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Danny Ainge says there are “no game changers” in this draft. In short term he’s right.

Mar 26, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

Towson v Kansas Getty Images

The 2014 NBA Draft Class — assuming that Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and the rest of the young stars declare — has been hyped as the best thing since 2003. That may turn out to be an overreaction.

After the three players mentioned above were eliminated the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, some in the media swung the pendulum too far the other way saying these guys are not going to make a big impact in the NBA, that they couldn’t handle pressure (based on one game at age 19). That was an overreaction, too.

The real question for this draft is how good are these players going to be in three to five years? That’s what teams are drafting them for, not their rookie season.

Boston’s basketball decision maker Danny Ainge has tried to play down draft expectations for a while — which is smart as he is going to draft high this year and bring in a big name and he’d like fans not to expect instant miracles he knows are not coming.

Ainge was saying that again in a live stream video on the Celtics Web site, transcribed by

“I’ve been saying all along that the experts on ESPN and so forth are blowing this draft out of proportion,” Ainge said. “First of all, we don’t even know who’s in the draft yet. There are a lot of underclassmen that are projected, so we’re prepared for those underclassmen that are projected draft picks but we don’t know who’s going to be in the draft.

“There aren’t any game changers in the draft. There are a lot of nice players and players that we’ll be excited to work into the development, but they’re not going to come in and turn our team around in one year or two years. But hopefully we’ll be able to get a couple of players this year that will be rotation players in the NBA for years to come.”

PBT’s draft expert, Ed Isaacson of and Rotoworld (check out Ed’s regional previews of the EastSouthMidwest and West), agrees with Ainge. To a degree.

“I think Ainge has the concept right saying there are no ‘game changers’ in this draft, though the phrasing may be a bit broad,” Isaacson said in an email. “Guys like Wiggins, Embiid, Julius Randle, Parker, if any or all declare, will certainly have an impact on any team they play for. Depending on the team, the impact could be felt much more right away. Ainge’s explanation though of his statement gets to the part where I agree — none of the players in this draft are the kind to change the fortunes of a franchise in a year or two. Not to say that they can’t be franchise players at some point in their career, but people expecting this group to take the league by storm when they get in are probably off base.”

Again, the question isn’t “can Andrew Wiggins lead the Bucks/Sixers/Magic/whoever to the playoffs next year?” The question is can he or Embiid or whomever be a franchise cornerstone in four years? Can that player, along with a couple other pieces, make your team a contender?

In that sense there very likely will be a couple of game changers in this draft. Just don’t expect them to play that way next year. (And no, that is not argument for keeping them in college longer so colleges and coaches can get rich off their free labor, those guys will develop faster into whatever they will be in the NBA than another year of limited practices against inferior competition.)

The problem for Ainge and other GMs of lottery teams is it will be impossible to put the expectations genie back in the bottle.

  1. spursareold - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Parker is the one I can see really stiffing. He doesn’t look like he can defend at the next level. Hell. he couldn’t even defend at the NCAA level. I don’t need a 20 point scorer who’s man gets at least that much every night. That’s a wash at best and a deficit at worst. He’s likely the worst athlete proected in the top 6 or maybe 7 picks.

    People need to remember that these players are basically forced into one year of indentured servitude. Drummond had one of the worst ,one and done years in recent memory, and now looks like he could be a superstar at some point in the near future. I think Wiggins and Embiid both have that same chance.

    • bougin89 - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Wiggins has the highest ceiling/athletic tools to be a legitimate star two way player. Marcus Smart, defensively, reminds me of a young Dwyane Wade at Marquette although Smart isn’t as explosive an athlete as Wade was. They’re both sneaky ball hawks defensively.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      Uh, Melo is a max contract player and this is exactly who Parker is being compared to by many… Melo. All offense, no defense and while they both have a good post/inside game, they both tend to settle for jumpers…

      Now, Parker has not even played a minute of NBA ball so it’s all speculation but there are many out there calling Parker the next Melo…

    • unxpexted1 - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      People keep saying this about Parker and forgetting that fact that he is a 6’8 power forward and was being asked ot play the center position for Duke in the starting lineup. Not saying he’s a lockdown defender but he plays way out of position on D.

  2. aboogy123456 - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Randle, Exum, Wiggins, Embiid, Parker, and even Smart are #1 picks in a typical draft. If these guys are not gamechangers, then in what draft are there gamechangers? All of the guys I mentioned can significantly help their teams right away, and in 5-6 years we may be looking at the best player in the league coming from this draft. If you don’t think they are that good Danny, then stop tanking.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      It all depends on one’s definition of game changer. Ainge means none will a great impact next season, the way LBJ was his first yr in the NBA or the way MJ, Magic and Bird’s first seasons were.

      Now, the player you mentioned all could/should be game changers in 3 to 4 yrs…

  3. aboogy123456 - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Randle, Exum, Wiggins, Embiid, Parker, and even Smart are #1 picks in a typical draft. If these guys are not gamechangers, then in what draft are there gamechangers?

    • casualcommenter - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Agreed. People forget that while LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all eventually became All-NBA caliber players, they didn’t START out that way. They all had good rookie years, but none of them became dominant until around year 2 or 3 of their careers.

      Like the critics, I don’t see any of these players as immediate All-NBA candidates as rookies. However, as you said, there’s a very nice group of young talent who could EVENTUALLY end up at the All-NBA level. That’s the best you can hope for in the draft.

      • andreboy1 - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:55 PM

        Lebron was great from game 1 against my Kings. The rest you’re right about.

      • bougin89 - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        Lebron was pretty much All-NBA from game 1. He wasn’t even close to the defender he is now but he was still a dominate player from the start.

      • sportsfan18 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        VERY few are great out of the gate in the NBA. I won’t try to go back too far, but here are some who were…

        Rookie season PER (FYI, a PER of 20 is border line All Star)

        MJ 25.8 (this is ridiculously high. of course MJ has the highest career PER of all time) MJ’s 2nd yr PER was 27.5 and in his 3rd season he LEAD the NBA in PER, which he did for the next 6 seasons (lead the NBA in PER from his 3rd thru 9th seasons in the league)

        LBJ 18.3 (in LBJ’s defense, he came straight out of high school and MJ played for yrs at N.Carolina for Dean Smith). LBJ’s PER in season 2 was 25.7 and LBJ currently has the 2nd highest career PER of all time behind MJ.

        Lobe Bryant 14.4 (2nd yr 18.5, 3rd yr 18.9) LIKE LBJ, he played right out of high school, but UNLIKE LBJ, he started MUCH more slowly.

        Kevin Garnett 15.8 (2nd yr 18.2, 3rd yr 20.4) Another one straight out of high school like Kobe and LBJ

        Bird 20.5

        Magic 20.6

        D Wade 17.6 (2nd yr was 23.1)

        Carmelo 17.6 (2nd yr was 16.7)

        Chris Bosh 15.1 (2nd yr 17.5)

        Paul Pierce 19.2 (2nd yr 19.8)

        Chris Paul 22.1 (2nd yr 22.0)

        So, there are few game changers from season one as a rookie in the NBA.

      • whodat82 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        Lobe Bryant

      • 00maltliquor - Mar 27, 2014 at 1:22 AM

        What are you talking about? LeBron was top 5 was soon as he hit the court!

    • narfmoo12 - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      You’re over estimating these players. Wiggins, Embiid, Smart and Parker combined for 1 win in the NCAA tournament.

      The current rookies have contributed nothing. Carter-Williams is leading the rookies in minutes, points, assists, and despite being a PG, rebounds!

      There are 3 rookies averaging more than 25 minutes per game, and only 4 rookies averaging more than 8 points per game.

      Ainge is right.

      • money2long - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

        are you saying everyone in the nba who is NICE had great teams before coming into the nba? because you seem to be judging talent off of team success

      • money2long - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        Looks like guys don’t understand how a draft operates. You pick talent. Not the school. If it were up to u guys, u wouldn’t notice Damian Lillard.

      • sportsfan18 - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:04 PM


        NOT correct sir.

        You said that Carter-Williams was leading the rookies in minutes.

        Williams has played 2,062 min’s this season so far.

        Oladipo has played 2,241 min’s this season so far.

        You left out shooting percentage I see as Oladipo is shooting better from the field than Carter-Williams is.

        Carter-Williams is shooting .393% from the field. LESS than 40% is not good.

        Carter-Williams is shooting .263% from 3 pt range.

        Overall, Carter-Williams is having the best rookie season, but Oladipo closed on him after Williams hot start to the season.

        I’d still take Victor (not for rookie of the yr as that is Williams) as a player before Williams.

        Yeah, Carter-Williams is averaging more min’s per game, but he has been ON the court LESS than Oladipo this season overall…

      • nickjackalson - Mar 27, 2014 at 7:35 AM

        F@*’# that slave-work tourney..

        and to pin any meaning on one game is so .. footballish

        Ainge´s phrasing of the latter part of the statement is better than its beginning, yet perhaps he´s really just trying to tone it down a notch, as boston ain´t going nowhere next season too..

  4. rrhoe - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Cleanthony Early is the sleeper of the draft!!!!!

    • sasquash20 - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:19 PM

      Like that kid a lot

  5. bballhistorian - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Yet if Ainge picks one of them…he will have to kiss his a**

    • spursareold - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      Probably why he’s not thrilled. Who needs a SECOND high maintenance player?

      • 00maltliquor - Mar 27, 2014 at 1:26 AM

        The C’s

  6. antistratfordian - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    I’m still mildly excited about Wiggins. He has the highest ceiling. I forgot which GM said this quote – but it might apply to him: “You’d rather have a player you have to reign in than one you have to kick in the butt to get going.” Something like that.

    Of course some other player may turn out to be the best of the bunch. It’s hard to tell with this draft, and it wasn’t supposed to be.

    • money2long - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:32 PM

      that quote sounds like it applies to russell westbrook

  7. phillycannon - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    What does ainge really know. he got garnett and all in a trade, and once they left his talent evaluation left too. Besides Rondo….who has he drafted????

    I agee with bballhistorian. Ainge…cmon lets call a spade a spade here.

    • jcmeyer10 - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Avery Bradley ain’t bad and it took him a few years. Trust me, fans were starting to turn on him.

    • pharohislife - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:35 PM

      Not only did Ainge get a steal in drafting Avery Bradley, he also drafted Jared Sullinger late in the 1st, Big Baby Davis, Delonte West, Tony Allen etc. He’s got a pretty good eye for late round talent. Not all his picks panned out but he’s definitely had some good ones.

    • campcouch - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      Remember that successful teams don’t get to draft choice prospects. They draft role players and occasionally will find a diamond. It’s not so much Ainge drafting well,it’s what he’s been able to draft.

    • pukpokito - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      For what it’s worth, Danny Ainge told his owners that if the Celtics would get the #1 pick he would choose Durant over Oden. Danny knows how to draft.He just hasn’t been in position to show it because the Celtics have been in the playoffs.

      • Kurt Helin - Mar 29, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        Others in the Celtics organization dispute that off the record, say they would have taken Oden.

    • 00maltliquor - Mar 27, 2014 at 1:35 AM

      He didn’t draft Rondo, the Suns did.

      • pharohislife - Mar 27, 2014 at 3:15 AM

        Do a little more research and you’ll find that Ainge had the Suns Draft Rondo for him and he traded immediately for him. So technically Ainge did Draft him.

      • 00maltliquor - Mar 27, 2014 at 4:47 AM

        @ pharoh
        I was waiting for somebody to say that! lol
        It only took me 3 times of baiting in the past for someone to finally bite.

  8. andreboy1 - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    Parker is going to fill out even more and then he’ll be glued to the ground. Just imagine what his body will look like when he’s 25?

    Wiggins has weak handles and suspect go-to moves with elite athleticism.

    Randle and Embiid are both projects. I’ve seen nothing of Exum.

    There’s more questions than answers. Parker and Wiggins were talked about like they were once in a decade talents but it turns out they’re not.

    • money2long - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      seeing nothing of exum is on you..

    • sasquash20 - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:25 PM

      Guys they are all like 19. How can they not have question marks. I will say Parker may end upa PF. Kid needs to get into better shape. Once he gets paid, does he turn into a pro? Or does he blow up to like 300 beans?

  9. spursareold - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    I think one of the most important evaluations this year may be the interviews. The kid you want needs to view the NBA not as the finish line, but as the starting blocks. Too many kids these days are too content just to BE there, and they don’t put in the work.

    • 00maltliquor - Mar 27, 2014 at 1:37 AM

      Niice comment

  10. kingperk123 - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    I hope the Celtics pick Adreian Payne,tj Warren

    • pukpokito - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:59 PM

      The Celtics have the Brooklyn Nets’ pick.I like Wichita’s Early.

  11. campcouch - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    Of course it’s going to take 3-5 years for them to develop. Those would be the years normally spent developing in the NCAA. All one and done and high school draftees take that long to get established in the NBA. Scoring isn’t an issue with these guys,it’s everything else that they need to learn,so it’s best to grab them,and with the current CBA,hold on to them for at least 6 years while they develop. The bigger risk is passing one up and waiting another 10 years for someone with comparable talent.

  12. atlbrave5 - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    This is exactly what’s wrong with the NBA as a whole. They are like one big SEC or ACC basketball conference…very heavy at the top and the bottom is pretty much not even a threat! You have all of these bad teams like the Celtics, Jazz, Bucks and Sixers all tanking the season away (before it even began) just to get a high draft pick. That pick will turn into one of these players mentioned above and next season a player like Wiggins (who needs another year or two or three) will be playing for a Sixers team with a no name coach and 14 other first and second year players, and still won’t make the playoffs. That is the reality of how these teams and now these GMs operate. Most of them are idiots!

    The NBA is killing their own product with all of their rules and contract laws. Here is my point, Boston goes out and hires Brad Stevens from Butler, the Sixers hire assistant coach Brett Brown for 4 years (3 years remaining), so let me get this strait. A team like the Sixers or the Celtics are going to be a non-title contender for the next 3+ years while waiting for their lottery pick to become an all-star, in the mean time the fan base is supposed to cont. to attend the games and support the organization? Oh by the way, will the head coaches even be around to witness it? Phila is on their 8th head coach in the last 10 years!!!!! Not to mention, if a player like Wiggins does turn out to be a baller, then he will end up bolting and leaving the team that drafted him like Carmelo did the Nuggets, like Lebron did to the Cavs, like Shaq and Dwight did to Orlando, like Chris Paul did to the Hornets, like countless number of other superstars have done in their careers. It’s all a part of the game, and I get that, what I don’t understand is why teams TANK the season in order to be a part of that list??

  13. pukpokito - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    I hope Ainge gets Wiggins.I want to see Ainge work on Wiggins and the endless questions of:Does Wiggins want to be great?

  14. simoneauchristopher5 - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM


    I think you are a good writer & you know your stuff, but lets slow it down on the whole “slave labor” argument you have been pushing. I’m a scout, I work with these kids fighting for D-1 (and D-2 &3) scholarships, and the kids that actually get scholarships, regardless of their NBA possibilities, are treated like gold and pampered from the moment they walk onto campus. You say the coaches are just there to make $$ off the players. I understand these coaches have ridiculous salaries, but for what they bring to the school, why shouldn’t they get paid accordingly? You think these players should be paid and the NCAA makes billions, but do some research & you’ll see that only two sports are profitable- football & basketball. Are they going to pay the golf team? Nope, because the kids are already receiving a FREE education, which is HUGE (anyone w/college loans gets this) and again, they are pampered when they are D-1. The only way I think it’s OK for college kids to get paid is endorsements. If the NCAA changes that rule, which they should, that would make sense, but don’t blame the coaches.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 29, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      I think the profits from football/basketball should be put in a trust for when the players leave school and it should be divided up so golf, gymnastics and the rest get a cut.

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