"I've been saying all along that the experts on ESPN and so forth are blowing this draft out of proportion. First of all, we don't even know who's in the draft yet. There are a lot of underclassmen that are projected, so we're prepared for those underclassmen that are projected draft picks but we don't know who's going to be in the draft. There aren't any game changers in the draft. There are a lot of nice players and players that we'll be excited to work into the development, but they're not going to come in and turn our team around in one year or two years. But hopefully we'll be able to get a couple of players this year that will be rotation players in the NBA for years to come."
On this, Ainge and I agree. There are no franchise cornerstones in this draft. No team will be walking away with the next LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Anthony Davis.
That's not to say there isn't a ton of talent in this draft. There certainly is. Much of the hype for this draft has surrounded Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. While all three of those guys are probably going to be great pros and potential perennial All-Stars, I'm not at all sold that any of them are going to be in MVP conversations in a few years.
The narrative should have focused more on the depth of this draft. Because it is massive. Anyone with a pick in the first round is going to walk away with a valuable piece to build around. There is still a fair amount of value in the second round, if not more so because those contracts aren't guaranteed.
For comparison's sake, last year Boston traded up to draft Kelly Olynyk at 13 and one of the first things Ainge said about him is that he'll pretty much be a bench rotation guy. In Bleacher Report's latest mock draft, the player projected to go at the 13 spot this year is UCLA's Zach LaVine, a guy who will be a surefire starter for many years and could be a serious problem for other teams if he develops a strong handle and can play PG with his size, athleticism and sweet shooting stroke.
“I think that’s it’s realistically hyped now, because I thought — and I said — before the season even started that it was completely overhyped,” Ainge said. “It’s like, mock drafts are never accurate until about a week before the draft. They incrementally get a little bit more accurate. But really, until June, the history would say that you really don’t want to pay too much attention to it.”
Yet is this draft class realistically better, or is it just better than the 2013 class, which was one of the worst draft classes in a decade or so?
“I think it’s maybe a little bit better by comparison, but it’s not even close to one of the best draft classes in the last 10 years,” Ainge said.
Of course this year's draft is better than the historically awful 2013 draft, but to say this draft won't even come close to being one of the best in the past decade is taking the downplaying too far.
Let's take a look at the best players to come out of the last 10 drafts:
2004: Dwight Howard, Luol Deng, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith
2005: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, David Lee, Danny Granger
2006: LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Paul Milsap
2007: Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol
2008: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert
2009: Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday
2010: John Wall, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe
2011: Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic
2012: Davis, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal
2013: Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams
From those 10 drafts, five of them had bonafide can't-miss all-time talents with Howard, Paul, Durant, Rose and Davis. Granted, some of the guys from recent drafts still need some seasoning so they could still get there. The strongest draft was in 2008 with all those All-Stars. After Howard and Durant, the 2004 and 2007 drafts aren't that special.
For this draft, it could easily be just as good as 2009 and could be better than 2011, 2010 or 2006. Will it be the best? Probably not, but it should be in the conversation. I can't state enough how much value there is in this draft with pretty much every guy projected to go in the first round. Some mocks have N.C. State's T.J. Warren going in the 20s. Warren beat out Parker for ACC Player of the Year and looks to be a solid starter in the NBA as a DeRozan-type of scorer or poor man's Rudy Gay.
Maybe Ainge knows that there is a plethora of talent in this year's draft and he's using the lack of MVPs talking point as a way to show his disinterest to other GMs. Makes trading a bit easier when the other guy doesn't think you have a real desire for a certain draft pick so he has to make the offer more favorable for you. A good rule of thumb is to remember that whenever a GM says something in public, odds are he's directing it to other GMs, sending them a message instead of being transparent.
Even if Ainge isn't in love with any of these future rookies, since Boston has two picks in the first round, he'll have to pick two of them or trade them away for serious talent. Either way, Boston should be looking pretty good this summer.