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Celtics and Grizzlies second round trade a puzzling one for Boston

Boston, who has hinted at the notion that they're looking to push the rebuild process forward, made a draft-night trade that looks purely geared towards the distant future.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to draft-night frustrations with the Celtics, take your pick. Between being unable to push a significant trade, drafting two players in the first round who look to be stashed overseas, and missing several high-ranked players who slipped, the draft had Cs fans feeling punched in the gut across the board.

From months of anticipation to midnight tears of disappointment, the night was flush with the anticlimactic. Jaylen Brown appears to be an excellent selection third overall, but the reports of Jimmy Butler trade conversations starting then dying raises questions, along with what the 76ers ultimately offered.

Then there's the overseas considerations, Guerschon Yabusele of France and Ante Zizic of Croatia. Danny Ainge didn't offer any definitives, but both appear to be stashes with how packed the Cs roster may end up becoming before training camp.

Danny Ainge on NBA Draft night

Roster consolidation must have become an emphasis for the team once a major trade wasn't in the works centered around the third pick, but when the second round approached, the team made a puzzling decision. Boston decided to swap their 31st and 35th overall picks with the Grizzlies for a 2019 protected first round pick from the Clippers.

What made the trade interesting was that it sort of doubles up the return the Celts will see in the end for shipping Jeff Green to the Grizz in 2015. That trade sent Tayshaun Prince (who yielded Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko), Austin Rivers (sent to LA for Shavlik Randolph and Chris Douglas-Roberts), and a Memphis first round pick (1-8 protected in 2019, 1-6 protected in 2020, unprotected in 2021 with certain other restraints related to Nuggets payment) Boston's way.

The Grizzlies would go on to ship Green in February, just over a year later, to Los Angeles in exchange for Lance Stephenson and a Clippers 2019 first round pick that is 1-14 protected in 2019 and 1-14 protected in 2020 before converting to a 2022 second-round selection if not sent by that point. That pick is what the Celtics now receive in exchange for Nos. 31 and 35 tonight.

At 31 Memphis selected Deyonta Davis of Michigan State (ranked 11th on Kevin O'Connor's big board) and then selected Rade Zagorac (ranked 37th by KO) of Serbia four picks later. The second round is always a complete toss-up, but even though Ainge expressed that they got a guy they love anyways at 45 (Demetrius Jackson of Notre Dame, another guard), I didn't love the reasoning for the trade.

When asked about the deal Ainge said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to pick up a future first-round pick.

In my eyes that's kind of deceiving considering both how heavily protected the pick is (even possibly becoming a second rounder) and how far in the future it is stashed. The year 2019 is beyond anybody's comprehensible vision of what situation Boston will be in, if they even get the pick that early.

Then there's the fact that Boston is already waiting on a far more valuable Memphis pick that far into the future. There was no dire need to add future draft assets to the collection they already have. Especially when Ainge himself even joked that he never wants to be in a situation like he was in 2016 again, having to work out over 100 players in preparation to make eight draft selections.

That transitions into the most important lesson the team should have learned at this draft. The mass of picks that the Cs had at their arsenal going in didn't give them any power to make a significant move. When the chips hit the table, it is likely that teams like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia wanted most of Boston's picks or important player assets that the team was unwilling to part with in order to make a larger deal happen. That's what Ainge seemed to have meant when he stated the trades out there needed to work for both teams and ultimately didn't, stating that the Cs pulled from some conversations while opponents pulled from others.

If the Celts are truly looking to push the needle now, there's no way future draft assets can help them outside landing a stud via selection, which carries increasing uncertainty with international presence and young prospects. Future assets simply aren't valuable enough in this era of the salary cap rising faster than the national debt. In fact, teams even expressed an unwillingness to deal with Boston because of their lack of valuable players.

As valuable as pick consolidation and draft stashing may have become to the Celtics given the situation they faced, the move is difficult to understand from a team that has just seen two seasons of playoff appearances and improvement under a currently standing core. Pushing more draft picks into the future while missing out on a possible top-tier prospect like Deyonta Davis was one of the most discouraging moments of the night. Whether used by the team or in a corresponding trade, selecting him made much more sense given their current roster than a 2019 pick.

Boston seems to have reversed on their stance of pushing the needle forward on draft night whether on purpose or by consequence, and it's difficult to swallow.

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