With all of their attempts to trade into the top of the Draft denied and Gordon Hayward still in flux, the Boston Celtics had to stick to the script in Wednesday night’s NBA Draft.
Though Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, had said earlier in the week that “need is a bad evaluator,” the team still managed to address a pressing need by picking Aaron Nesmith with the 14th pick.
The Vanderbilt guard was generally considered the best shooter on the Draft board. He shot an other-worldly 52.2 percent from 3-point range last season, though he was sidelined for good 14 games into the season due to a foot injury.
Known for his fluid ability off screens with an average of 4.3 3-pointers made per game (8.2 attempts), the young wing comes with a much-needed skill for a team that suffered through long scoring droughts in the playoffs due to lack of offensive depth.
“Trying to earn myself from the second I walk in the door,” he told ESPN following his selection. “It’s a dream come true. Every kid dreams of this moment from the time they’re 8-years-old.”
The Celtics then went for a point guard, Oregon’s Peyton Pritchard, Pac12 Player of the Year, with the 26th pick.
The Draft order was shaken when Chicago took Florida State forward Patrick Williams with the fourth pick, sending several players into a free fall, including Tyrese Haliburton and Deni Avdija, two of the best playmakers on the board.
The Celtics, in contrast, had to resort to their most conventional plan. Asked just prior to the Draft if a Hayward deal was still possible last night, a league source replied, “don’t think so.”
The NBA earth, in the meantime, was shifting around them.
Al Horford, after leaving Boston to sign with Philadelphia a seeming eternity ago, was traded to Oklahoma City along with first and second round Draft picks for Danny Green according to an ESPN report. Green, in turn, is about to play for his fourth NBA team since 2018.
With Chris Paul a Sun, James Harden and Russell Westbrook trying to get out the door in Houston and, according to an Athletic report, the sign-and-trade of Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento to Milwaukee was held up for a curious reason. The agreement was apparently reached without the restricted free agent’s permission.
This is the swirl Danny Ainge went into as the Celtics president searched for a way, according to multiple reports, to deal his way into the top three of the Draft.
Hayward had reached a Horford-like crossroads, his decision on a $34.1-million option pushed back to this afternoon as the Celtics searched for a way to get something back for the power forward without losing him outright.
And oh yes, they had three first-round Draft picks and a late second rounder — way too many after last year’s Draft haul — to worry about.
But barring the ability to move up by leveraging the 14th, 26th and 30th picks — and maybe Hayward — for premium Draft position, the Celtics had a lot of space to fill.
The impact of COVID considered, the evaluation process was more difficult this time around.
And according to Austin Ainge, the strange nature of this Draft field considered, with a similar caliber of player available from roughly picks No. 10 through 20, it was especially difficult to determine how other teams valued players.
“It’s usually pretty hard. There’s some times when you might have an idea on the first one or two,” he said.
“But, after that, you may have some rumors or inklings or something we feel moderately confident will happen, but it’s never enough to take it to the bank.”
“I remember we felt decently confident we knew how it would go in the top couple in the Jayson Tatum Draft, but most of the time that’s even hard,” Austin Ainge continued.
“It’s not something you usually count on when you’re trying to trade up in Drafts, let’s say to even the fifth pick or eighth pick or 12th pick.
“You really don’t know, so you just either wait until it’s on the clock or you have multiple guys you like so you’re fine with whoever is left.”
Though a league source noted earlier this week that the Celtics were intent on drafting another big man with the 14th pick, Ainge downplayed the urge to draft for weakness.
“As they say, need is a bad evaluator,” he said.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.