Boston’s Danny Ainge Shines Light On Celtics, Throws Shade At Rival Lakers
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 11:30AM in Boston Celtics, Draft, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

May 17, 2017: Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, was in a good mood last night and for good reason.

Wyc Grousbeck, managing partner, governor and CEO, had been handed a card during the NBA Draft Lottery that enabled the Celtics to claim the No. 1 overall spot in the NBA Draft scheduled for June 22 , the first time the franchise has held that coveted position since 1950.

No. 2 behind the Celtics was the Los Angeles Lakers, which put the two long-time rivals in a position of vying for the top two players in the Draft, which most analysts see as Markelle Fultz (Washington, who turns 19 on May 29) and 19-year-old Lonzo Ball (UCLA).

Ainge wasted little time in seeming to throw some shade at the Lakers potential plan to draft Ball and immediately make him the centerpiece of the team.

"We don’t anticipate any 19-year-old kid to come in and lead us to the promised land at this stage," Ainge said during a post-Draft Lottery media conference call. "We do believe that some of these kids have a chance to be All-Stars down the road. But it’s good to not have to force them into being the star of a franchise right away."

The Philadelphia 76ers received the No. 3 overall spot. Last year, the team had the No. 1 overall pick, taking Ben Simmons. In 2014 and 2015, they had the No. 3 overall pick, selecting Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, respectively.

In 1950, the Boston Celtics had the first-ever NBA draft pick, taking 6' 11" Chuck Share out of Bowling Green State No. 1 overall.

Share never played for the Celtics, instead spending his nine-year career with the Fort Wayne Pistons, Milwaukee-St. Louis Hawks — for whom he was captain of the 1957-58 championship team — and Minneapolis Lakers.

The Celtics have not had a No. 1 overall draft pick since then, until last night when the franchise drew the top spot via the Lottery — a direct result of a trade with the Nets in 2013 that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.

Ainge foresees a much better scenario with the 2017 overall No. 1 pick than with the franchise’s only other No. 1 overall pick.

"It is exciting to have the No. 1 (overall) pick," said Ainge. "I was hoping for the best but preparing for whatever might have happened.

"In NBA draft classes, there usually is a gap after No. 1 and No. 2, with a handful of players in the next group, This year it is more evenly spread out through the Top 10. Then there is another group of ten with a big upsides who aren’t sure-things yet but could possibly turn out to be some of the best players in the league in time."

The No. 1 spot comes with a lot of value, not only the potential of selecting a player who could eventually be a franchise-changer, but also in trade value.

Ainge at this point did not rule out any option.

"We will explore every option there is and evaluate a handful of players to determine which one is best," said Ainge. "But now there is clarity and more conversation about the No. 1 pick and the value of the pick (even as far as considering a trade).

"There are so many 18- and 19-year olds being evaluated. It’s really difficult to foresee which ones would be the best," he said.

Boston, currently facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, is on a nice roll regarding draft picks. Last year, the team selected Jaylen Brown No. 3 overall (out of Cal-Berkley) when Boston had eight selections in the first two rounds. In 2014, Marcus Smart, was taken No. 6 overall.

"We didn’t settle last year,” said Ainge. "We are very excited about Jaylen Brown and see that he has a really bright future. Jaylen Brown has played excellent for us. He plays 17-18 minutes a game for us. He thinks and we think and his agent thinks there has been great development.

"We have some good veteran players in Avery Bradly (No. 19 overall pick in 2010), Al Horford, Jai Crowder, isaiah Thomas, many guys who are real good pros and know how to play. There is a lot that young players can learn from our veterans."

The next stop for Boston and the NBA is Barclays Center In Brooklyn, NY — home of the team that back in 2013 allowed Boston to ultimately have the No. 1 pick in 2017.

"I wish I could have seen that far into the future when we made the trade with Brooklyn," said Ainge. "At the time, it looked better for them."

"I wish I could have seen that far into the future when we made the trade with Brooklyn. At the time, it looked better for them."

Ainge was looking ahead as far as the future for the Celtics.

“We feel we have a lot of really good players. Players who have been with us since training camp, some who don’t get an opportunity to play. If something happened to one of our players, they would step it.

"We feel our team is deep. We have chemistry. They know (head coach) Brad Stevens' system and Brad knows them, knows their strengths and weaknesses. We like our team. They have stuck together,” said Ainge.

Top Ten current Draft order: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Sun, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings. (See full list here.)

Top potential picks: Markelle Fultz (Washington), Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Josh Jackson (Kansas), Jason Tatum (Duke), De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Dennis Smith (NC State) and Malik Monk (Kentucky).

PHOTO: Wyc Grousbeck (R), Mark Tatum, NBA deputy commissioner

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