Now that we know where the Boston Celtics will be picking in next month's draft, the mailbag is overflowing with questions about the draft and how the roster will look next season.
Let's just start tearing open your letters:
Q: No one ever asks you, so here it is: Who would you pick at Nos. 6 and 17 in next month's draft if the power was in your hands? -- Miles, @Bird33Ward
A: Finally, Forsberg Mock 1.0 can see the light of day! I won't bore you with the non-Celtics portion (oh yes I will: Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, and Julius Randle in spots 1-5) and that puts the Celtics on the clock. The phones are ringing in the Celtics' executive offices. Let's give a listen. ...
A: The Suns (and old friend Ryan McDonough, the Suns' general manager) sit at Nos. 14 and 18, which is mighty intriguing when you add Boston's 17th pick to that mix (there is something to be said for quantity if this draft is as deep as some believe). But if I'm Danny Ainge, I'm looking to walk away with a top-10 selection (more on that shortly) with any move. So the Bulls, at Nos. 16 and 19, are not doing it for me, either. There's plenty of discussion in the war room at the moment. ...
Q: If the Celtics pick at No. 6, how much does drafting a player that fits their roster matter? Should they take a talented power forward when shooters like Doug McDermott or Nik Stauskas fit their current needs more. -- Joe (Boston)
A: We've long been told that you draft the best available player and ignore needs. Of course, that's easier said than done.
The reason it hurt so much that Boston emerged at No. 6 was (1) They don't get a chance at any of the Big Four (yes, I include Exum in that top tier) and (2) Maybe the three next-best players are all power forward-types when Boston's two most encouraging young players fill a similar role in recent first-round draftees Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. Some will pity a team like the Orlando Magic, who got bumped from the top 3 when Cleveland vaulted to No. 1. Well, Orlando could benefit from a young point guard and is likely to walk away with Dante Exum (that's a heck of a consolation prize and one that fits team needs).
This is where the next month of workouts could be valuable to Boston. Can someone in that Julius Randle-Noah Vonleh-Aaron Gordon trio distinguish themselves enough to make Boston not think twice about picking one of them at No. 6 despite the current roster situation? In the same vein, could someone like point guard Marcus Smart make a strong enough case to be selected at that spot?
If Ainge and his staff just are not in love with a single player at No. 6 on draft night, it might be time to pick up the phone. There's only a couple more minutes before the pick is due. ...
Q: Most basic question of all: Do you think Danny will keep or trade the pick(s)? -- Mike, @MikeDynon
A: Someone get me Michael Jordan on the phone (he can't possibly be golfing at this hour, can he?) and see if the Hornets will consider trading Nos. 9 and 24 to shuffle up and get their pick of young bigs to complement Al Jefferson. Or maybe another team directly behind Boston would like to shuffle up for their guy at the expense of a future pick.
I'm OK with the Celtics moving back if there's no separation at No. 6. The guess here is that the cost of moving into the top 4 would be too prohibitive -- even with all the assets that Boston owns -- so the team has to maximize the spot it is in.
Sometime next month, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford will break the draftees down into tiers. Unlike your general big board where players are simply listed from, say, 1 to 60, teams also group players in tiers based on skill level and potential to help gauge the value of moving around.
In my mind, the Big Four are all in the top tier and then there's a fairly pronounced jump to the players in Tier 2. That doesn't mean the players in that next level don't have star potential, it just means they are not nearly as NBA ready or as physically impressive (at least all-around) as the Big Four and, therefore, are a bit more of a crapshoot.
That second tier appears fairly deep though, and you can probably put Randle, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Marcus Smart, and maybe Dario Saric in there. Opinions are split on Saric, but consider us fans of the Croatian from what we've seen on film.
The value of a pick is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. If a team at No. 10 is in love with one of those five players and deems it worthy enough to give up a future pick to shuffle up, I think the Celtics should jump on it. If you walk away with Smart at No. 8 or Saric at No. 10, you've aided your immediate roster situation, all while bringing back an additional chip to justify the maneuvering.
To come full circle to Miles' question, I'm trading down and grabbing Saric (though I'm open-minded to Smart) while hoping to pick up an additional pick (even if it's just an early second-rounder) as part of the shuffle.
As for No. 17, well, that's a little harder to zero in on because it will largely be determined by how picks Nos. 11-16 play out. Just because good big men typically don't stick around very long, I'm probably looking for a scorer with Boston's second pick. Maybe the Celtics could flip the pick from trading back to shuffle up in range to grab someone like Doug McDermott or Nik Stauskas or Gary Harris depending on how quickly they get chosen. Otherwise, the Celtics could pick the best available scorer (Warren?) still on the board at No. 17.
Q: Dario Saric has reportedly said that he will come over to the NBA if picked by the Celtics or Lakers. Does this make him an option with the Celtics' first pick? Or does Danny only think about him if he drops to 17? -- Jesse (Stoneham)
A: Rumors swirl all the time about when and for what teams these overseas players will come stateside for. At the draft combine, Exum shot down the notion that he only desires to play for the Lakers. So take any report with a grain of salt. All that said, if the Celtics like Saric, it's certainly not a bad thing to have this rumor swirling around. Teams picking early in the first round are going to be somewhat leery of selecting a player that they are not 100 percent certain is going to play in the NBA next season, and maybe that plays into Boston's hands a bit (but only if you trust the notion that he'd definitely play for the Celtics).
Q: Do you really think the Celtics can pull this quick rebuild off? Will there be fireworks? It takes two to tango and no one seems to be a partner -- Anay, @AnayDalal
A: That's exactly what Ainge has cautioned since owner Wyc Grousbeck's comments about potential fireworks. The Celtics, like every team in the league, are ready and willing to light some fuses, but the right deals have to materialize. As we stressed in the scuttlebutt around Kevin Love, the Celtics shouldn't mortgage a sustainable future just to create fireworks that accelerate the rebuilding process. The goal of this transition process is to remain a contender for as long as possible. What's more certain is that the Celtics have enough assets (as we detailed HERE) to put themselves in position to light up the sky. Boston can facilitate a number of different deals given the diversity of assets available to Ainge.
You guys loaded up the bag, so let's blast through a bunch of questions lightning-round style:
Q: I don't want the Celtics to draft Aaron Gordon. They already have enough people on the roster who can't shoot. -- Colton (West Virginia)
A: BURN! I was going to e-mail Colton to see what he would prefer to do instead, but luckily he sent another letter that seems to tip his hand.
Q: What would be the most you'd be willing to give up to acquire Kevin Love? -- Colton (West Virginia)
A: I said from the start of the Love chatter that a KG-like package should be the conversation starter. That would feature Jared Sullinger (playing the role of Al Jefferson), two first-round picks (No. 6 this year and maybe a protected pick -- like one of the future selections from the Nets -- as well), Keith Bogans' nonguaranteed contract (which affords $5.3 million in immediate salary relief), and filler to make the salaries work overall. If the Wolves wanted to add a third first-rounder, like the Clippers pick from the Doc Rivers compensation next year, I'm willing to consider that (but the idea of giving up at least four picks, especially if they are not protected in any way, is simply too much). Love doesn't even have to sign off on an extension as part of that package to make me do that sort of deal. The Celtics give up part of their picks stash, but still walk away with one of the league's top young players and enough remaining first-round picks over the next few years to help sustain the team moving forward (with lingering uncertainty about whether Love or Rondo would be part of the future).
Q: Any possible way the Celtics could steal the Kings' 8th pick -- Ro, @thegrrreat
A: The Celtics and Kings do love to make trades. Alas, it always seems to be a salary dump that brings back a Top-55 protected pick that Boston would never ever see.
Q: What is going to happen to Chris Babb? I thought he would be a good contributor to the Celtics. -- Benjamin, @Bennonite
A: Like any nonguaranteed player, Babb's best hope is that the Celtics' roster doesn't get overcrowded and he gets a chance to compete for a spot in training camp. Alas, the more likely scenario is him being used as salary filler in a trade or set free if there's an influx of roster additions. Babb was a great teammate and, if he's not back in Boston next season, I think the organization is hopeful that his time here will help open the door to another NBA opportunity.