Let me start by making one thing clear - if you're a true NBA junkie, there is really no such thing as a boring NBA draft.
If you devote hours to thinking about the league every day, if you spent weeks pre-draft studying game tape and following rumors, if you build up this moment in your head and look forward to it like nothing else, then yes, draft night will always be gratifying. No matter what happens, you're guaranteed to see 60 players get selected and all your speculation met with finality. There's a great emotional payoff in that.
But as drafts go? And not just any drafts, but those littered with top-flight talent, not to mention the lingering peripheral storylines of blockbuster trades and league-defining free agencies right around the corner? Drafts with so much potential for fireworks of all kinds? This one, if we're being honest, was actually kinda lackluster.
No draft is a complete dud, as you always get to see a new class of players enter the league and alter the futures of their new franchises. But what did we get last night other than the ordinary procession of picks? Not much, really. Everything went according to convention - the No. 1 team (Cleveland) showed up and took the draft's best player (Andrew Wiggins), No. 2 (Milwaukee) took the second-best guy (Jabari Parker) and it all flowed from there. It was a draft. Players were taken in order.
There were no crazy surprises in the picks themselves (though maybe Noah Vonleh fell a little far to No. 9, and it was kinda weird seeing a guy picked No. 20 in Bruno Caboclo that no one had ever heard of). There were no major trades (with apologies to lottery picks Elfrid Payton, Doug McDermott and Dario Saric who technically did change hands). Nothing major happened that would impact the free agencies of Carmelo Anthony or a member of Miami's Big Three. All was quiet on the Kevin Love front. Aside from the stuff that was obvious and obligatory, nothing really happened.
From a lot of teams' perspectives, that's totally fine. I'm sure fans in Cleveland were thrilled to see their front office simply take Wiggins without trying any funny business that might backfire, and I bet Minnesotans were fine with watching Flip Saunders stay put, at least for now, with Love. No reason to rush it when dealing away a franchise cornerstone.
But if you're the Celtics? A franchise with a storied tradition to live up to and a fan base that's impatient to return to championship form? Inaction is your worst enemy. The C's needed a shakeup after finishing last season at a dismal 25-57, and draft night seemed like the right time for something to happen. Nothing did.
Instead of making a splash last night, the Celtics merely stayed patient and took the guys who they saw as the best players available at picks Nos. 6 and 17 respectively. They snagged Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State with the first selection, then sat back and waited for James Young from Kentucky with the second.
Both are nice players. Smart by all accounts is a physical presence who's ready to be an NBA guard on both ends of the floor, and Young is a versatile wing player who's poised to show the depth of his game at the NBA level. Both guys can contribute.
Though it's not clear what either of them can add to the Celtics that the team doesn't have already. How do these two players lift the team out of 25-win purgatory? What do the C's do if they find the two rookies redundant? After all, Smart is an intelligent, hyper-competitive point guard, which sounds an awful lot like Rajon Rondo, and accounts on Young are mixed between "shooting guard who can't shoot a high percentage" (just like Avery Bradley) and "small forward who drifts erratically in and out games" (ahem, Jeff Green). What new element are the Celtics getting?
This isn't to say that either player is a likely bust - they're both promising talents in their own ways, and it will be exciting to watch them develop. But for a Celtics team that had a few potential strategies on the table for building a winner right away (or for angling toward a brighter long-term future), this draft outcome feels underwhelming.
There was an expectation among many that the 2014 draft was a "go big or go home" turning point for the Celtics. Either they could bring in a big star like Love, or they could stockpile project draft picks like Joel Embiid and Saric and rebuild slowly. Go one way or the other. Instead, Love remains a Timberwolf, Philadelphia stole the Embiid/Saric idea and the Celtics sit motionless in the same rebuilding position they've been in all year.
I'm not sure what the endgame is here. I strongly believe that if they stick with their current roster - holding onto Rondo, all the other vets and the two new draft picks - they're unlikely to inch any closer to the playoffs than they were this year. Smart and Young are good, but they're not getting you over the hump just yet. If the C's want to move the needle, they need to do more.
More may still happen. We've seen many times before that the fireworks don't always come on draft night itself. Sometimes you wait days, weeks or months.
For the Celtics' sake, something has got to give at some point. This draft wasn't altogether boring - because again, no draft ever is - but in Boston, it left something still to be desired. We'll see what happens this summer.