Last week, RealGM's Daniel Leroux took a look at the Celtics upcoming draft picks, and gave an assessment of their value. I love when people like Leroux (who I became aware of as a frequent guest of Nate Duncan's NBA podcast, "Dunc'd On" - a great one to get on board with if you're a fan of the NBA), who have very smart NBA minds but aren't Celtics centric, write about our team. There is no bias of love or hate, and their opinions can be illuminating.
Leroux gave his personal rankings of the Celtics "draft pick arsenal" for the next three years, excluding the 2nd rounders (they have 6), and some opinions on the value of their current roster, as well as future chances in free agency.
The picks are plentiful, but as Leroux says in his post, the quantity vastly outweighs the quality.
At this point, Boston’s fundamental problem is that none of these picks qualify as elite assets. That could change over time since having a large number of variable properties increases the chances of a more positive result.
Here are his rankings, starting with most valuable.
1. Brooklyn's unprotected 2016 pick
2. Dallas' 2016 first round pick (top 7 protected through 2020)
3. The right to swap 2017 first round picks with Brooklyn
4. Boston's own 2016 pick
5. Brooklyn's unprotected 2018 pick
6. Boston's own 2017 pick
7. Memphis' 2018 pick (top 12 protected)
8. Boston's own 2018 pick
9. Minnesota's 2016 first round pick (top 12 protected)
Since Leroux's rankings were written, Brooklyn has bought out Deron Williams, and all indications are he will sign with Dallas. Perhaps he would think a little more favorably of the top 2 draft assets since this move, perhaps not. If the Celtics get a little lucky, these are both lottery picks.
The Nets also signed Andrea Bargnani, and he seems to think that is good for our C's.
The winner of the Nets getting Bargnani? The Celtics
Leroux also believes their best chance to get an elite pick may be their right to swap with Brooklyn in 2017, but it hinges on Brooklyn whiffing on free agency next offseason. The chances of them whiffing two years in a row are slim, which is why their 2018 unprotected first may not be a great pick.
He also isn't very high on Celtics own first round picks, and thinks at best they will be late teens, but that is actually good news as he sees the team getting a little better each upcoming season.
The Memphis pick is pretty interesting, since Memphis can't give it to the Celtics until two years after they send one to Denver. There are a lot of complications on this one, and here are his thoughts and projections on how it could play out.
Memphis’ 2018 pick (protected for 1-12)- This selection gets a bit complicated because the Grizzlies cannot convey this pick until two years after they send a choice to Denver. My expectation is that Denver gets Memphis’ pick in 2017, which means the first year Boston can get theirs is 2019 with top-8 protection. The Grizzlies could be a lottery team by then, but this is such a distant asset right now that it moves down the list.
So future uncertainty puts it low on his current list, but it could potentially be a lottery pick. Also, I now have a headache.
The Minnesota pick also has some strings attached.
Minnesota’s 2016 first round pick (top-12 protected)- The most overrated arrow in Boston’s quiver because it converts to Minnesota’s second round picks in 2016 and 2017 if the pick falls under the 1-12 protection this season. Two solid second round picks but not a ton of trade value before the draft order is set.
As far as their current roster goes in regards to valued assets, Leroux is not impressed with much.
Additionally, Boston’s players are moving away from the asset category. Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller are just one season from restricted free agency while Kelly Olynyk will be one year behind them. Once a non-max player hits free agency (especially if it comes after the 2016 cap boom), odds are they are properly paid or overpaid, substantially weakening their value to other teams. Similarly, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are good, useful players but neither screams NBA starter at this point.
In my opinion he somewhat undervalues Isaiah Thomas, especially with his current contract. I think he is right in regards to Bradley, since he is more valuable to the Celtics than perhaps other teams, but his contract is also looking very favorable as the salary cap goes higher and higher. I also think that Thomas is part of our plans here, so it may not matter what other teams think of him.
Although, even if Ainge had a son on the team he would probably have zero issues trading him if he thought it was for a better asset. Fortunately for Austin Rivers, he was born to a very different type of man.
All in all, even if particular draft picks aren't elite assets on their own, that doesn't mean Danny Ainge can't use them as a package, or combined with players as a package, to garner an elite asset down the road, whether that be a player or high lottery pick.
I think the Celtics are in a pretty good spot. They have very little salary committed next season, a slew of picks that could morph into something else at any second, and as Brad Stevens and the Celtics still improve, they seem to have a basketball plan. Might want to ask the Lakers if that matters to free agents.