In Danny Ainge's tenure, the Celtics front office has never been known for trepidation on draft night. As trade rumors became more frequent in the run-up to Thursday's NBA draft, it only made sense that Boston might somehow be involved. The Celtics not only were led by an executive with Ainge's aggressive track record, they also had two first-round picks, which is often an indication that a team could move up if it is willing to package those picks.
The sort of blockbuster deal Ainge has become known for never came to be, though. As the draft played out, the Celtics never felt the need to trade up to make sure they secured a player who was high on their draft boards. Even if they had wanted to, it was doubtful they had the pieces to make a viable trade offer.
"We never got to a point where teams wanted to move for what we were offering," Ainge said.
The Celtics' picks at Nos. 21 and 22, where they ultimately selected Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger and Syracuse center Fab Melo, respectively, were not enough on their own to move Boston into the top 10. Any such request probably would have required a current Celtics roster player, and with Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and JaJuan Johnson the only players under contract, the Celtics were constrained.
The Celtics therefore were never very close to a trade on Thursday, assistant general manager Ryan McDonough acknowledged. That was partly due to the Celtics' shortage of commodities and partly due to the breadth of players available. The Celtics had several players ranked evenly near the top of the draft, and as picks went by without those players being selected, the Celtics realized they could get two players nearly as good as the one they would get by moving up a few slots.
"We explored it," McDonough said of a trade. "You always call around, see what you could get if there's somebody rated super-high sliding. To be honest, we had a number of players we liked, and once they got past the late lottery, we had enough guys we liked to be comfortable. We didn't want to lose two picks just to get one guy we might have rated slightly higher. We had Jared and Fab rated very highly. In retrospect, it would've been a shame if we would've traded those two picks and only gotten one of those guys instead of getting both of them."
Teams picking in the lower third of the draft typically cannot count on a result like the one the Celtics achieved Thursday. They addressed two needs — a rebounding power forward and a shot-blocking interior presence — despite not having a single pick higher than 21st in an allegedly thin draft.
Had the Celtics needed or been able to trade, Ainge's history shows they surely would have made the deal. In the immediate aftermath, standing pat appeared to give the Celtics exactly what they needed.