2017 NBA Draft: Danny Ainge’s Heist

With the 2019 NBA Draft right around the corner I take a look back at the 2017 NBA Draft and the heist made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics that led up to it. I had the pleasure of attending the draft with my cousin and had better seats than a lot of the players and their families.

Attending an NBA draft has always been a dream of mine (strange I know). I was close enough to see how smug and miserable Michael Wilbon is, sat right behind Markelle Fultz’s crew and had better seats than Luke Kennard’s family. It was a pretty cool experience, especially when Lonzo Ball got drafted and the Barclay’s Center blasted “California Love” by Tupac. The Boston Celtics had the number one pick in the draft, and seeing the top two players with the most hype leading up to it, were point guards, Danny Ainge did his due diligence and shopped the pick around.

The Celtics were fresh off a season where they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to LeBron James and Co., but had a point guard in Isaiah Thomas who averaged 28.9 points per game.

Luckily, Brian Colangelo of the 76ers was looking to move up for one of the two point guards and Danny Ainge was happy to slip to number three. His logic was that the player he was going to select at one, would still be available at three. He was right.

The Celtics received a 2018 first round pick from the Lakers if it landed between two and five. If it’s  the first overall pick or six through 30, the 76ers keep it. This pick eventually will turn into Sacramento’s first round pick in this year’s draft, which will be #14 overall.

Going into this draft and with Fultz and Ball basically off the board, it was up to Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office to figure out who they’d pick at three. Seeing we just drafted a wing last year in Jaylen Brown, who showed promise and progressed during the season, I thought the Celts would look at more of a SF/PF combo, like Josh Jackson. He had a solid freshman campaign for Kansas averaging 16.3 points per game along with seven rebounds.

Two years in a row, I was wrong. The Celtics selected Jayson Tatum out of Duke to add another wing to the roster. I’m glad I was wrong too because Tatum had a great year and really turned it on in the playoffs. Over 19 games in the playoffs, he was the go-to guy for Boston averaging 18.5 points, led them to within one game of the Finals and had an all-time dunk over LeBron James.

With this group just finishing up their sophomore year in the NBA, some have made the leap and some haven’t really done much. The guys in this draft that I would consider cornerstone guys that you can build around would be: Tatum, D’Aaron Fox (averaged over 17 points, seven assists last year), Lauri Markannen (18 points, nine rebounds), Donovan Mitchell (23.8 ppg), John Collins (19 points, nine rebounds) and Kyle Kuzma (18.7 ppg)

Some have battled injuries but seem like solid rotation players: Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, Dennis Smith Jr., Zach Collins, Luke Kennard, Bam Adebayo, Jarret Allen, Derrick White and Josh Hart.

So far the busts of this lottery seem to be: Markelle Fultz, Frank Ntilikina and Malik Monk. There is always a potential to swing and miss with these lottery picks. Thank goodness Danny Ainge did his job, traded the pick to acquire more assets and passed on drafting Fultz.

Tatum had a great rookie season but seemed to take a step back this past season. He took a lot more off balanced threes and did a lot of complaining to the refs. It could also have been the result of meshing with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward for a full season and going from the top dog to second or third fiddle.

The problem with following your team for an 82 game season, plus playoffs is you grow attached to certain players. Tatum is definitely one I’ve grown attached to and hope he stays in Boston for a long time. Ainge should take the time to build around him, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart than trade two of those guys and picks for a one year rental in Anthony Davis.

The Celtics still value him as a cornerstone to build around, which is why they could possibly be balking at trade offers from the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Also, with Davis’ agent coming out and saying that he won’t commit in Boston for a long time, it certainly makes things more interesting when making a potential trade.

If the Celtics get an assurance that AD would sign and extension to stay in Boston, would that be enough to offer Tatum up in a trade? It’s tough to tell. I feel a lot of people were in a similar camp when they traded Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving. With Irving almost already in a Nets uniform, it seems like this is something for Ainge to really think about. We will know the answer to this by the first week of July.