One of the more surprising dips in Thursday's 2015 NBA Draft belonged to Duke wing Justise Winslow, a potential target for the New York Knicks at No. 4 who fell all the way to the Miami Heat at No. 10. Although a notable prospect was bound to drop a few spots, Winslow seems like the sort of player who, like No. 10 picks Paul Pierce and Caron Butler before him, could make teams that passed regret their decisions.
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A new report indicates that the Boston Celtics really, really wanted to stop Winslow's fall one selection before his eventual landing in South Beach. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com, Danny Ainge offered the Charlotte Hornets six draft picks, including as many as four first-round picks, for the right to select Winslow at No. 9:
The Celtics made a strong final push to multiple teams in spots 4-9 on draft day. It culminated with an all-in effort in attempt to get Charlotte to deliver the No. 9 pick with Boston lusting for Duke forward Justise Winslow (the same player it coveted while trying to shuffle higher).
According to sources, the Celtics' final offer to the Hornets was a package featuring as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections (a combination of picks from this draft and in the future). But the Hornets could not be swayed and turned down multiple offers to select Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky.
Meeting with reporters in the aftermath of the draft, Ainge hinted at his team’s dogged pursuit. "Maybe we were going too hard at it," he said. "There was a time when I thought, ‘Woah, this is getting a little out of control.’ We’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket. So I’m not frustrated. In the long run, maybe it’ll be the best."
Jay King of MassLive.com has a variation of the same report, and Zach Lowe of Grantland confirmed that Ainge went all out to sway general manager Rich Cho, owner Michael Jordan, and the rest of the Hornets front office. It didn't work, of course, and the Celtics went on to select guards Terry Rozier (No. 16) and R.J. Hunter (No. 28) in the first round. Boston could have as many as four first-round picks in 2016, including an unprotected pick from a Brooklyn Nets squad that could find itself in the lottery. The Celtics also have additional first-round picks in 2017 and 2018, so a deal involving four of them would not necessarily leave the Celtics bereft of options in the future.
Regardless, it's a hefty price to move up seven spots into the mid-lottery. The Hornets must really like Kaminsky, a fine shooter who many rate as no better than a capable role player due to perceived limited athleticism. It will be up to him and Charlotte to prove that he was worth standing pat.
It's easy to see why the Celtics were willing to move up, even at this reported price. Winslow is a much-admired prospect in a league that increasingly values versatile wings with the ability to contribute in many ways at both ends. The Heat were considered one of the big winners on Thursday due to their luck in nabbing him at No. 10, and the Celtics have to consider themselves unfortunate not to get him.
On the other hand, it's worth considering Ainge's comment that it can be dangerous to put so much stock in a single player yet to take the court in Summer League, let alone the NBA. Draft projection is often like looking into a funhouse mirror — we get a general sense of what the player looks like but can't describe his appearance with much accuracy or detail. Eventual development depends on too much to draft a player with the utmost confidence. It's entirely possible that the Celtics really did go after Winslow too strenuously and will feel thankful that they weren't able to make this deal.
To put it another way, every draft-night move is essentially a high-stakes educated guess. A prospect sometimes only looks worth pursuing fervently until you find out he's not.
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