Danny Ainge says the Boston Celtics are looking at "a handful of guys" for the No. 3 pick
Now that the draft order is set, the next question becomes do the Celtics keep the No. 3 overall pick or trade it away?
If we listen to President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, it sounds like that pick will be made by Boston.
"The No 3 pick is a very good player," Ainge said. "We have our eyes set on a handful of guys."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 18, 2016
Perfect. Let the analysis of all the non-Ben Simmons/Brandon Ingram players at the top of the board commence. But wait a minute. Something doesn't seem right here. This draft has been pegged by analysts as having two studs and then a bunch of unknowns or lesser talents. So why is Ainge predicting Boston will get a "very good player" at No. 3?
Let's look back at what Ainge said the last time Boston had a top-10 pick. That was just two years ago when the Celtics drafted Marcus Smart at No. 6. The 2014 draft was predicted to have two or three or maybe four potential superstars and a handful of potential All-Stars. So Ainge should have been even more stoked to be grabbing a player there, right?
Nope. Ainge said that the "experts" were "blowing this draft out of proportion." He added that the draft didn't have "any game changers," but it did have plenty of "nice players."
While Ainge didn't say this upcoming draft has game changers at No. 3, he was certainly much more optimistic about what the Celtics could get, at least publicly. So why the change of heart? Ainge is sending a message to the other GMs in the league just as he was in 2014. Two years ago rumors swirled that Ainge wanted to trade up and grab one of those potential superstars. Saying that draft wasn't so great is his way of communicating to those teams with higher picks that it's no big deal if they trade down. The players aren't that great anyway, right?
This time it's the opposite. After missing out on this draft's two best Prospects, Boston trading down and getting future assets or a player or two who can contribute right away is a very real possibility. And you can count on both the Lakers and 76ers keeping their top picks as they cement their young core for their respective rebuilds so trading up isn't happening.
By saying Boston will pick a very good player, Ainge is trying to pique other team's interests by telling GMs, "Man, isn't this draft great? Can't wait to draft a guy at No. 3. Don't even try to come and get this pick unless you're offering something great."
His antics have not gone unnoticed.
Danny Ainge saying he really likes this draft is as sure a sign as any I’ve seen that the Celtics are trading that pick.— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) May 18, 2016
Danny Ainge looks and sounds like a man EAGER to try to trade this No. 3 pick and get an established star to Boston a la 2007. #Celtics— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) May 18, 2016
Whether tactics like this actually accomplish anything is anyone's guess. It is a smart move, though. Ainge gain's nothing by coming out and saying, "Well, that sucks. Guess we're stuck at No. 3 Yay..." If another team does want to trade up for No. 3, Ainge will not get a good offer because they will know that he doesn't want that pick anyway.
It's all a cat-and-mouse game. We'll have to wait and see if it pays off this time.