.
Tuesday was four years to the day Tatum was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. At least thus far, he’s been arguably the most successful player from his draft class — and he’s only getting better. It was also a reminder of how shrewd Danny Ainge was during that draft class, moving back from No. 1 to 3 so he could draft Tatum, get more draft capital and miss the Markelle Fultz pick, who hasn’t quite panned out in the NBA.