Keeping track of the Celtics' 2019 draft picks

The Boston Celtics could have as many as four first-round picks in 2019. It's tough to keep track of everything, so here's a guide to help you keep track of what to expect on draft day.

The Boston Celtics could have as many as four first-round draft picks this summer. The Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and Memphis Grizzlies all have protected picks that could head Boston's way, not to mention Boston's own first-rounder. With the Western Conference standings balancing on a razor's edge, it can feel overwhelming to keep track of it all. Where could each pick fall? Do the Celtics necessarily want each pick to convey right away? Where did they come from? I aim to answer as many of these questions as possible below.

The Clippers Pick

  • Protections: 1-14 (lottery) in 2019, 2020; becomes second rounder after 2020
  • Acquired by: Trading Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac (31st and 35th picks in 2016 draft) to Clippers in 2016
  • Expected draft range: 17-20

The Los Angeles Clippers are the feel-good team of the 2018-19 NBA season. Well, they were for the first half of the season, at least. The Clippers have fallen to the eighth seed in the Western Conference with little hope to regain their early rank within the top four. The resurgent Rockets and Jazz have surpassed them in the standings, while the Lakers sit only two games behind -- and that's with LeBron James sidelined to injury for over a month. The San Antonio Spurs, who haven't missed the playoffs in 22 years, are also in the mix for a lower playoff seed as well. Should the Clippers fall into a slump, the Celtics would have to wait at least another year for the pick to convey.

What should we expect?

The remaining schedule for the Clippers is among the easiest in the league, per Tankathon. The Pacers (now playing the rest of their season without Victor Oladipo) are listed twice among their toughest remaining opponents. The only notably challenging stretch left in their schedule is a road trip in March where they play Oklahoma City, Boston, Portland, Chicago, Brooklyn, and finally Indiana.

I also have the Clippers as my dark horse trade deadline team. Any team where the whole is greater than its parts is a candidate to move some lesser pieces for one big one. The Clippers have some very movable mid-size contracts and interesting young players like Montrezl Harrell, who's signed for $6 million through next season. Most of their other deals are expiring this summer, which would still be enticing to any team trying to shed salary (hello, Washington).

The Kings Pick

  • Protections: Top 1 protected
  • Acquired by: Trading the 1st overall pick in 2017 for the 3rd pick in that draft (which became Jayson Tatum) and a future protected first.
  • Expected draft range: 12-16

Like the Clippers, the Kings have vastly outperformed expectations. Sacramento finished last season 27-55 and shied away from drafting Luka Doncic last summer in favor of yet another power forward, Marvin Bagley. While Bagley has looked solid in limited minutes, Doncic has almost single-handedly transformed the Dallas Mavericks, who were showing some promise before their recent unraveling. (They've been pretty bad without JJ Barea and I don't know what to do with that information).

Sacramento's entire roster having a breakout year has squashed my hopes of this pick landing in the top five. Regardless, I can't be disappointed by what is essentially a free draft pick. Philadelphia coughed it up to move up two spots in the draft to take Markelle Fultz, who they could've drafted at third had they been patient. I'm not sure which team played their hand worse:

- The 76ers, who used a valuable asset to draft somebody they could have drafted anyway

- The Lakers, who didn't bluff their draft interests at all and let the world know they were taking Lonzo Ball no matter what (which allowed Boston and Philly to make their deal) or

- The Kings, who passed on Doncic.

And to be clear, the Kings' 'breakout' performance only has them playing .500 basketball. It's one thing to be good; it's another to know how to win. The Kings play a high-pace brand of basketball that borders on sheer recklessness, costing them some wins in grind-it-out fourth quarter chess matches. Whether the Kings stay their current course or go on a late-season miracle run, the pick they owe Boston is shaping up to land in the middle of the first round, if not late in the lottery.

One last note: if the pick somehow lands first overall, Philadelphia gets to keep the pick, and Boston would get Philly's pick instead. There's a 99% chance this doesn't happen, and I'm going to ignore the remaining 1% because I'm not emotionally equipped for that outcome.

The Memphis Pick

  • Protections: Top 8 protected in 2019, top 6 protected in 2020, unprotected in 2021
  • Acquired by: Trading Jeff Green to Memphis in a three-team deal with New Orleans Pelicans
  • Expected draft range: 6-9 (Potentially 10 if Anthony Davis is traded soon)

It's looking more likely by the day that the Celtics should not expect this pick to convey. A late-season losing spree in the Western Conference is a death sentence for playoff hopes, and Memphis has been sitting in the sixth lottery spot for a while now. On paper, the team will always look competitive; but in reality, the grit n' grind era is almost surely over with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the trading block. Memphis has the fourth-easiest schedule from here on out, but that won't matter if they fire up the tank. The bottom five teams - Cleveland, New York, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago - are almost a mortal lock to stay in the bottom five, so this pick will likely hover in the 6-8 range for the rest of the season and therefore not convey this summer.

Anthony Davis trade enthusiasts should feel good about the state of the Memphis pick, since having it convey as late as possible (unprotected in 2021) could boost its value in trade talks. If Memphis bottoms out now, there's no telling exactly when they'll be competitive again. But if the Brooklyn trade is any indication of how long a super efficient rebuild might take, then there's a three or four-year window minimum of Memphis drafting high in the lottery before being ready for another playoff run. Davis is on the record now in requesting a trade to a team where he can potentially contend for a championship, so it's never too early to figure out the value of all these future first-rounders. Boston can't trade for Davis until Kyrie re-signs (or leaves) this summer because of the Rose rule, so they're going to need a great deal on the table to stave off other suitors for the Brow.

Rose rule clarification

Via Wikipedia:

A Designated Player coming off his rookie contract may be eligible to earn 30% of the salary cap (rather than the standard 25%) if he passes certain criteria. Through the 2017–18 season, in order to be eligible, the player must be voted to start in two All-Star Games, or be named to an All-NBA Team twice (at any level), or be named MVP. Officially titled the "5th Year 30% Max Criteria",[33] it has been dubbed (and is more commonly known as) the "Derrick Rose Rule" after the 2011 MVP,[34] due to the fact that when the criteria were introduced, Rose was the only player in the NBA eligible to sign the maximum extension (due to his MVP award).[35] The reasoning for the rule is to suitably reward players being extended off of their rookie contract who are considered to be of a higher "caliber" than their peers, without restricting them to the lower (25%) salary level.

When Kyrie signs his new deal, in Boston or elsewhere, the Celtics won't have any more Rose rule contracts to obstruct an Anthony Davis trade.

As an aside: I want to acknowledge how much value Boston has accrued with Jeff Green. Danny Ainge turned Green into a potential lottery pick by taking back Tayshaun Prince from Memphis and Austin Rivers (who was waived immediately) from New Orleans to help facilitate a three-team deal. Prince was traded to Detroit soon after for Jonas Jerebko, who gave the Celtics some great minutes in the playoffs and was key to building the winning culture that made Boston a prime destination for star players. Add in the fact that Green -- as the fifth pick in the 2007 draft -- was the cornerstone piece in bringing Ray Allen to Boston, and you have a timeline where Danny Ainge rebuilt the Celtics two different times in part by getting insane value for trading one of the most enigmatic players in recent memory.

The Celtics Pick

  • Protections: N/A
  • Acquired by: N/A
  • Expected draft range: 23-28

After a rough start to the season, the Celtics found themselves sitting in the fifth seed in the East, searching for answers. After some lineup tweaks, they're planning winning basketball again and now find themselves in... the fifth seed. Boston has the eighth toughest remaining schedule, which might sound daunting, but I think it's for the better. Let's make one thing extra clear: watching the Celtics has been predictably unpredictable for the past few years. Undermanned teams have won playoff series, fully healthy squads have been stomped by bottom feeders and a 5'9" guy that two teams gave up on finished fifth in MVP voting. If I know the Celtics as well as I think I do, then I think they'll continue to play better against tougher competition and get by against the rest. They'd have to win at an absurd pace to claim one of the best two records in the league, but they could still climb one or two spots in the overall standings.

The Western Conference is a bloodbath, as usual, so it'll be difficult for the teams trailing Boston in the overall standings (Trail Blazers, Rockets, Jazz, Spurs, and Clippers) to keep pace with them. Oklahoma City, currently half a game ahead of Boston, has the toughest remaining schedule.

(Source for draft pick specifics).

The worst case scenario is that Boston has four mid-to-late first round picks this summer, with a chance for one to sneak into the top 10. No matter the result, creating three semi-valuable draft assets out of two second-rounders, Jeff Green, and the privilege of drafting Markelle Fultz first instead of third is fantastic value, and any additional value generated is just gravy. While the Celtics have a ton of trade assets at their disposal, keep this in mind: matching salaries for star players is difficult. At the moment, the Celtics have a lot of cheap deals and a few expensive ones, the exception being Marcus Smart's newly signed four year, $52 million contract. While you can expect the Celtics to have a presence in trade rumors as usual, just take note that taking on big salary probably means having to move Al Horford or Gordon Hayward, which is easier said than done.

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