The Boston Celtics Have Already Won the 2016 NBA Draft
The knee-jerk reaction to Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery is that the Philadelphia Sixers won. After all, they did. As a product of a team full of previous draft picks and random others (and a successful tanking job), the Sixers were awarded the first overall pick in this year's draft.
They will have a choice between the two top prospects in this year's draft: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. It's hard to see how that is anything but a win. After all, it might just help to turn the franchise around.
But, with all that being said, the Boston Celtics won this year's draft -- before the ping pong balls even started bouncing.
Going into Tuesday night, the odds favored the Celtics to pick third in this June's draft. After all was said and done, form held true. The Celtics, who had obtained the pick in their trade with the Nets that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn, now own the third pick in the draft.
Needless to say, the Celtics have won that trade.
General manager Danny Ainge now holds three of the top 23 picks in his right hand. And, in his other, he holds five second-round picks, including picks 31 and 35 courtesy of Philadelphia and Minnesota, respectively. Now, he might use them all to add to his already young and outstanding core of players.
It doesn't matter what happens. Either way, Ainge has a lot of value in his possession.
Historical Pick Value
Back in 2014, a lot of discussion on the trade possibilities revolved around draft picks, so, this has a lot to do with the number value of a certain selection in terms of Win Shares (WS). Coincidentally, I've previously utilized this in discussing the Sixers' state of affairs last year.
The data that makes up the chart was pulled from picks from 1985 to 2009, providing players with the opportunity to accrue five years of Win Share, in turn giving us an average for a pick's five-year Win Share average over that 25-year period.
On average, how much value do the Celtics' three first round picks represent?
|Pick||Career WS||WS First 5 Yrs.||WS/Yr.||WS/48|
In case you're wondering for comparison's sake, Carmelo Anthony has tallied 92.3 Win Shares, while Andre Iguodala and Richard Jefferson have accounted for 82.0 and 80.8, respectively, so far in their careers.
In their first five years, Paul Pierce, Elton Brand and Manu Ginobili accumulated 46.4, 44.5 and 43.7 Win Shares, individually. And if you look at this year, Klay Thompson's 8.0 Win Shares and James Harden's .204 Win Shares per 48 minutes are closest to the average outputs of those three picks combined in the given timeframes.
So, Boston's trio of first rounders is most comparable to those players. That's not too shabby at all, especially when you take Boston's second-round picks into consideration as well.
What's all this mean?
Door Number One
After stockpiling these picks, the Celtics have nearly unlimited options to consider over the next month. But, basically, it boils down to two: keep them or trade them.
The Celtics could very well keep all their picks with the aim of grooming a team of young talent together, in the hopes that they all gel together and that the front office can afford to keep them together if and when they outgrow their rookie contracts in the near future.
At the three spot, Boston will have their pick of anyone not named Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. They could go with Dragan Bender, a versatile international prospect who could turn out to be the best talent in the draft and fit the Celtics' need for talented big men. Or they could decide to take a more proven college player like Jamal Murray, despite their depth at guard. Then again, Jaylen Brown, a physically gifted forward out of California, would also be an option to replace Evan Turner and provide some forward depth to the roster.
And once they decide on which way they'd like to go with their first pick, the Celtics could narrow down who they'd like to target with their 16th and 23rd selections. If they go Bender, they're more likely to take a college player or two to ensure that they add some immediate depth. Guys like Diamond Stone, Taurean Prince and Domantas Sabonis are among the many names mentioned in those spots.
Door Number Two
The other option is to trade those (and maybe a few second-round picks) picks -- and that option in itself carries two possibilities.
One is that the Celtics could look to trade up from their 16th and 23rd picks in order to snatch a player they like around picks 6 to 12. If we tally up the value of the two picks, they are more valuable than all but two of those picks (picks 9 and 10) so to say that the possibility of trading up isn't likely, we'd be ignoring the fact that it actually makes sense -- especially when you factor in the other draft assets Ainge has in his back pocket.
Trade option number two involves trading those picks prior to draft night in order to haul in a good to great veteran player. Among players whom the Celtics have shown interest in are the aforementioned Love and Butler as well as DeMarcus Cousins.
With the success the Cavaliers are currently enjoying in this year's playoffs, I'm going to disregard the Love rumor entirely -- at least, for now.
But, Butler and Cousins actually make a lot of sense for the Celtics. Butler is a two-way player and a leader around whom you can build. He's still only 26 years old and has three-plus years remaining on his current contract, so you know he'll be around.
Cousins comes with more baggage, but Brad Stevens is a great coach and one who could would earn Cousins' respect rather quickly. There's also the fact that Cousins is so used to losing and the Celtics have been winning. Maybe reuniting Cousins and Isaiah Thomas wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Would it work for both teams though? Let's check the math.
|Value||Career WS||WS First 5 Yrs.||WS/Yr.||WS/48|
The first takeaway is that the picks, altogether, are more valuable across the board. But, obviously, we're dealing with three players here, and not just one.
As for Butler, his numbers are on par with a number-one pick or higher. In fact, a number one pick's average Win Shares per year comes out to 6.32, which Butler easily exceeds. I think a lot of people would agree that the five-year pro is worth the picks.
With Cousins, the numbers are likely a little skewed on account of the Kings' record of 164-312 over the past six seasons. But still, Cousins' first five years, in terms of Win Shares, is better than the historical value of a fourth or fifth overall pick. Maybe you think the third-overall pick isn't worth putting in the package then, but you're getting a proven commodity, and one that is still 25 years old in his own right.
There are surely a lot of combinations and packages that can come into play in this type of trade. Multiple players could be involved, and picks could also be included on the Kings' side, but in the short version of this, a trade for a player of Butler or Cousins caliber makes sense.
The ultimate decision that only Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens can make is which way they want to move forward.
Either way, the Celtics are going to land a top five talent. Either way, they're probably going to make the playoffs again (and improve, at that). Either way, the Celtics have won this year's NBA Draft before it started.