With all signs pointing towards the Philadelphia 76ers taking Ben Simmons from Louisiana State as the number one pick in the NBA Draft, and the Los Angeles Lakers following up with Brandon Ingram as the number two selection, what happens next? Just one pick remains between the Phoenix Suns and the player that will likely (definitely) catapult them into the Western Conference playoffs for the next dozen or so years.
From there, mock drafts have the Boston Celtics going in a hundred different directions with the number three pick. Following the Draft Lottery, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge spoke to reporters about Boston's draft position.
"The picture is more clear for sure," Ainge said. "But still the draft is uncertain just by its nature, when you're often times, like I said, drafting kids that are so young. So there's a lot of uncertainty about the future, everybody's future in the NBA. Players that we draft, there are no guarantees. But we like this draft."
"We're excited about this No. 3 pick. We believe that a good player will come out of this draft and I can't wait to continue the process. Yeah, we were holding out for a short hope there to get the No. 1 or 2 pick, but the No. 3 pick is a very good player. And we have our eyes set on a handful of guys."
That handful of guys includes Croatian big man Dragan Bender. While Bender hasn't logged a ton of minutes with Maccabi Tel Aviv, his draft stock continues to rise. Ainge and his son Austin, Boston's director of player personnel, made a trip to Israel last weekend to evaluate the teenage phenom in a pair of practices last weekend.
"It's a small body of work, but he was very good last year as a junior," Austin Ainge said. "Combine that with the tools he has, and you can see it all come together in 10 minutes of playing time."
Danny Ainge acknowledged the challenge of scouting international players.
"I'll see most of the college players in the draft a few times a year, sometimes as many as seven or eight times a year," Ainge said. "The European game, you may go over there and they play one game against a bad team and another game against a really good team. It's hard to evaluate the level of competition that they're playing against every night. But there are some exceptions. There are some leagues over there that are better than college basketball. So it's a little bit more challenging, sure."
When the Maccabi playoff season concludes, Bender will fly to Boston for a workout. June 9th at the latest.
The C's also have their eyes on California freshman Jaylen Brown. He's already had his workout with the Celtics, and evidently made a good impression. According to Austin Ainge, Brown participated in "pick-and-rolls, some post-ups, some transition stuff both on offense and defense, some shooting drills."
"We've seen him a lot," Ainge said. "The first time I saw Jaylen he was 17 in a camp and I saw him in three or four camps since then, and high school and a lot of college games. We've seen him a lot."
The elder Ainge offered as glowing of an endorsement as you'll hear him make before the draft, remarking that Brown, "looked pretty good in the workout."
Your best bet of course is that mock drafts will have the Celtics going in a completely different direction before you finish your morning coffee. Or before lunch if you're in the Eastern Time Zone.
Who would you like to see Boston spend their pick on before Phoenix drafts at number four?