WALTHAM, Mass. — The Boston Celtics won’t play a meaningful game for several months but they’re entering a critical stretch for the team’s future.
That would explain the throng of reporters surrounding president of basketball operations Danny Ainge on Wednesday, as he addressed the media at the Celtics’ practice facility. Ainge enters the offseason armed with eight selections in the 2016 NBA Draft, plenty of salary-cap space and the expectation that he’ll use those assets to transform Boston into a contender.
It’s safe to say the stakes have been raised.
“This offseason is bigger,” Ainge said. “My expectations are high this offseason, and yet I also know that it takes good fortune. We need the ping pong balls to bounce our way to give us the best opportunity. Whether we use that (lottery) pick or whether we trade that pick, and in free agency, we have opportunities. And that’s all we have. We have no guarantees of great things happening. We just have a lot of hope.”
Arguably the Celtics’ best asset is the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick, which has a 46.9 percent chance of being a top-three pick and a 15.6 percent of being the No. 1 overall selection.
But the draft is just the beginning of the drama for the C’s. With so many selections at his disposal, including five of the second round’s 30 picks, it’s likely Ainge will try to package some of them to either move up in the draft or trade for a big-name player like Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. Such a step could make Boston a more attractive destination for free agents like Al Horford or even Kevin Durant.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we have to have plan A through Z,” Ainge said. “Usually it’s more A through G, but we have A through Z this year just to have an opportunity to upgrade our team.”
The excitement surrounding this offseason might draw comparisons to the summer of 2007, when a No. 5 overall pick helped Ainge land Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and pave the way for the next season’s NBA championship. But Ainge had an interesting comment when asked if he sees the similarities.
“I’m not sure that we have a Paul Pierce on our roster,” he said. “But I do think that we have a lot more things to trade. A lot more things to move.”
The possibilities are endless for the Celtics this offseason, but the first step will be left to chance, when the NBA Draft Lottery on May 17 reveals the team’s first-round pick. After that, it’s all up to Danny.
“There are scenarios where our team could be better,” Ainge added. “Significantly better.”
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