BOSTON -- There were times Thursday night when the Boston Celtics' draft bunker inside the pristine Seaport Hotel looked like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his staff better resembled a telethon at times while working the phones in a tireless quest to shuffle into the top 10, only to be rebuffed by teams that had fallen in love with their picks.
Long after the draft concluded, in the early hours of Friday morning, Celtics front-office staffers paced the halls of the hotel still awash in exasperation. Boston had opened wide its war chest of picks to the point where many in the room were slightly uncomfortable with the amount the team would potentially part with.
The Celtics made a strong final push to multiple teams in spots 4-9 on draft day. It culminated with an all-in effort in attempt to get Charlotte to deliver the No. 9 pick with Boston lusting for Duke forward Justise Winslow (the same player it coveted while trying to shuffle higher).
According to sources, the Celtics' final offer to the Hornets was a package featuring as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections (a combination of picks from this draft and in the future). But the Hornets could not be swayed and turned down multiple offers to select Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky.
Meeting with reporters in the aftermath of the draft, Ainge hinted at his team’s dogged pursuit. "Maybe we were going too hard at it," he said. "There was a time when I thought, ‘Woah, this is getting a little out of control.’ We’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket. So I’m not frustrated. In the long run, maybe it’ll be the best."
Celtics staffers rested easy knowing they went further than even they probably expected to entice the Hornets (and the others picking before them). Winslow's development will be monitored from afar, but Boston cannot linger on what could have been.
Instead, the Celtics are embracing the four young players they got: Louisville guard Terry Rozier at No. 16, Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter at No. 28, LSU center Jordan Mickey at No. 33 and William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton at No. 45.
Rozier is a hard sell to a fan base that got swept up in Ainge's pre-draft pledge to try to move up. He's a perceived reach. Sources indicated the Celtics debated the idea of moving down from 16 but feared that Rozier could be swooped up as early as No. 18 by the Houston Rockets (and there were teams intrigued in the 20s, including Rozier's hometown Cavaliers). The speedy guard will have the increased burden of expectations based on his draft slot, but Ainge raved about Rozier's mental and physical toughness.
Celtics fans might eventually come around on Rozier, especially after he jumped, fully clothed, into a swimming pool to celebrate his selection on Thursday night. Once fans read about his fear of squirrels or his love of sugar-ranch spaghetti sandwiches, they might slowly embrace the guard. It’s simply going to take time.
Boston added players who can potentially help with immediate needs in Hunter (shooting) and Mickey (rim protection). Thornton is an intriguing no-risk guard who the team will likely groom in the D-League or overseas next year.
Take a deep breath, Celtics fans. Look past what could have been and embrace what is. Let's see what these kids can do when summer league arrives next month. By that point, Boston will have navigated the early stages of free agency and the roster might be starting to morph. If Ainge can land the impact player that evaded the team on draft night, then maybe fans won't scrutinize these picks as much as they have in the immediate aftermath.
Yes, the Celtics have a major logjam at guard. That should not only promote competition moving forward but also give Ainge some flexibility to consider including those young guards in possible trade packages. Boston stuck to its guns and drafted the best players available, knowing the fluid nature of NBA rosters.
Ainge has often preached patience in this rebuilding process. He pledged not to mortgage the farm in the quest for an impact player -- though sources suggest he nearly did in his pursuit of Winslow -- but, he said, "At the end of the day, it’s like Red [Auerbach] used to say, ‘Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.’"
By holding onto all those picks Thursday night, the Celtics have additional ammunition for the summer. The team will cling to the hope that those players will help bring back more known commodities and accelerate the rebuilding process.
Celtics front-office staffers were still punching away at their cell phones as they departed the Seaport Hotel. Roster construction never stops, and they planned to be back at the team’s practice facility Friday morning to resume prep work on free agency.
Some draft night desires went unfulfilled, but the quest to improve Boston’s roster does not stop there.