Redrafting Boston’s Rebuild Period


On draft day in 2013, the Boston Celtics did the unimaginable.

Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge traded away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in a move that shocked not just the city of Boston, but the entire NBA.

Pierce played for the Celtics since being drafted in 1998, and Garnett’s arrival led to Boston’s first championship since 1986. Regardless, Ainge thought the move was best for the Celtics, and it proved to be.

Boston is enjoying one of the quickest and most impressive rebuilds in recent memory. Many debated the hiring of Brad Stevens when it occurred, but now he’s considered one of the best coaches in the NBA. Ainge has continued to make trades that keep people saying, “he’s one of the best executives of all time.”

Still, the rebuild hasn’t been flawless. Over the years, moves have flopped, and decisions have backfired. Signings haven’t worked out, and sometimes draft picks turned into busts.

In this article, we’ll review each draft since the Celtics made their monumental move. We will redraft each pick with today’s knowledge of how prospects turned out and how the league has changed.


The 2013 draft is one of the wackier in recent memory. That year, the Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett first overall, and everybody knows how that turned out. The Celtics owned the 16th pick in the draft but traded with the Dallas Mavericks to claim the rights to Kelly Olynyk in exchange for the rights to Lucas Nogueira and two second-round picks in 2014.

This move was a smart one by Ainge, as Olynyk played valuable minutes in Boston, even leading the team to a big, Game 7 win against the Wizards in 2017.

As the general manager during this draft with the knowledge that exists today, trading for Olynyk probably wouldn’t have happened. Instead, the Celtics should have kept their 16th pick and used it on a future Defensive Player of the Year.

Rudy Gobert fell to the 27th pick in this draft. Gobert was coming off a season in France in which he averaged 8.4 points per game (PPG) and 5.4 rebounds per game (RPG) in 27 appearances. Not eye-opening numbers, which contributes to his late selection.

This season, Gobert averaged 12.9 RPG, good for fourth in the league. He also led the NBA in field goal percentage (FG%), shooting 66.9 percent on the season. The Celtics were in desperate need of a big who could rebound following the departure of Garnett, and who better than Gobert to fill the gap?


The 2013-14 season was the first under Stevens, and the Celtics finished with a 25-57 record, their worst since 2006-07. This year Boston owned the sixth overall pick and selected shooting guard Marcus Smart.

At the time, fans were a little baffled. Guards loaded the Celtics’ roster, and rebounding was an issue, so selecting a guard left a few fans scratching their heads. Smart quieted all the doubters and became one of the best defensive guards in the league, no doubt benefiting from playing alongside Avery Bradley.

It’s difficult to argue with the selection here. Smart immediately blended with Boston’s culture and has had an enormous impact on the court. Perhaps no sequence screams “Marcus Smart” more than when Smart drew two offensive fouls on James Harden, clinching a victory for the Celtics in the last minute.

The Celtics nailed this pick, and it’s nearly impossible to disagree with the selection. Of the other first round picks, the only others to make the kind of impact Smart has are Joel Embiid (who Philadelphia picked before Smart), Jusuf Nurkić and Clint Capela. Still, when considering these players, it’s hard to imagine they would be better fits in Boston than Smart has been.

The one player that the Celtics arguably could have drafted instead of Smart is Nikola Jokić. At the moment, he looks like the second best player from the draft behind Embiid. He was an all-star this season, even entering the MVP debate. He’ll likely finish on an All-NBA team after averaging a near triple-double and leading the Nuggets to the second seed in the west. If there’s one player that’s getting drafted instead of Smart this year, it’s Jokić, but Smart is still the right fit.


After trading away fan-favorite Rajon Rondo, the Celtics finished with a 40-42 record and made the playoffs as the seventh seed. They were slowly on the rise but didn’t have a lottery pick in 2015.

With the 16th pick in the draft, Boston took Terry Rozier out of Louisville. Again, the Celtics were a guard-heavy team and didn’t have much need for another. Smart was preparing to be the point guard of the future, and Isaiah Thomas had just arrived in town.

Because of the depth at point guard, the Rozier selection is a questionable one. And while Rozier has been solid, there’s still plenty of room to grow. His career shooting clip is 38-35-77, numbers that aren’t acceptable in today’s NBA.

One big man who’s been showing plenty of skill is Montrezl Harrell, Rozier’s teammate at Louisville. Harrell is widely considered to be Sixth Man of the Year runner up to his current teammate Lou Williams. This season, Harrell averaged a career-high 16.6 points and 6.5 rebounds over 26.3 minutes per game.

Harrell’s sudden emergence verifies that he was a steal as a second rounder. Going 10th would have been a steal, so getting him at 16 would have been an excellent move for Boston. In a re-draft, the Celtics should have taken Harrell with their first pick.


With the third pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected Jaylen Brown.

Brown was used scarcely in his rookie season as he was adjusting to the style of the NBA. In his second year, he made incredible strides to turn himself into a legitimate player. His scoring improved by almost a full eight PPG, and his three-point percentage jumped five percent.

Still, the Celtics might have been able to do better here. They gave Brown time to develop, so allowing another player to do the same shouldn’t be a problem. With this in mind, the player the Celtics should have drafted (after trading down from third) is Pascal Siakam.

Siakam is near the top of a long list of players in the running for Most Improved Player. Siakam’s scoring went from 7.3 to 16.9 PPG, his rebounds went from 4.5 to 6.9 RPG, and his field goal percentage went from 50 percent to just under 55 percent. Finally, his three-point percentage went from 22 percent to almost 37 percent.

This season, Siakam averaged more points, rebounds, assists, and blocks than Brown. He also shot the ball at a higher rate from the floor and from three. Giving Siakam the time to develop would be well worth the wait for the Celtics, especially considering they were about to draft a future star the next year.


In back-to-back seasons, the Celtics were drafting in the third spot. Boston initially owned the first pick, but in a move that became famous, Ainge traded down two places to get Jayson Tatum.

Markelle Fultz was drafted first overall and unfortunately hasn’t played well quite yet. Tatum instantly rose to stardom, helping to lead Boston to the conference finals last season. This season, Tatum only got better

His scoring jumped by a couple of points, and his rebounding went up by one per game. His shooting percentages took a dip, but at this point in his career, it’s nothing to worry about. It’s tough to say what anybody in this draft could become given how little time they’ve spent in the league. For right now, though, it looks like Boston made the perfect choice in taking Tatum.


In the most recent draft, the Celtics took Robert Williams with the 27th pick.

With the way this season went, one could argue that the Celtics should have unloaded some of their assets to draft sooner. The top of the draft contained many potential stars including Luka Dončić, Trae Young, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Collin Sexton, and others.

Without trading, Boston still could have made a more significant splash than it did. Mitchell Robinson wasn’t drafted by New York until the 36th pick and would have been a great fit in Boston.

He has a similar build to Williams, but the difference between these two players is that one played and the other didn’t. While Williams watched a majority of the season, Robinson put together a dazzling rookie campaign.

After taking a year off of competitive basketball to train for the NBA, Mitchell wowed everybody with his play. In just 20.6 minutes per game, Robinson averaged 7.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 2.4 blocks per game (second in the NBA). Robinson impacted the game on the defensive end of the floor like no other rookie could this season, which the Celtics need.

Looking back, Boston could have helped itself more this past draft. It will be interesting to see who’s selected this year and look back on that selection in the years to come.

About Jared Penna

Jared was born and raised in central Massachusetts and is currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Currently writes for TLSM's Celtics Lead branch.

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