2019 NBA awards highlight Celtics failures in international drafting

Rookie of the Year and MVP

The 2019 NBA Awards Night belonged to the International world. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the MVP, while fellow international players Luka Doncic, Pascal Siakam and Rudy Gobert earned the Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year awards respectively. The game has become more and more global and each NBA team has benefited from it, with the exception of our Boston Celtics.

You have to go back to 1989 to find the best Celtics international draftee in Dino Radja. Since then I can't think of any overseas Celtics draft pick that has really contributed to the team. The fact that Semih Erden, with his half season on the team, comes to mind as the 2nd most successful Celtics overseas draftee kind of illustrates the point.

This year the Celtics once again drafted solely American players. The last time Danny Ainge went the overseas route he struck out on Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic. The Celtics have simply failed in drafting overseas talent.

Looking at the awards winners from last night the most glaring misstep was passing on Giannis to draft a role player in Kelly Olynyk in 2013. What made that decision even more painful was Danny Ainge was rumored to be one of the first NBA GM's interested in Giannis. The Celtics also passed on Rudy Gobert in that draft. The next year the Celtics drafted James Young ahead of Clint Capella and Nikola Jokic.

High-five Semih. You're one of the best Celtics
international draft picks... and you played half a season here

In 2016 the Celtics used two first rounders on international players, but failed miserably. Ainge reached for Yabusele at #16 and picked Zizic at #23. Going international wouldn't have been a bad idea if the picks had been Siakam (who went #28) or Ivica Zubac even who went #32. So the C's passed on Siakam twice in that first round (well 3 times to be exact, but he wasn't going to go #3 at that time).

The Celtics didn't get the chance to pass on Donic, but they did interestingly enough decide to trade the unprotected Nets first rounder the year that Luka was the most hyped potential draftee. There was a decent chance when that trade was made that the Nets pick could have landed top 3 in 2018.

Award winners Rudy Gobert and Pascal Siakam on the red carpet

Maybe the Celtics have never felt comfortable evaluating overseas players. Maybe it's just a crazy coincidence that the Celtics don't draft international players. Personally I think it's an area where adding someone to the scouting department that is top notch in evaluating international talent would help the team.

The Celtics were the first NBA team to sign a black player. They were the first team to start an all black starting five. They were the first to hire a black head coach. The Celtics were always ahead of the curve back in the day. And they won 16 championships in 30 years from 1957-1986. They have won only 1 in the 33 years since. During those 33 years the amount of overseas players has exploded in the NBA.

Celtics went the overseas route once in the 1st round. Passed on Pascal Siakam twice for these guys

I feel like the Celtics of old would have been the forward thinking team that drafted steals like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili late in the draft. They would have been the team that went against the grain and picked Porzingis over Okafor, or traded Shareef Abdur-Rahim for the pick to draft Pau Gasol. They would have made sneaky trades like the Mavs did to draft Dirk or Doncic. They would have found steals like Jokic, Capella, or Gobert later in the draft.

Like I said, maybe it's just not Danny's strength. Maybe he feels more comfortable with American players (U.S. or Canadian), but the game has grown all around the world. Every team is taking advantage. Might be time for the Celtics to finally benefit.