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DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud

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(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Boston Celtics, once again, found themselves on the wrong side of the pingpong balls.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s general manager and president of basketball operations, was left performing his best Bill Belichick impersonation at his press conference Tuesday night after the Celtics, once again, were left hanging their heads after missing out on a top two selection in next month’s NBA Draft – staying at No. 3 in the order as the Nets had the third-worst record.

“It could have been better, it could have been worse,” Ainge told reporters at Boston’s practice facility in Waltham Tuesday night. “It is what it is.”

The Celtics received the No. 3 pick in the draft courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets, after Ainge essentially performed a heist by trading aging veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce well past their primes among others for Brooklyn’s first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and the right to swap first round picks in 2017.

All bets were hedged on the Celtics moving up in the order by grace of the basketball and ping pong Gods, but as history so often repeats itself, Boston was on the outside looking in of where they had hoped to be. Isaiah Thomas could only bring so much luck.

Obtaining the No. 3 pick is a huge road block in the progression of the rebuild for Boston – not because it was expected to be in the top two selections, but because there was a great chance that it could end up there, but now have one less-valuable asset.

The Celtics don’t need another athletic, defensive guard like Kris Dunn – the projected third pick by some outlets – who they appear to have in the likes of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.

In most drafts, the third selection is one not looked at with negative connotations. However, all the draft “experts” have predicted the projected top two picks, Louisiana State’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, are the only real difference makers and impact players.

The loss isn’t really in the player, but the pick itself – leaving Ainge hamstrung in the process of trying to take the Celtics to the next step.

The No. 1 pick is marketable. Ingram has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant and the Chad Ford’s of the world expect the 6-foot-10 Simmons to be an all-star caliber player that can start right away. Teams that are just a minor piece or two away from contending for a championship could be attracted to either of the top two selections, and teams like the Sixers, Lakers and Celtics could be in the market of making blockbuster moves to speed up the rebuilding process.

Now on the outside looking in, the ability to trade for players like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George and packaging the No.3 pick to bring in a player of that caliber is limited.

The fear for Boston fans is remaining amongst the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, who were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the eastern conference semifinals after besting the Celtics four games to two in the previous round. If the Cavilers can sweep the team that beat Boston by two games, injuries aside, how close can they be?

We all know now the Celtics were vastly overrated after squeaking by both Cleveland and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors at the regular season’s end.

Which goes to show how far off they really are from contending for a championship. Losing out on a top two selection Tuesday night hurts the Celtics chances of being that much better and taking that next step in the foreseeable future.

Get ready to be spoon-fed for the next month or so about how Boston can get that much better by adding another young player in the draft if they are unable to trade the pick.

And if I’m Ainge, I’d be on the phone as we speak.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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