How The Boston Celtics Turned A Championship Team Into A Treasure Trove Of Draft Picks

Celtics ainge and stevens
Celtics GM Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens. Darren McCollester/Getty

With the Rajon Rondo trade, the Boston Celtics have gotten rid of every player from the team that won the NBA title in 2008.

It’s been a slow rebuild for the Celtics, but their GM Danny Ainge deserves credit. While they still have a long road ahead, they’re set up well for the future because they have an excess of the most valuable assets in the NBA: draft picks.

As SB Nation’s Jesus Gomez broke down, in recent years, the Celtics have hoarded draft picks as they have broken down their roster.

The Celtics lost Ray Allen in free agency in 2012, but they managed to get assets for the remainder of that core. Here’s how:

  • Doc Rivers trade, 2013: 2015 first-round pick from the L.A. Clippers.
  • Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade, 2013: 2016 first-round pick, 2017 first-round pick (swap), and 2018 first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets.
  • Rajon Rondo trade, 2014: 2016 first-round pick from the Dallas Mavericks.

This doesn’t even include second-round picks, though those are a bit more complicated.

Combined with their own draft picks, here’s how the Celtics’ treasure trove of draft picks breaks down:

  • 2015: two first-round picks, three second-round picks.
  • 2016: two first-round picks, four second-round picks.
  • 2017: one first-round pick, one second-round pick.
  • 2018: two first-round picks, one second-round pick

That’s total of seven first-round picks in four years, plus a load of second-round picks.

The Celtics are in a prime position to rebuild. They have some young talent on their team in Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger, and they will have seven chances to draft a future superstar, especially since their first-round picks will likely be in the lottery. 

If the Celtics get impatient, they also have a ton of tools to make a big trade. Draft picks have become the NBA’s most valuable assets and Boston also has a roster full of filler players to make in a trade. The Celtics acquired Garnett and Allen several years ago in much of the same way: trading draft picks and a combination of young players and trade-filler players.

Rebuilding isn’t fun, but Boston fans have to be happy with their promising future.