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Back in June 1989, the Celtics were coming off two strong drafts in the previous two seasons. They had drafted both Reggie Lewis and Brian Shaw late in the 1st round in 1987 and 1988 respectively. For the 1989 draft, the Celtics own pick would be the highest it had been in years due to Larry Bird's injury during the season. The Celtics had the #13 pick and passed on a point guard who would have a tremendous career in Tim Hardaway and a young athletic freak in Shawn Kemp, who at his peak was a top 5 NBA player. Instead the Celtics drafted Michael Smith, who was old for a rookie (24), was tall, and could shoot from the outside well, but was un-athletic and had short arms. Smith was a bust.

Another short armed, un-athletic, good
shooter drafted by the Celtics at #13
Fast forward 24 years later and we saw the Celtics draft again at #13. Again the player was a tall guy who could shoot. An older rookie with limited athleticism and short arms. Danny Ainge would go on to warn that we shouldn't expect Kelly Olynyk to become a star, that he's a complimentary piece. Summer League has the following disclaimer: You can't identify who belongs in the league by how well they play, but you can identify who doesn't belong in the league by how poorly they play. Olynyk impressed and drew unrealistic comparisons to Dirk Nowitski (just as Michael Smith had drawn even more unrealistic comparisons to Larry Bird 24 years earlier).

Of course now that the regular season has come along, Olynyk has so far proven to be severely overmatched on the defensive end and has struggled on the offensive end. Will Olynyk be a bust? Too early to tell. He just became a big man a couple years ago and he's only a rookie. I still believe he can be that complimentary piece Danny Ainge had described him as. I still believe he'll actually be a decent NBA player, unlike Michael Smith.

The other player most linked to the Celtics prior to the draft, Dennis Schröder, referred to as the "German Rondo" also looked great in Summer League action, but has been buried on the Hawks bench behind fellow point guard Jeff Teague. While Schröder has a much higher ceiling than Olynyk, we can't really know yet if he will develop into a player like Rondo or have a career similar to Tim Hardaway. The player that the Celtics passed on that is really wowing GM's and NBA observers is Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo just turned 19 last week. Bill Simmons calls him the "Greek Freak." Where as Olynkyk is unathletic and has short arms, Antetokounmpo has a huge wing span, huge hands, and is supremely athletic. He's also 3 and a half years younger than Olynyk.

Chad Ford had the following to say about Antetokounmpo today:
Every scout I spoke with before the draft thought he was a minimum of 2-3 years away. We all saw the potential, but it looked a LONG way off. He's starting seven weeks into the season and has played very well. Still has a long ways to go, but has the potential to be the best player in the 2013 draft.

Later when asked how Ford would re-draft 1-3 in the 2013 class right now, he responded with:
1. Antetokounmpo2. Oladipo3. Carter-Williams

You know who ended up being the best player in the 1989 NBA draft? Shawn Kemp, the super athletic teenager who was taken four spots after the Celtics picked. It's too early to say if Giannis will be another Kemp (He was described as a taller Scottie Pippen prior to the draft), but I think it's fair to say that Danny Ainge might have blown a huge opportunity to draft someone who could be much more than a "complimentary piece." Imagine those 90's Celtics teams with Shawn Kemp on them?

Imagine Kemp in Celtics green playing with Lewis, Bird, McHale, Parish, and Shaw

Now Danny Ainge apologists can argue, "Well a dozen other GM's also passed on Giannis," and while this is true a GM shouldn't be graded in my opinion based on what other idiots do. Ainge was the man making the pick. He scouted Giannis overseas. He scouted Schröder and Olynyk. He chose to try and hit a single with a complimentary piece like Olynyk, instead of going for a triple in Schröder or a homerun in Antetokounmpo. Whenever you have a chance to draft a guy at 13 who could end up being the best player in a draft you have to make that pick. You can sign complimentary players as free agents. Antetokounmpo's numbers as an 18 and 19 year old this season won't wow you (just as Kemp's didn't as a teenage rookie either), but it's worth noting that Ainge should be kicking himself right now.

Players like Michael Smith and Kelly Olynyk have very low ceilings in the NBA. So what if they are tall and can shoot? You don't shoot with the top of your head and you don't block shots with the top of your head either. Their short wingspans negate their height advantages. It's not Olynyk's fault the Celtics traded up to draft him, and like I said I still think he can have a solid NBA career, but after trading up, Ainge should have drafted the athletic teenage freak. Every Celtics fan if they could redo 1989 would have taken Kemp over Smith. Not sure why Ainge decided to repeat the mistake.

JR 12/23/2013 06:41:00 PM Edit
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