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Celtics’ Ainge doesn’t see a franchise-changing player in this draft

Oct 3, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Andrew Wiggins AP

I’ve taken to calling it “woeful for Wiggins” but there are a hundred different ways of phrasing the organizational tanking going on around the NBA — a number of teams are going with the “get bad to get good” strategy this year. The Sixers, Suns, Magic, Jazz and others chose this year to be a down year because upcoming is what is considered the deepest draft in a decade.

Andrew Wiggins (who will play at Kansas) is considered the biggest prize, a guy who some scouts feel can have a Kevin Durant/LeBron James kind of impact on a franchise (his game is different than theirs, we are talking impact). Behind him are Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and others that could be future All-Star level guys and maybe franchise players. That’s the conventional wisdom out there.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge doesn’t see it that way at all.

Speaking with Ian Thompson of Sports Illustrated Ainge talked about how hard it is to go bad to get good because it takes a lot of luck (winning the lottery, then not having the consensus No. 1 guy to turn out to be Greg Oden). Then Ainge broke from conventional wisdom.

“If Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was out there to change your franchise forever, or Tim Duncan was going to change your franchise for 15 years? That might be a different story,” said Ainge. “I don’t see that player out there.”

Well, those guys Ainge mentioned are big men and Wiggins is a swingman, but the way the league is evolving you want your best player on the perimeter, don’t you? Ainge can certainly see things differently than others, he’s made some good calls in the past. However, to me this sounds like a guy saying that to justify his choices.

Ainge’s Celtics are not going bad to get good — they are going to have a down year but they still have Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and others. They will not be terrible, but like the Bucks and others they are trying to develop talent rather than going the full terrible. That’s a good strategy as well — so long as you have the right coach in place and you can bring in the right players it can work. Look at Indiana, for example. Ainge doesn’t need to justify that choice.

We’ll see in five years if Ainge or everyone else was right about this draft, or if this was just Ainge spinning why he didn’t want to tank.

  1. bucrightoff - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    The last two times the Celtics have tanked they missed on Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant. Thats the lottery system for you, outright tanking doesn’t necessarily get rewarded, unlike say the Jaguars right now who will get the #1 pick in the NFL. That said this draft is loaded with potentially 3-5 franchise guys and another 3-5 very good prospects. Finishing 5th or 6th worse while still trying helps develop your younger players and still leaves you in a position to possibly get an impact player without the shame of not trying (and hopefully the bad karma that comes with it)

    • spursareold - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Finishing 5th or 6th worst may get you the overall #1. Spurs were 6th worst when they snagged Duncan.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:46 PM

        The Bulls were 9th worst and they still got the overall #1 and took Rose.

  2. tk41 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    The problem with tanking is that if too many teams do it, there are significantly diminishing returns. Only 1 team will get Wiggens, but about 5-6 teams are actively trying to get the #1 pick to use on him.
    These teams will be selling off assets to acquire cap space & making “anti-competitive” moves. One team will be rewarded by getting the 6th pick in the draft – a non-franchise player with no complimentary talent.
    People fall in love with the Thunder model of tanking, but they were successful because they made some amazing decisions (Westbrook at 4, Ibaka at 19) got a little lucky (Durant at 2 instead of Oden at 1) and didn’t have a half-dozen other teams trying to “out-tank” them.

  3. skinsfanwill - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Unless Cleveland finishes 5th or 6th worse. Since losing Lebron they are pretty much guaranteed a really high. In some instances 2 really high picks. Good looking out Stern. Time to open the lottery up to the public. Let us see those balls being pulled.

    • bucrightoff - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      I mean of course that’d be nice, but the NBA loves that the draft lottery is actually an event because of the perception its going to be rigged. Makes for good entertainment because there’s always a few teams with good theories as to why its rigged for them.

      • reastnt - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        And many more with theories as to why it’s rigged against them!

  4. johngalt1783 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Ainge isn’t the only one.

    Wiggins of course has said that he would like to play for the Raptors. I guess because he is from Toronto. So some of the Raptors media people have been talking tank and tank questions were ask of Raptors personnel coaches and players during media day and after the Raptors first question. One reporter asked about the Raptors tanking to try and get Wiggins in the draft.

    Coach Casey’s response. “I wouldn’t know who Wiggins was if he walked into a gym” Right on Casey.

  5. antistratfordian - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    There is no “Kevin Durant/LeBron James kind of impact.” There is a Kevin Durant impact and a LeBron James impact.

    Kevin Durant impact means that he is not going to do much for your franchise in terms of raw wins unless you also draft a player of comparable or near talent to play alongside him.

    LeBron James impact means that he can turn you into a winning team – even a contender – without having to add that other star player.

    Wiggins is more in Durant impact territory. Not many have ever had the LeBron James impact. Even Jordan was more Durant and less James in this regard.

  6. 00maltliquor - Oct 3, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    If anyone’s tanking this year its the C’s with their one PG 600 SG’S, One C and the rest forwards. They are in full on tank mode.

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