One of the big stories to come out of the 2015 NBA Draft was the Celtics aggressively trying to move up in the first round to take Justise Winslow. Danny Ainge reportedly offered as many as six draft picks to the Charlotte Hornets, who declined in order to draft Frank Kaminsky.
Bill Simmons said on The Lowe Post podcast:
I know the Pistons passed on it. Whatever it was eight, nine, 10. It was Pistons passed. They offered the same thing. They wouldn’t even talk about it, because they wanted to take Stanley Johnson.
The ninth pick was Charlotte. Jordan couldn’t figure it out in time and finally didn’t do it, so they passed on those four picks, one of which would have been Jaylen Brown. Another one would have been Rozier.
And then the 10th pick, they called Riley, and Riley just laughed and hung up on them. Riley was like, “No, I’m taking Justise Winslow. I’ll talk to you guys later.”
That sounds more apocryphal than it does like solid reporting with legit sources, but it also seems reasonable. If the Celtics were to make that offer to the Hornets, why wouldn’t they also offer the teams drafting ahead of the Hornets?
It’s easy to lambast the Pistons for passing on such an impressive sounding haul, but in all likelihood the “haul” wouldn’t be all it’s cracked up to be.
The Celtics owned too many picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. They needed to unload some, simply because of roster spots. And many were so low that the quality of prospect really wouldn’t move the needle. The Pistons would have been in a similar spot.
The Celtics had the 16, 28, 33, and 45 picks in 2015 and what ended up being the 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, and 58 picks in 2016. Those players turned out to be Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey, Marcus Thornton, Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, Deyonta Davis, Rade Zagorac, Demetrius Jackson, Ben Bentil, and Abdel Nader. Only three of those 11 players logged any minutes for the Celtics this year.
It’s basically an attempt to take a wheelbarrow full lesser picks and turn it into a more valuable one. Which was pretty much the MO of the Jeff Bower and Stan Van Gundy front office. So not only was it logical for them to turn down, well, we all agree that Danny Ainge is a smart guy, right? So the fact that he was trying to follow a similar tactic as the Pistons’ front office...that’s telling, right?
The Stanley Johnson pick hasn’t panned out so far, to be sure. And yes, one of the players the Celtics drafted with theirs is looking promising in Scary Terry. But the Pistons really didn’t need six roster spots dedicated to fringe prospects.
Though the headline may be an ugly one, even in retrospect this is an offer I’m perfectly fine with the Pistons saying no thanks to.