After the pre-draft trade between the Celtics and Sixers was made official yesterday, Celtics GM Danny Ainge held a conference call with reporters to explain his reasoning.
The Celtics traded the first pick in this year’s draft for the third pick and what will be another first-round pick in either 2018 or 2019. Giving up the top pick and a chance to draft Markelle Fultz for a yet-to-be-identified future asset seems risky on its face, but Ainge insisted that he wasn’t actually giving up anything in the trade. From ESPN:
“We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at [No.] 3 is the same player we would have taken at [No.] 1. So this was a great opportunity to acquire an impactful asset.”
Maybe Ainge is just bullshitting here in order to protect himself from criticism in the event that Fultz turns out to be a superstar, or maybe he really was going to shock everyone and take Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum with the first pick.
Whether that’s any comfort to Celtics fans depends on their faith in Ainge’s ability to evaluate talent. That is a hard judgment to make, though, given how rarely the Celtics have picked in the top 10 during Ainge’s tenure. But Al Jefferson and Avery Bradley were both solid picks late in the first round, and Jaylen Brown seems like a fine player.
Where Boston fans can find comfort is in the depth of this draft class. It’s entirely possible that there will be multiple guys picked in the top 10 who will end up being just as good as or better than Fultz. If Tatum or Jackson develop into the players they are projected to be, screwing up the third pick might be just as impossible as screwing up the first pick.