What Do the Celtics Want With a Top-3 Pick in the 2020 NBA Draft?

Danny Ainge
Danny Ainge | Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The 2020 NBA Draft is less than 12 hours away. Teams will finally be able to select the prospects they've been scouting for at least a year at this point because the draft was pushed back from June to November due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the clock ticks, it also means that there will be wild rumors in abundance from sources both credible and otherwise.

One such rumor came to the forefront concerning (as it often does) the Boston Celtics and GM Danny Ainge, courtesy of NYT reporter Marc Stein.

To start: the Celtics have been rumored to do a lot over the past few years, and then never do it. Yeah, that goes for every team, but since Boston has been so stocked with draft picks and assets since the infamous Paul Pierce/KG trade to Brooklyn in 2012, they're a more popular name to be included than most. Usually, though, Boston is linked to disgruntled stars a la Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis before failing to do anything and those players are traded elsewhere. In essence, take any rumored Celtics trade -- even if it's a reliable reporter like Stein -- with a grain of salt.

Now, on to the meat of this here report. How could the Celtics even get into the top three? They have three first-round picks (No. 14, 26, and 30) but quantity does not equal quality in the NBA draft, and especially in this draft. There are no guaranteed stars this year like in 2019 with Zion Williamson or 2018 with Luka Doncic/DeAndre Ayton/Trae Young. Opinions are split drastically on even the top prospects. Teams are far more likely this year to stick with the pick they have and take the player they believe they scouted better than everyone else than trade down to take several players.

The Atlanta Hawks, owners of the No. 6 overall pick, were linked to Gordon Hayward yesterday. The Celtics could, in theory, ship out Hayward in exchange for that pick and salary. A package of their own three picks and the sixth pick could prove to be enough of a haul to jump into the top three. But even if they get there, what's the end game?

The Celtics do not need another uber-athletic wing to try and battle for minutes in an already-crowded rotation. Therefore, it feels unlikely they'd give up this number of assets to take Anthony Edwards or Isaac Okoro. Perhaps Ainge loves James Wiseman. The Celtics need an above-average center to fully round out their team; Robert Williams remains nothing but a bouncy bundle of potential after two professional seasons, and Daniel Theis is good in certain matchups but was exposed in six straight games on national television by Bam Adebayo during the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Wiseman also fits Ainge's prospect profile of a highly-regarded high school player who didn't blow anyone away in college (like Romeo Langford in 2019).

It's just a strange draft to be bending over backwards in order to land a top-three pick. There are no sure things. Ainge can have all the faith in his scouting department he wants, but it feels like a draft where more swings at the plate for a team like Boston is more valuable than throwing the kitchen sink at the Charlotte Hornets or Minnesota Timberwolves to jump 11 or so picks into the top three.

Draft season is a strange time in the NBA, and given Ainge's recent track record of how often rumors translate to tangible action, it's probably a whole lot of nothing. But if it is something, Boston would be making a big mistake. There's rarely a sure thing when it comes to the draft, but in this draft, there is an absence of sure things we haven't seen since Anthony Bennett went first overall in 2013.