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Okay… I admit it. I snapped.

I was minding my own business (yeah, right) reading Jeff’s “Don’t Trade that Draft Pick” when I came across this passage about how the Celtics might fair in the next draft:

“Noah, Bill Walker, Brandon Wright, Budinger, McRoberts, Arthur, and Hortford fill out (ESPN’s Chad) Ford’s top 10. Maybe they won’t all be homeruns, but I like our chances of landing a stud anywhere in that group, especially with Danny’s eye for talent.”

It was the bit about “Danny’s eye for talent,” that drove me over the edge. Usually a MODEL of serenity and open-mindedness (ahem…), I wrote:

“God, I’ve had it up to HERE with the garbage about “Danny’s eye for talent.” …At what point do people wake up and smell the parquet? We got our asses kicked at home by the Knicks! …Maybe after stinking for three, going on four years we can agree with most folks around the league that there’s a reason the Celts kids dropped to the late first and second rounds in the draft. THEY’RE NOT GOOD PLAYERS.”

Proving my mother’s point that I’ve got a God-given gift for pissing people off, a gentleman named “Slam” took up the gauntlet:

“Getting high schoolers/freshman in the late to mid-first round doesn’t mean they’ll be a bust, they’ll just take a little longer to develop to become better players than the collegians that were available at the same pick.

Ask yourself this, given the draft positions Ainge has selected from, what future all-star did he overlook when making his selections? No one comes to mind for me. If you’re aware of any, please share so you can put some substance in your position. ”

Well, fair enough. Let’s have some “substance.” The team has mostly stunk during Danny’s tenure. His trades have been lousy. The one thing people give Danny credit for is his “eye for talent.” So, let’s take a look at Danny’s saving grace.

Here are Danny’s first round picks from 2003-2005, and some guys on whom Danny passed:

2003: (Marcus Banks, Kendrick Perkins): Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard
2004: (Jefferson) Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson (Allen, West)
2005: (Gerald Green) Hakim Warrick, Jarrett Jack

I’ll grant you that none of the true rookies picked after Bassy have done better so far this year, but a) 11 points and 4 assists per game is nothing to scream about and b) let’s see where things are for Randy Foye - who’s been coming on strong in his last few games - at the end of the season.

(And oh yeah, Marcus Williams has it all over Rondo by the numbers.)

So, no all-stars, true, but I’d take any of the players I listed over what we got so far. But that’s just silly old me. I care about… you know… results.

The notion that a high school player has as good a shot to develop in the pros as someone who has played big time college ball is one reason why the Celtics are what they are. It reflects the belief that, as Ainge has said to the Globe’s Shira Springer, he can pluck great players out of the draft based on “instinct,” rather than good data or playing the percentages the way, say, Billy Beane has in baseball.

Media coverage tends to focus on the stories of winners: players who were dominant in high school, great college players, and then NBA stars. But this is by far the exception rather than the rule. It’s rare that a dominant high school player becomes a great college player, and even more rare that a great college player becomes an NBA starter or all-star. You just have no idea how they’ll respond to top flight competition, how their bodies and psyches will turn out, if they’ll be injury prone, unable to handle the pressure of the spotlight, etc… The act of plucking a kid out of high school in the hopes that he will become a real NBA player reminds me of those old McDonald’s commercials with Larry, Michael, and Barkley playing HORSE from outer space. It’s that kind of shot.

Occasionally, you get a LeBron, or a Garnett, or a Dwight Howard, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule - the rule being that “NBA development” is an oxymoron. These kids could play from the start. They didn’t dominate, but it was clear they belonged and it wasn’t long before they established themselves as outstanding players.

This is not to say that a few years of college ball will “develop” a great player either. The main role that college plays is to give good managers more information, to show how a player holds up under conditions that are somewhat similar to those they’d encounter in the NBA.

This is Ainge’s primary failing, and really the only one for which a manager cannot be forgiven: more often than not, Ainge has either opted for less information (by picking high school kids) or simply ignored the information that was staring him in the face (by trading for LaFrentz, Wally, Telfair, etc…)

If you’re Danny, though, I guess the good times are always right around the corner… Maybe in 2010…

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