As part of last month's three-team swap that sent Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Golden State Warriors, the Celtics received Joel Anthony and a second-round pick from the Miami Heat, along with the rights to Philadelphia's lottery-protected first-round pick.
The 76ers' pick is lottery protected in both 2014 and 2015 and, given the rebuilding state of the 76ers, it seems unlikely that Boston will see a first-round pick in either of the next two drafts (though, never say never in this dilapidated Eastern Conference). That pick morphs into two second-round picks (2015, 2016) if Philadelphia is in the lottery in each of the next two drafts.
That would mean that Boston took on Anthony's deal, which includes a player option for $3.8 million next season, in exchange for what could be three second-round draft picks. Even when the trade went down, armchair general managers were up in arms. The Celtics traded Jordan Crawford, an Eastern Conference Player of the Week in December, for a few second-round picks?
It's prudent to keep in mind that neither Brooks nor Crawford had a long-term future in Boston. As Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stressed in the aftermath of the swap, not every deal is a home run, but Boston is piling up future assets and thinning out a crowded roster with the goal of increasing playing time for the younger players who are more likely to be part of Boston's transition process.
Second-round picks are typically thought of as having extremely low value in the league. But the Celtics have maximized those assets, often using them as trade sweeteners.
Need an example?
PICKS TO CLIMB: The Celtics gave the Dallas Mavericks two second-round picks to climb three spots and snag Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 in June's draft. That's a small price to pay to ensure you get the guy you want in the draft.
PICKS TO SHED MONEY: The Celtics traded Courtney Lee and a future second-round draft pick to the Memphis Grizzlies in early January as part of a three-team swap that brought back Jerryd Bayless. While far from the key piece in that deal, Boston tossed in the second-rounder to help convince Memphis to take on the heavy money left on Lee's deal, freeing the Celtics from the long-term commitment, which will give them greater flexibility to build their roster this summer and beyond.
PICKS TO USE: Drafting in the second round is indeed a crapshoot, but the Celtics have had some success drafting in that round. While Glen Davis (35th overall in 2007) and Leon Powe (49th in 2006) are two of the most commonly recalled players, the team also found other serviceable NBA bodies like Ryan Gomes, Semih Erden and E'Twaun Moore late in the draft. The Celtics bought a second-round pick from the Indiana Pacers in June and used it to select big man Colton Iverson, who is spending a year in Turkey with hopes of making the Celtics' roster next season.
Keep in mind that, if Philly finishes in the lottery this year and next, even those second-round picks have potential to be low 30s. In an age when managing the salary cap is so vital, draft picks are increasingly valuable because they put young players under long-term control of the team (and second-round picks in particular are no risk given the player must earn his deal).
As Ainge joked recently, "Draft picks are very important assets and they are always tradable, no matter how well they play." While the Celtics would much prefer to see Philadelphia deliver a first-round pick (which would give Boston as many as 10 in the next five drafts), don't sleep on the second-rounders.
They'll be useful, one way or another.