Chalk it up as GM-speak, tempering expectations of a rabid fan base looking to get good fast, or laying down the groundwork for a future trade in June, but Danny Ainge is putting it out there that he doesn't think much of the class of 2014:
"I think that's it's realistically hyped now, because I thought - and I said - before the season even started that it was completely overhyped," Ainge said. "It's like, mock drafts are never accurate until about a week before the draft. They incrementally get a little bit more accurate. But really, until June, the history would say that you really don't want to pay too much attention to it."
Yet is this draft class realistically better, or is it just better than the 2013 class, which was one of the worst draft classes in a decade or so?
"I think it's maybe a little bit better by comparison, but it's not even close to one of the best draft classes in the last 10 years," Ainge said.
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News is suspicious of Danny's comments, but really, what could Ainge gain by talking poorly of next year's rookie class? With two picks in the Top-20 and one lottery-bound, wouldn't he want to hype up their potential to entice other GM's to make a deal with him?
But maybe Danny's just being honest. It's crazy to think that a GM would be so publicly truthful about his team's future prospects, but that could be the case. We've seen flaws in some of the most touted freshmen in this year's class. Jabari Parker can't play D. Andrew Wiggins came up small in the tournament. Joel Embiid's back is a potential red flag. Nobody's a sure thing.
I've had conversations with our resident draft guru, Kevin O'Connor, and we talk about the idea of creators and finishers. At the beginning of the year, almost everybody in that consensus Top-5 of mock drafts were in that class of transformative player who could be the cornerstone of a franchise. These were players that fit into that LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Tim Duncan mold and could be counted on to make his teammates better and shoulder the burden of carrying a team on his own. They were creators. Now, some of those players still might exist in this draft class, but as their seasons have progressed, many of them have shifted over to the "finisher" category. Danny might see them more as Jeff Greens rather than Paul Georges.
But then again last summer, despite downplaying last year's draft class, Danny traded up to grab Kelly Olynyk. He's since talked about how Kelly can be a very good role player, but I honestly believe that Ainge has higher expectations for KO. With his size, passing ability, and shooting range, he could be one of those five-tool talents that could be a focal point on a rebuilding team. So, Danny can discount the potential of this year's collective draft, but don't think he isn't looking for a diamond in the ruff. Don't be surprised if he passes up on a physical phenom like Aaron Gordon or Willie Cauley-Stein and opts for a headier player like Tyler Ennis or Gary Harris.
He'll have to do his homework, but I love where Danny's head is at based on this quote:
"But overall, there's a whole basketball life and an off-the-court life of guys that we evaluate and then we try to anticipate who they can become."
As fans, sometimes we forget that there's going to be an element of these players that we're not going to be able to "mock" on Draft Day. After the season, Ainge and Stevens are going to be able to scout these players close-up, call their high school and college coaches, and really get to know these guys. They're going to be able to disseminate not only what they can do on the floor, but what they'll do off the court that will make them better in the future because so much of this rebuilding process is putting in place a strong foundation and that means finding guys who will be Celtics and hopefully, have always been Celtics.