Celtics prepared for all scenarios on draft day

Danny Ainge is excited about the opportunities the Celtics will have this summer. Next week's draft lottery will get the ball rolling. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics have spent years scouting many of the players that will be available during Thursday's NBA draft. They've seen most of these players live multiple times, they've chatted with many of them at the NBA draft combine or at the team's private workouts over the past month. And, yet, less than 72 hours before draft night, members of Boston's front office and the team's coaching staff were huddled inside the team's training facility in suburban Boston until the early hours of Tuesday morning watching game film of prospective picks while trying to hammer out final rankings.

As Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would note just a few hours after that late-night session, the Celtics were trying to get, "organized so that we know every scenario that could be presented on draft day."

Ainge essentially stood on his chair Tuesday and shouted loud enough for all the rest of the NBA executives to hear that his team is eager to move up in Thursday's draft. Ainge is hopeful something materializes, but admitted that most chatter this time of year is filled with aggravating contingencies based on whether a team's preferred player is still on the board. There's an awful lot of uncertainty even as the draft begins.

But here's what is certain: The Celtics’ brain trust will bunker down again at Boston's Seaport Hotel on Thursday ready for every possible scenario that could arise, all with a hope that relentless preparation will allow the Celtics to react decisively on draft night.

Armed with four picks -- Nos. 16, 28, 33 and 45 -- the Celtics are shifting offsite Thursday in part to accommodate a draft party for 700 season-ticket holders and in part because TD Garden is hosting a concert -- the second night of New Kids on the Block. To ensure all goes well, support staffers have already stress tested the phone and Internet capabilities at the hotel to ensure proper communication on a night when a single phone call can change the entire direction of a franchise.

For most of the year, but especially in recent weeks, Celtics decision-makers have debated where draft hopefuls should slot on their big board. Ainge admits it's hard to get a unanimous decision, but the team is largely on the same page on draft night.

Every member of the Celtics' front office has maintained personal draft rankings throughout the scouting process. Lists of players -- both draft targets and potential upcoming free agents -- decorate whiteboards inside the team's offices at the Waltham training facility.

After all that discussion and ranking, the Celtics will bring a final big board inside their draft-night bunker. It's likely to include the top 65 (or so) players in the draft. Once the draft gets underway, the Celtics will simply remove players as they are picked. Each player that remains will have an accompanying value that helps Boston decide quickly what it's willing to give up should it have a chance to trade up to acquire that player (or desire to move down to maximize the value of its pick).

"We don’t really call every team," Ainge explained. "We don’t try to predict who is going to be drafted, although we do a little bit of that prognosticating. But we mostly try to identify who we want and where we would take a player and who are the best players in order. ... We’ll just take their names off as they become unavailable and we’ll have a value on each one of the guys and where we’re willing to trade up if the phone call comes in on draft day."

So who might Boston draft on Thursday?

"I wish I knew the answer to that," Ainge said. "I’d sleep much better this week."

Heck, Ainge would feel better if he simply knew exactly where Boston might be picking. The team is prepared to utilize its surplus of picks to maneuver, but must also weigh the cost of shuffling.

"We’re having a lot of discussion and we’re trying to find [the right value for making a deal]," Ainge said. "I may not know the answer to that until draft night. A lot of teams, who may be waiting on one player, are drafting high and if they get that player they may be unwilling to trade [the pick] under any circumstance. If the player that they want is not available then they may be more willing to move back in the draft so there’s probably draft-night answers that we are trying to prepare for like how far will we go to get which player and which players are worth moving up in the draft for?"

The big question for Ainge is whether swings of the bat are worth more than the potential leap in talent if the team sacrificed picks to move up. That's maybe more of a debate than where to rank most prospects for Boston's front office.

"Generally speaking, the philosophy is that drafting more is typically better because you get more cracks at it and there’s a lot of really good players around the league that [were picked] 15 to 30 or 40 in the draft," Ainge said. "Sometimes a team will pick three picks and their best player will be the guy who was the third pick that they drafted. So I think that you have to really identify what you’re capable of doing with your assets and what you’re willing to do. That’s what we’re going through. It’s a complex process that we’re all trying to figure out."

Ainge knows the final decision for Boston ultimately lies with him, but he doesn't fret that authority.

"No, it’s fun -- it’s like taking the shot," Ainge said with a big smile. "I think that is the fun part. It is stressful building up to it and just the uncertainty of what those choices are going to be. I think preparing for those calls takes the stress away on game day."