Beyond that, Ainge is not going to put his word on the line when the future of the Celtics franchise, not to mention his own job, is on the line.
"As a general rule, I do not make promises," said Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations. "I have before, but it's been a while."
Royce White, a forward out of Iowa State, was rumored to have a promise from the Celtics to draft him at either No. 21 or 22, but Ainge denied that report Wednesday. Still, the Celtics are not the only team connected to draft prospects via "promises" in this draft. Austin Rivers is believed to have a promise with a late-lottery team, and Dion Waiters canceled his remaining pre-draft workouts, leading to speculation he has a promise, possibly from the Phoenix Suns.
Making such a promise can give a team a minor advantage in its pursuit of a player. Armed with an assurance that he will not to fall lower than a certain pick, a player (or his agent, more accurately) may pull out of workouts with other teams, as with Waiters and White. That could decrease the likelihood that those teams would draft the player, increasing the possibility that he would fall to the promising team's draft slot.
Yet the potential pitfalls for a team outweigh the advantages. Pre-draft workouts are merely one small part of the scouting process, which involves hours of tape and in-person study of a player's career. Many executives hold workouts virtually as a formality. As Milwaukee Bucks director of player personnel Dave Babcock told NESN.com, a good or bad workout will not have much impact on how the team views a player compared to his track record.
A promise also hamstrings a team on draft night. In the event a highly-ranked prospect makes an unforeseen fall to his draft slot or another team presents a trade proposal that is too good to turn down, an executive would need to decide just how strongly he values his word.
"We did not make a promise, and the reason is that on draft day, I'll have 10 contingency plans and we're exploring all the trade possibilities," Ainge said. "If you make a commitment, you're just taking yourself out of that game. … I'm not sure you gain much of an advantage other than preventing yourself from doing all that you can and exploring every opportunity."
The biggest problem with making a promise, though, is that things change. Any promise made to Jared Sullinger would not be worth much now that the NBA has issued a medical red flag over the condition of his back. Arnett Moultrie has impressed several teams in workouts, possibly moving him up several spots in the draft and rendering irrelevant any promise a team might have made in the mid-20s. Even in the few remaining hours until the draft, teams will learn new information or develop new opinions on existing information that will compel them to move players up or down on their draft boards.
Come draft day, a prospect could find that the promise he received was not worth the paper it wasn't printed on.
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