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Danny Ainge has been the Celtics' boss for 11 seasons, and that means that he has presided over the team for 11 NBA drafts. In that time, he has had both remarkable hits that helped lead the franchise to their 17th NBA title, and spectacular misses that helped prevent a potential 18th. 

But what were his five best and five worst picks? 

I went back and looked at every pick the Celtics have made since 2003, and analyzed how every pick performed against other players picked in that same spot. Today we'll break down the top five picks, and later this week we'll look at the bottom-five. 

I did include draft night trades as picks the Celtics made (example: Glen Davis was technically selected by the Sonics, but that pick was made for the Celtics, just as Jeff Green was picked by the Celtics for the Sonics). 

As for the metric I used, I settled on win shares per season. There is no perfect way to define a player's value, but win shares include their offensive and defensive impact, as well as how healthy they are. I then compared their win shares per season to the other players drafted in the same spot in the draft since 2003 (the Ainge era). I then figured out how much better these players were (percentage wise) than the average player in that spot. 

Let's get to it. 


Drafted: 27th overall in 2003

- 11 seasons in the league
- Twice finished in Top-10 in the league in blocks
- Career stats: 5.7 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.3 BPG
- Member of 2008 championship team
- Fan favorite, connoisseur of intangibles, hard screens and doing the dirty work

Career win shares: 27.8

Average win shares per season: 2.53

Other players picked 27th since 2003 (average): 1.54 WS/Season

Percentage better than average 27th pick: 64%

What a day for Perk. First he hit his first lay-up since 2010 (don't look this up just trust me) to tie Game 2 vs the Grizzlies at the buzzer, and now he comes in at #5 on this list. 

Perk was part of a draft night trade in 2003, as the Celtics swapped Troy Bell (perhaps the worst first round pick of all-time) for the big mean high schooler out of Texas. It was Ainge's first draft, and Perk was a really nice starting point. He became a rotation player in 2005-06, and took over as a full-time starter in 2007. Perk is one of the most beloved role players in Celtics history, and before his knee injury in the 2010 Finals, was one of the best defensive centers in the league. 



Drafted: 25th overall in 2004

- 10 seasons in the league
- 3 times on NBA All-Defensive team
- Career stats: 8.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 SPG
- Member of 2008 championship team
- Glue guy/defensive stopper for eight playoff teams in ten years

Career win shares: 29

Win shares per season: 2.90

Other players picked 25th since 2003 (average): 1.39 WS/season

Percentage better than average 25th pick: 109%

In Ainge's second draft in 2004, he had three first round picks, and made each of them count. The last of those three was Allen, a defensive whiz from Oklahoma State that had just led his team to the Final Four.

T.A. immediately stepped into the rotation for the Celtics, and despite a career threatening post-dunk knee injury in 2007, has had basically a decade long run of being an important part of good teams. Unfortunately Ainge undervalued Allen in the summer of 2010, letting him go to Memphis even though he only got $3 million per year. But that mistake doesn't mean the pick itself wasn't a good one.


#3 - Rajon Rondo

Drafted: 21st overall in 2006

- 8 seasons in the league
- 4 time All-Star
- 4 times on NBA All-Defensive team
- 2 time assists champ
- Career stats: 12.1 PPG, 9 APG, 5 RPG, 2.1 SPG
- Member of 2008 championship team

Career win shares: 45

Win shares per season: 5.63

Other players picked 21st since 2003 (average): 2.47 WS/season

Percentage better than average 21st pick: 128%

Ok, ok, I know that Rondo being #3 is not entirely accurate. He's clearly one of the two best players Ainge has drafted, and probably #1. But the fact is that #21 has somehow become an absolutely great place to pick. Since 2003 we've seen Boris Diaw, Nate Robinson, Ryan Anderson, Darren Collison and Jared Sullinger all picked at #21, all of whom have carved out good/very good NBA careers to this point.

But obviously that's not Rondo's fault, nor does it make him any less awesome of a pick. But the facts say that each of the next two guys have outperformed their fellow draft picks at a higher rate than Rondo.


#2 - Glen Davis

Drafted: 35th overall in 2007

- 7 seasons in the league
- Career stats: 8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1 APG
- Member of the 2008 championship team

Career win shares: 17.6

Win shares per season: 2.51

Other players picked 35th since 2003 (average): 0.82 WS/season

Percentage better than average 35th pick: 206%

Before I get murdered for having Baby above Rondo, remember: I'm not saying he's a better player. But Davis was a second round pick, and the spot he was picked (35th overall) has been an absolute death trap for NBA teams. Since 2003, Davis is easily the second best player taken at that spot (behind DeAndre Jordan), and seven of the 11 players taken have career win shares of 0.1 or below. Three players failed to ever play an NBA game after being taken 35th.

So for Ainge to get a seven year NBA rotation player, and important playoff contributor from 2008-2011, at that spot was a fantastic haul.

Baby is better known for his antics, but he's been a solid player for years, and now finds himself coming off the bench for the Clippers as they start their playoff run.


#1 - Al Jefferson

Drafted: 15th overall in 2004

- 10 seasons in the league
- 5 times in top-ten in rebounding, once in blocks, once in PER
- Career stats: 17 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 BPG
- Key member of trade to acquire Kevin Garnett

Career win shares: 59.6

Win shares per season: 5.96

Other players picked 15th since 2003 (average): 1.59 WS/season

Percentage better than average 15th pick: 275%

Much like with Davis, Big Al benefits from going head-to-head with some truly awful players taken at his spot (#15). In general NBA teams have gotten very little production at #15, possibly because the teams picking there are usually in the dreaded "in between" spot, not being good enough to make the playoffs, and not being good enough at losing to get to the top of the lottery. So a lot of the teams making the pick here aren't exactly run by geniuses.

But whatever the case, Jefferson has been fantastic for the better part of a decade, and has averaged 20 PPG and 10 RPG over the last seven seasons. He is not a very good defender, but you can make the argument that he's the best pure post scorer in the league, and Ainge absolutely crushed it when he took a chance on him coming out of high school in 2004.


Honorable mentions: Delonte West, Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger. Bradley and Sullinger need more time, but both are good bets to pass Perkins if they continue at their current level of production (or improve) over the next few seasons.

So that's part one of the breakdown. Again, the flaw with this system is that for whatever reason #21 picks have been great (hurting Rondo) while #35 picks have been beyond awful, and #15 picks have not been good (helping Baby and Big Al). But I'm confident that the five players in the list are the five best picks by Ainge, even if the order isn't perfect.

Next: the five worst picks.


Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

For more of my articles, click here

Michael Dyer 4/22/2014 05:05:00 PM Edit
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