Boston Celtics draft: Assessing Danny Ainge’s potential NBA draft strategies

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Hardwood Houdini has a hunch that the Boston Celtics will in fact have their first-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. With the Cs falling behind the middle of the pack this season–while currently qualifying for the postseason play-in tournament needed to even have an Eastern Conference quarterfinals series–it doesn’t seem likely Danny Ainge will all of a sudden be in the mood to deal away draft picks.

It seemed likely that last offseason would have been the time the Cs would have struck if at all, with multiple first-round draft picks at the front office’s disposal. Instead, recently ingrained rotation staples Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard were chosen.

So far, that has worked out well…but not in the context of Boston competing for an NBA Championship this year. With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both still under the age of 25, it’s not the end of the world, but this season seemed like a great opportunity to take a step forward considering Kemba Walker is now on the wrong side of 30, Marcus Smart is entering his seventh year in the league, and Tristan Thompson was signed as a free agent to be the missing piece in the middle.

Instead, the Celtics are one of the weakest teams that may make the final field of eight in the east’s postseason race.

So let’s look past a potential first-round ouster and instead lock in on what the 2021 NBA Draft could yield for the Cs. The other offseason headlines could be less feel-good than finding out who will be signing a four-year deal and entering the race for banner #18.

Here are some of the potential outlets the Boston Celtics could go with the pick:

Boston Celtics could add balanced guard play in the backcourt

Using Jonathan Wasserman’s 2021 NBA Draft Big Board as a baseline–coupled with the Boston Celtics’ current standing in the overall NBA picture–there are a few intriguing options to add some backcourt depth.

Jaden Springer and Tre Mann are two similar do-it-all options that Wasserman has at #16 and #17, respectively. The Cs would currently pick at the #18 pick if the standings held, and the #18 pick in B/R’s Big Board is the best of the bunch.

Davion Mitchell is a lights-out 3-point shooter (45 %) and averaged five assists per game on a loaded Baylor Bears offensive barrage. Of course, at the next level, many teams will be loaded to that relative degree, and the Celtics would certainly be one of them.

Mitchell’s game is a spitting image of Utah Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell’s, and they even share the same jersey number (#45). If Ainge has the chance to add Mitchell, the Cs could potentially focus on moving on from Kemba Walker, since he and Payton Pritchard could have the position covered.

It isn’t a stretch to say that Mitchell could eventually grow into a third star role alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He’s that good.