Celtics executives have promised to aggressively pursue all avenues this offseason, but as Thursday night’s NBA Draft showed, those intentions don’t always lead to a bounty.
So now Boston will begin its push into free agency, which will officially begin at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Although the Celtics are expected to have exploratory contact with most of the top available options, the team is not encouraged by its chances of landing an elite target this summer.
“We’re well-positioned to get any free agent that moves, but a lot won’t move,” one team source said. “It’s going to be tough.”
The belief is that top-level big men will return to their current teams. And those who do land elsewhere are considered more likely to be swayed by the chance to join a championship contender — a status the Celtics remain several steps from.
So the focus, then, would turn toward second-tier players such as Pistons big man Greg Monroe, who averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds last season and is expected to seek a max contract. A team source said that although the Celtics will gauge those opportunities as well, there is some unease about overpaying in search of quick fixes.
There is some interest within the organization in forward Paul Millsap, who is still generally classified in that second tier despite making two consecutive All-Star teams with the Hawks. Ultimately, though, the Celtics will not truly know where they stand with potential targets until courtships ramp up this week.
The Celtics doggedly attempted to move up in Thursday’s draft so they could pick Duke forward Justise Winslow. A source said they offered several teams “multiple picks,” including next year’s unprotected first-round pick that they acquired from the Nets.
“Maybe we were going too hard at it,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday night. “There was a time when I thought, ‘Whoa, this is getting a little out of control. Maybe we’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket.’ ”
Several team sources said Celtics point guard Marcus Smart — whose name was widely reported to be a part of trade discussions in the days leading up to the draft — was never offered in a deal on Thursday.
“If we’d thrown in Marcus Smart, we probably could have done some deals,” a team source said. “But we probably would have taken a step back.”
Instead, the Celtics ended up using all four of their draft picks, selecting Louisville guard Terry Rozier (16th overall), Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter (28th), LSU forward Jordan Mickey (33d), and William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton (45th). The team is expected to hold an introductory news conference for the players Tuesday.
Although briefly discouraged by their failure to move up in the draft, team executives are optimistic about the four-player class they ultimately assembled. Ainge has even expressed some relief that their attempts to move up fell through, because the Celtics did not mortgage their future.
The results of the draft will not necessarily change the Celtics’ approach to the rest of the offseason. But Ainge acknowledged that there is now a logjam at guard and that adding a big man would become a priority.
Once again, though, Ainge has stressed that the team’s reconstruction will not happen overnight. If there is an opportunity for a massive strike, the Celtics will take it. But it is more likely that changes will be gradual and ongoing.
“What you see today [on our roster] is not what you’ll see tomorrow or next month,” Ainge said. “We’re a team that’s building for a championship, and will continue to do that by trying to find the best players we can.”