In years past I have heard Ainge say going into the draft that they needed guys who could "help now" not project players. As a result Ainge has seemed to favor drafting players that had spent more time in college and were more finished products in recent years. The idea being that older more polished players may be able to contribute to the rotation right away while project players are likely a year or more away from helping.
Well I understand the logic behind this I think it is the wrong approach. For a consistent playoff team like the Celtics, picking in the 20s each year it seems very unlikely that you will be able to pick-up a player who is going to contribute significantly to your team right away. The NBA is a league where experience matters, veterans win, so while a rookie with 3-4 years of college might be a little less lost learning the defensive rotations, it is likely that you could pick-up a veteran for the league minimum who could give you more on the floor in the short run. The exception to this rule seems to be when players with lottery level talent fall due to red flags in the draft process (see DeJuan Blair).
It seems to me that contending teams like the Celtics should be using their draft picks on the player available with the highest ceiling for development. If the reality is that few of these guys are going to contribute right away then shouldn't the 14th and 15th spots on the roster be for developing the future stars, starters and rotation help? A team like the Celtics almost never gets past the 10th man, unless there are injuries so the team isn't sacrificing much and the potential payoff is big. There is an entire side issue here on how the NBA handles player development in general (post coming).
Looking at the Celtics though, the "guys that could help now" approach has netted us J.R. Giddens, JJJ, Moore and Harangody. None of those players provided anything during their rookie seasons and a couple of them provided nothing ever (I am not writing off JJJ or Moore at this point it is way too early for that). In taking these players the Celtics passed on DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik, Sonny Weems and who know who might emerge from last year's class.
If the Celtics had selected Jordan or Asik in 2008 they would have gotten nothing from them for the first couple of years (same as Giddens) but come 2010 and on we would have had the center we have needed.
On the other hand in 2010 Ainge took Bradley, who was very young and needed time to develop and now it looks like the Celtics have a solid starter or at worst are really nice piece for the rotation.
When you draft for potential sometimes you and you pick a bust, but sometimes the more developed guys have such a low ceiling that they really are not productive anyways.
I think the Celtics should use both picks on Thursday and they should pick the two players with the highest ceilings, period. Swing the bat. You can use your checkbook to get guys who "can help right now". If Sullinger falls to them, great, best of both worlds. You get a contributor now and potential for the future. If he isn't there at 21, I think the wise course is to go for potential.