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Draft notebook: Stevens catches up, C's consider a stash

AP Photo/John Raoux

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Emptying out the notebook after the Boston Celtics hosted three consecutive days of pre-draft workouts last week (and before they launch into another batch of group workouts early this week):

Stevens' role in draft process

While the front office spends much of the year keeping tabs on draft prospects, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has to play a bit of catch-up in terms of evaluating this season's game film of potential picks. Not surprisingly, he's a quick study.

"First of all, Brad is very good at evaluating," said Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge. "He has a lot of practice at it. So we’d be crazy not to get his opinion because he’s a great basketball mind.

"He’s catching up, but one thing that Brad is great at is catching up. He’s put in the time on the film and he’s gotten a pretty good feel for these guys. He was at the combine, he’s been in on a lot of the interviews. We absolutely value his input greatly."

Stevens and his assistants run the team's draft workouts and those sessions are often structured to gauge exactly how a certain player might perform in the Celtics' system.

"I think Brad enjoys it," said Ainge. "My understanding is that he gets a better feel for the guys on the court interacting and coaching them."

The input process

The Celtics operate with a tight-knit front office that is helmed by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren and Austin Ainge. That trio, along with the support staff and the coaches as the draft nears, are in constant conversation about potential draft targets.

"We have a small staff, so it’s kind of a constant argument, I would say, all year," said Austin Ainge. "Formally meeting together? At least once per week this time of year. Also this time of year we start including the coaches more, which they haven’t had time during the season, now that they are seeing the guys and getting to watch the film on them, we start including them more."

Every member of the staff keeps a list -- their own personal big board, if you will -- and will often try to argue for their picks when the staff meets to discuss how the team might proceed on draft night. Danny Ainge has been known to ask his staff to argue for -- or even against -- a player they like and is open to all input. On draft night, it's ultimately the elder Ainge who makes the decision on who the Celtics will go with.

Do those conversations before the draft get heated as staffers lobby for their favorites?

"We all keep pretty level-headed," said Austin Ainge. "You qualify a lot, because we are dealing with percentages and guesswork. We don’t know -- we don’t. We can agree on a guy’s strengths and weaknesses often, but it’s often which strengths and weaknesses are better fit for our team that a lot of the discussion is about."

Evaluating the draft process

There are players who slip through the cracks each year that teams look back and kick themselves for missing -- especially if the team's own selection didn't pan out. But in the self-evaluation process, the Celtics try to look beyond the small amount of picks they'll make and see how -- as a staff -- they did in evaluating the entire field of available players.

"We try to evaluate ourselves, not just on the picks we make, which is what ultimately matters, but on all 70, 80 guys that are being considered in the draft," said Austin Ainge. "Because that gives you a little bigger portfolio to evaluate yourself on, right? If we pick one pick out of 60 and we get that wrong -- but if we got 90 percent of the other guys right -- then we probably don’t need to change our entire process. But if we’re getting a lot wrong, then maybe we should go back and re-evaluate."

The sense is that the Celtics feel they've got a pretty good grasp on things, even if things don't always work out (hey there, Fab Melo!).

Playfully pressed last week to identify a guy the Celtics were left kicking themselves for not drafting, Austin Ainge wouldn't break.

"There's lots of guys that we kick ourselves on," he said, then cracked, "but let’s talk about the successes!"

Considering a stash

The Celtics own four picks in next month's draft and currently project to have eight more selections next year. It's obvious the team won't employ all those picks and will utilize some as trade assets, but don't be surprised if Boston uses some of its less glitzy selections to target potential future contributors.

Boston could utilize some of if its second-round surplus to take swings on players that won't necessarily land on Boston's roster -- not now, anyhow -- but might compete for a role down the road. The Celtics could lock up the rights to a raw, intriguing young player, then ask him to spend a year or two overseas trying to improve his skills in a setting that will offer more playing time (all while having the ability to bring that player in for offseason activities).

That's essentially what they've done with Colton Iverson, the 7-footer drafted in the second round in 2013. He'll join the team next month for workouts when his playoffs in Spain are completed, then try to show he's developed enough to warrant roster consideration while playing for Boston during its summer league entries in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

The Celtics might gauge a player's interest in being a potential stash player when they visit this time of year, but those conversations typically come closer to the draft when stock is a bit more defined.

"We have some conversations like that," admitted Austin Ainge. "It’s a little early. We usually wait to let them do some workouts, figure out their own stock and where they might be, then I’ll start having those conversations maybe a week or two before the draft, just to have that in our back pocket in case it’s needed."

What kind of player might make a good stash?

The Celtics brought in two international men of mystery during a workout last week in 7-foot-2 center Satnam Singh of India and point guard George de Paula of Brazil. Both players are just 19 years old and might not be NBA ready. But if a team is confident those players might eventually get to a point where they'd be considered much higher picks in another draft, they might be willing to help navigate the development process.

Trade chatter

You'll hear plenty of talk about how the Celtics are interested in moving up in the draft, and with the assets that could make that a reality, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the team would be open to shuffling.

But it's a little too early to tell if they'll even target a dance partner.

"[Teams fall] in love with a specific player, so it’s hard to move up or ask a team to move down until they figure out who they like," said Austin Ainge. "And everyone is still in that process. That’s usually day-of-the-draft or day-before-the-draft type deals."

While picks toward the top of the draft tend to be a bit more of a sure thing in developing into rotation-caliber talent, Austin Ainge also pointed out the crapshoot that occurs between the 20th and 40th picks. Sometimes it's better to have more swings of the bat in that range than to be shuffling around to target a player beyond the middle of the first round.

Moving up into the top 10 is a costly endeavor. But shuffling up a couple of spots in the middle of the first round is less daunting (as we've discussed in the past). Boston simply has the luxury of being able to explore all options with its pile of assets.

More pre-draft coverage: Celtics cast wide net in draft evaluation | How C's prep for picks