On Thursday night, former Celtics head coach Brad Stevens got his first experience as the team’s lead decision-maker in the draft-night war room. But it wasn’t all that exciting.
Stevens, who replaced Danny Ainge as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations in May, did not have a first-round pick to work with. He said that Boston had some cursory trade discussions with other teams this week, but it became clear that a deal was unlikely.
“We thought it was going to be a pretty predictable night from the standpoint of we were just going to pick where we were slotted and go from there,” Stevens said. “So, it wasn’t all that eventful, which is OK.”
In the end, the Celtics selected French guard Juhann Begarin with the 45th overall pick. The 6-foot-5 guard does not turn 19 until next week and will likely remain overseas for at least one more season.
Begarin most recently played for Paris Basketball in France’s LNB Pro B League, where he averaged 11.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He made 45.6 percent of his shots and 35.2 percent of his 3-pointers. He is known for his defense and athleticism, but he has an inconsistent jump shot.
“He’s a guy that’s a big, strong, versatile guard that can guard up with his strength and athleticism,” Stevens said. “He came in for a workout the other day. We got to see him up close, and we’ve been paying attention to him for a long time. But he’s a guy we think at his age and his body and his physical abilities and the way that he works and the time he’s put in thus far, he’s going to have a really long, good career ahead of him. So we’re excited that we were able to draft him there at 45.”
It’s the second year in a row in which Boston used its second-round choice on an international prospect. Last year, the Celtics took Israeli point guard Yam Madar 47th overall. Madar played in Israel this past season and is expected to join Boston’s summer league team in Las Vegas next month.
Stevens said Thursday that Madar would be joined on the summer league team by returning Celtics Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards, Aaron Nesmith, and Romeo Langford, as well as center Moses Brown, who was acquired from Oklahoma City in the Kemba Walker deal. The team will be coached by assistant Joe Mazzulla.
“That should be fun seeing a lot of those guys play,” Stevens said, “and for a lot of those guys to get reps.”
Boston has not had great success in the international market in recent years. In 2016, the team selected French forward Guerschon Yabusele and Croatian center Ante Žižić in the first round. Both players are now out of the NBA.
But the Celtics are hopeful that Madar and Begarin will ultimately turn into success stories. Stevens said Begarin will likely remain overseas next year and that the team will evaluate Madar during summer league before figuring out his next step.
“Sometimes your team and the roster dictates some of those decisions,” Stevens said. “There is pressure everywhere, and I think that if you are playing overseas at that level, you are playing at a big-time level. That’s a great thing as you are growing into the best version of yourself as you are growing your game. There’s a lot of ways to get better, there’s a lot of ways to improve, and there’s a lot of ways to reach your peak.
“For some, that’s this journey, for others it may not be, but there’s no exact defined path that fits everyone. I do think it can be very beneficial and that level of basketball is awfully good and coaching in all the different countries and all the different places around the world as we see, awfully good. Great preparation for next steps, should that be the avenue that Juhann follows and certainly what Yam has done.”