Thursday night’s NBA draft will be more interesting than most for the Boston Celtics, as the Eastern Conference franchise controls a whopping eight of the 60 picks that will be made.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has played the market perfectly in recent years, stockpiling assets of good young players alongside a number of draft picks, waiting for the ideal time to strike big.
Right now, more than ever, is where Ainge’s opportunity lies to capitalise on the good work he's done in recent years as Boston look to tempt free-agents to join this summer.
The team own picks three, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51 and 58, with those three first round picks still of high value even in a draft not anticipated to be as good as the supremely high quality of the player so far produced from the class of 2015.
So who should Boston take with the third overall pick?
Of course, the Celtics would have been overjoyed had the draft lottery managed to push them into the top two places, guaranteeing a shot at Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, the widely expected top two choices. But they will happily settle for pick number three.
At this moment there doesn't seem to be a definitive way the C's are heading with their pick, as they seem to be going back and forth on three different players; point guard Kris Dunn, small forward Jaylen Brown and power forward Marquese Chriss.
It's difficult to analyse which of this group the organisation should choose as, unlike most NBA teams, there is not a definitively weak position in their squad thanks to how Ainge has helped mould Boston’s roster. They have strength at every position and so any plausible choice would only be strengthening them.
However, if the Celtics are to take a player with the third pick (more of which in a minute), Dunn would most probably be the best fit for the roster, as he offers something Boston are currently lacking at the point guard spot; height and power.
Dunn is currently in a Russell Westbrook-like mould and, like the Oklahoma City Thunder’s triple-double machine, can also fill the stat-sheet, scoring 16.4 points while providing 5.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game this year in college.
He would provide stark difference to the team’s two current options at that spot; Isaiah Thomas, a small shoot-first PG, and Marcus Smart, who after two seasons is yet to show any great steps forward on the offensive end.
But is a blockbuster trade on the way?
With all the trade picks at their disposal, there is also a distinct possibility that Boston will use the third pick, alongside other assets, to secure an established big name player.
We have been aware for some time that the Chicago Bulls are open to letting star shooting guard Jimmy Butler leave this summer, but only for the correct price. The Celtics originally made a play at Butler during the trade deadline but their deal was rebuffed.
Now, with the knowledge that he is available, Butler has more suitors. The Minnesota Timberwolves, coached by Butler’s former head coach in Chicago Tom Thibodeau, and the Orlando Magic have been rumoured to be interested.
It was reported by Mark Stein of ESPN on Tuesday evening that Boston have also attempted to trade the third pick for Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, none of which have been successful.
This could mean another big push for these players in the 36 hours leading up to the draft, or they could revert back to taking the best available player and making a trade later this summer.
Benefits of having multiple picks
Due to a large number of picks the Masahussetts-based outfit has available, it would not be surprising if - in similar circumstances to 2015 when Justise Winslow shockingly fell to number ten - a player the Celtics have a keen eye on is not taken when expected, causing Ainge to trade up by offering some of Boston’s other picks.
Whatever decisions are made by Ainge and the Celtics front office on Thursday, the draft will surely be an exciting one for its fans, who know that they are certain to either leave with a new star player or a hopeful future superstar.