The 2020 NBA draft offers the Boston Celtics a nice opportunity to tweak their roster. The Jayson Tatum-led team is coming off a loss in the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four years, and general manager Danny Ainge now enjoys an edge when it comes to helping put his team over the top.
The Celtics own three first-round picks in the NBA draft. One of them is the fruit of a convoluted trade from so long ago that it’s almost amazing that anyone remembers that the Celtics own that pick.
Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge has been pursuing options
Leading up to the NBA draft on Nov. 18, the Boston Celtics fished around for potential trade partners to move up in the first round. The Celtics own the 26th pick by virtue of their finish in the recently concluded NBA playoffs. They also own the No. 14 and 30 selections from past trades.
The thinking was that general manager Danny Ainge could pursue quality over quantity by bundling the picks for proven talent or for a higher selection. That is consistent with Celtics bing in position to contend now and not wanting to wait for multiple rookies to develop.
Barring a last-minute development, however, the Celtics will pick three times in the first round and then again midway through the second round.
How they acquired the two additional first-rounders in the NBA draft is a story all by itself.
The Boston Celtics own the No. 30 pick in the NBA draft
Of the two deals the Boston Celtics made to net them additional first-rounders in the NBA draft, the trade with the Phoenix Suns in June 2019 was simple.
The Celtics traded veteran center Aron Baynes and last year’s No. 24 pick to Phoenix. Baynes was a useful backup but was also entering his final year at $5.45 million. In short, Boston valued the additional cap space over the 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds Baynes was producing in 16.1 minutes a game.
The Suns found more use for Baynes. He averaged 22.2 minutes a game, scoring 11.5 points and grabbing 5.6 rebounds. He also stepped outside to the perimeter more and knocked down 59 three-pointers – which was 34 more than he had in his previous 427 games combined.
The draft pick that the Celtics received in return was a protected first-rounder for 2020 that the Suns had acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks. That stemmed from a November 2017 deal in which Phoenix sent disgruntled Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee. There were several contingencies built into the agreement that prevented Phoenix from taking Milwaukee’s top pick in either 2018 or ’19.
A trade from January 2015 is about to be completed
On Jan. 12, 2015, the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, and New Orleans Pelicans made one of those complicated NBA trades that leave you wondering how the players involved all arrive in the correct city afterward:
- Memphis sent Tayshaun Prince and a future first-round draft pick to Boston.
- Memphis also moved Quincy Pondexter and a 2015 second-round pick (it turned out to be Branden Dawson) to New Orleans.
- New Orleans shipped Austin Rivers to Boston.
- New Orleans dealt Russ Smith to Memphis.
- Boston traded Jeff Green to Memphis.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the draft pick that the Celtics acquired, it’s worth noting that Boston turned around five weeks later and worked a three-team deal with the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns to offload Prince after just nine games as a Celtic. The significance is that Boston acquired Isaiah Thomas, who would be an important component in a deal 30 months later when Boston landed Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Confused yet? OK, now back to that pesky draft pick.
Had the Memphis Grizzlies landed in the top four in the most recent NBA draft lottery, they would have held on to their draft pick for one more year. That’s what happened in 2019, when it was top-eight protected, so Memphis snapped up Ja Morant.
When Memphis landed at 14th in the 2020 draft order, the pick finally made its way to the Celtics.
Epilogue: Keeping track of Jeff Green
Letting go of Jeff Green in the 2015 deal that led to Boston picking up one of its extra 2020 couldn’t have been an easy decision for the Celtics. Green appeared in 222 games over four seasons there, averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, and could play the 3, 4, and 5 spots on the court.
His journey since that trade has been crazy, even by NBA standards.
Green lasted 13 months with the Memphis Grizzlies before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Lance Stephenson. After finishing out the season in LA, he moved on to the Orlando Magic in 2016-17, Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, and Washington Wizards in 2018-19. Green split the most recent season between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.
In all, he has played for nine franchises since arriving in the NBA in 2007.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.