Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and assistant general manager Ryan McDonough were surprised to get Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo with the 21st and 22nd picks. They had both players rated higher. They like both players' potential but are not counting on both to contribute right away. They're excited, and all that stuff.
Two subtle comments stood out, though. In speaking about Melo, McDonough noted that the 7-footer from Syracuse is "an over-the-top threat on lobs." Ainge added that Sullinger is "not a sprinter by any stretch, but he's a rebounder and you've got to have the ball to run."
In other words: Happy offseason, Rajon Rondo. The Celtics got you two new toys to play with.
As though there was any doubt, Thursday's draft choices served as further proof that the Celtics are Rondo's team. Regardless of whether Kevin Garnett stays or goes this summer, his decision will have no bearing on whether it is time for the Celtics to move on from the Big Three era to the Rondo era. That move began years ago.
In the last three years, the Celtics have gradually made roster choices that built around Rondo's game more so than Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or Garnett. Even with the ever-present trade rumors, the Celtics had acquired players, particularly draft picks, with an eye to how each acquisition complements their All-Star point guard. Avery Bradley was never the point guard replacement many feared, but a perfect energizing force to play alongside Rondo in the backcourt. JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore faced questions about their ability to create their own shots, shortcomings that are irrelevant as long as they play with Rondo.
Melo's ability to finish an alley-oop certainly was not the primary factor in Boston drafting him, but such a thought even occurring to the Celtics confirmed that "How will these guys jell with Rondo?" contributed to the evaluations. Anyone could see last season that the Celtics needed the rebounding help Sullinger provides, but to Ainge rebounding is as much about getting the ball into Rondo's hands as it is about rebounding for rebounding's sake.
There certainly is no news flash here. The Celtics have been Rondo's team for a while, something even Garnett has admitted, and this draft served to reinforce that fact. The pieces need to work with Rondo, because without Rondo, nothing works, period.