The Celtics’ stunning trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft to the 76ers was finalized Monday, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was extremely optimistic about how the deal could help his franchise.
In the trade, the Celtics received the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft as well as a first-round pick in either 2018 or 2019.
“I think, even before the lottery, we’ve been evaluating these kids for a couple years and we felt like it was very close with the top handful of players, and we still feel that way,” Ainge said. “We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at three is the same player we would have taken at one. So this was a great opportunity to acquire an impactful asset.”
The future first-round pick could end up being quite high. The 76ers previously acquired the 2018 first-round pick of the Lakers, and if that selection ultimately falls between 2-5, Boston will receive it. If not, the Celtics will get one of the 76ers’ selections in 2019.
That year, Philadelphia holds the first-round pick of the Sacramento Kings as well as its own. The Celtics will receive the better of those two assets, unless it is No. 1 overall, in which case they will then receive the other one.
“Those were things that were negotiated,” Ainge said. “They weren’t OK with giving up any of those picks to move down two spots in the draft, but eventually we got the picks that we wanted. They were not OK with giving up a potential No. 1 pick to move up two slots in this particular draft. It was negotiated and negotiated in a way that was fair for both teams.”
By giving up the No. 1 overall pick, the Celtics surrendered an opportunity to take Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, who is widely viewed as the top prospect in the draft.
Boston’s move has raised questions in NBA circles about whether it received enough of a return for a potentially transcendent player. But Ainge insisted that the Celtics have high grades on several other players at the top of the draft, reiterating that they may even have taken one of them first.
“Our entire staff has really studied these guys and scouted them,” Ainge said. “We feel unanimously like this is the right move for us at this time and I have great faith in them. If there was a 50-50 split amongst our group, maybe there would be more hesitation, but I feel like we were able to resolve any questions that the whole staff had, and unanimously we’re excited about this deal.”
With the trade complete, the Celtics’ focus turns toward the No. 3 selection in Thursday’s draft. Duke forward Jayson Tatum and Kansas forward Josh Jackson have emerged as the most likely candidates to be selected by Boston.
Ainge said that the Celtics worked out Tatum at their Waltham training facility Monday. Boston already had seen Tatum work out in Los Angeles this month. Connecting with Jackson, however, has been more of a challenge. The 6-foot-8-inch forward initially declined an invitation to work out in Boston and later canceled the Celtics’ visit to see him off-site. But Ainge said that the team was attempting to arrange a Tuesday workout.
“I think I like both of those kids,” he said. “I think they’re both terrific talents.”
With the Celtics, there is always a sense that one big deal might be just a precursor to an even bigger one. Ainge acknowledged that there have been trade discussions since this trade was announced, but emphasized that he was quite comfortable moving forward and using the No. 3 pick on a player.
Most often, trades involving picks are not completed until the night of the draft, primarily because it allows teams to wait and collect the best possible offers. But there is risk in that approach, too, because sometimes deals that are on the table do not stay there.
“I think it was just a good fit and the right opportunity, but it was the best offer we had by a significant margin,” Ainge said, “and we’re still able to get the player we want in the draft and acquire another asset, and so I think this was a good fit for both teams.”
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Ainge expects to receive a medical update on point guard Isaiah Thomas this week regarding whether the All-Star point guard will require surgery on his injured right hip . . . There were reports Monday that the Celtics had agreed to a free agent deal with German forward Daniel Theis. Theis, 25, averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds for the German club Brose Bamberg. When asked if Boston would sign Theis, Ainge responded: “I hope to, yeah.”