Danny Ainge called it a “momentary disappointment.” When he saw the Boston Celtics’ logo slide out of the envelope, revealing that the Celtics will pick sixth in the 2014 NBA draft, the team’s president of basketball operations felt a bit let down.
“We were hopeful for something better,” Ainge said Tuesday in a conference call from Los Angeles, where he was with his staff evaluating prospects. “But the odds said No. 6 was the most likely, so we certainly were prepared for getting No. 6.”
The odds are one thing, but with trade rumors involving Kevin Love swirling ever faster in the last few days, Ainge must have allowed himself a moment to daydream. Winning the No. 1 pick, or even a top-three selection, would have given the Celtics some major ammunition for potential negotiations with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers are locked and loaded with the top pick.
Ainge’s options were wide open before the lottery, but now the possibilities are virtually endless. Outside of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, there is little consensus over the order in which the players will come off the board. Should they use the pick, the Celtics could tab Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon or Kentucky’s Julius Randle, if any is available. Trading the pick now becomes trickier, since the No. 6 pick hardly carries the weight a top-three choice would.
“Draft picks are very valuable, and I think the sixth pick has serious value,” Ainge said. “How serious, I don’t know yet. We haven’t had a chance to talk about it or explore that, even. We will look into it now that we have some clarity on where we are.”
Although landing sixth instead of first complicates matters for the Celtics, it does not significantly alter their plan, Ainge said. The Celtics still have nine first-round picks in the next five years, including the sixth and 17th selections in June.
“We would have tried to do something will all the picks, including to keep the pick,” Ainge said. “We’re still in the same boat, it’s just we have less value. It’s not that much different than ’07. There’s less value in the sixth pick versus the one or two or three pick, but we’re still going to try to make the best choice. We’ll have to see what value that has around the league.”
No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s lottery, Ainge was going to have some hard work ahead of him. The disappointment fades quickly. For now, the sixth pick simply joins the Celtics’ pile of assets, which is longer on quantity than quality.