The Boston Celtics do not own a second-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but that hasn't stopped them from examining players that might available after their two first-round selections (Nos. 6 and 17), particularly players projected to be second-round picks or go undrafted.
"Mock drafts are one thing; we try not to be married to those," said Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge. "We try to have our own opinions, as does everyone. We also have a history of being very aggressive on draft night. You never know what trades and buying picks, you never know what will happen. Phil Pressey played a lot for us this year and he wasn’t drafted, so we try to be prepared with everyone and it’s not just the 6th and 17th pick we look at."
The Celtics traded two second-round picks to Dallas last season in order to shuffle up three spots and land Kelly Olynyk at No. 13. Boston also bought a second-round pick (53rd overall) from the Indiana Pacers to nab Colton Iverson, a 7-footer who spent a year in Turkey and hopes to compete for a roster spot this summer.
The Celtics auditioned 12 second-round candidates on Monday and more late-round bodies passed through during two more days of workouts that followed. But how much talent is there in the second round this year?
“It’s hard to tell," said Ainge. "We always have a few guys we really like that we might have 35th on our board and they go all the way through [the draft]. Some years we will have the 55th pick and every guy we like is gone and we are saying, ‘Who should we take?’ It varies from year to year, but I feel that the point guard position in this draft has some depth and I don’t feel all the good players will be able to be selected."
The Celtics ended last season with only one second-round pick on their roster (Brandon Bass), but a league-high five undrafted free agents (Pressey, Chris Babb, Chris Johnson, Vitor Faverani, and Joel Anthony). Agents know the Celtics are open-minded to allowing undrafted players to compete for roster spots -- particularly as part of a rebuilding process -- and that can help convince undrafted players to consider Boston if their name isn't called.
Take Pressey for example. The Celtics were quite familiar with him (his father, Paul, spent time on Doc Rivers' staff) and had scouted his development. Ainge called Pressey almost immediately after last year's draft and invited him to join the Celtics' summer league squad to compete for a regular-season roster spot.
Pressey earned a three-year deal, including a fully guaranteed first season, then appeared in 75 games while emerging as one of Boston's top backup ball-handlers, even after Rajon Rondo returned from ACL surgery.
The Celtics want to be ready if there's an opportunity to add talent at a risk-free cost.
"Every year there are some available [second-round picks]," said Ainge. "It just depends. Maybe we won’t be in the market for one. You never know. You kind of look at your roster needs [during the draft] and some teams aren’t in the market for another rookie on their team and just opt to trade or sell the second-round pick as the draft is going on. Our job is to be prepared for every situation."
Ainge recalled that Pressey had a good team workout for the Celtics last year, but it was his full body of work that encouraged Boston to express interest after he went undrafted. Even without a second-round pick this year, the Celtics are doing their part to evaluate all available bodies and be in position to strike if someone they like lingers.