Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operation Brad Stevens began the 2023 NBA draft day or so with a terrific trade that showed him to be ready, willing, and able to make the tough moves necessary to try at least to improve his team. No one said it’d be easy.
Stevens traded popular guard Marcus Smart (not Malcolm Brogdon as rumored) and in the process fleeced the Memphis Grizzlies plus. He brought in 7’3″ talented tall tower Kristaps Porzingis but then set out to undo some of the positives with a truly bizarre 2023 draft.
Before an article could even be written here to praise Stevens to the hilt, he tanked the NBA draft that should have put a cap on a fabulous day plus for the Boston Celtics.
So a day that began with a bang with a gutsy trade, then, unfortunately, fell off the table completely with a dare-one-say, a Bill Belichick-style bizarre draft.
Boston Celtics flubbed the 2023 draft
Having picked up not only Porzingis but also two first-round picks in the trade of the long-time Celtic Smart, Stevens had pulled off a masterclass.
Unfortunately, like his Patriots counterpart, he couldn’t stand the prosperity and responded on draft day with a series of trades-down that left Boston’s basketball media laughing out loud at this tomfoolery.
Stevens traded the 25th pick in the draft for the 31st pick and then made a series of additional picks for second-round picks in the 2023 draft and future drafts.
The team would up drafting Jordan Walsh, a small forward from Arkansas who can’t shoot but is a defensive player a la Smart. Instead of selecting a player with some type of real NBA potential, Stevens settled for a player who averaged only 7.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
That’s not exactly a haul at all. Here’s part of what theboxandone.substack.com had to say about the forward:
"Walsh’s pro outlook is going to be linked to his shooting ability in some regard. It’s the safety net that all wings need if they’re going to play off-ball. And while Walsh can rebound-and-run and has some intriguing traits as a passer, he doesn’t have anywhere near the scoring punch to command a major creative role. Not even close."
Walsh was the choice along with three additional practically useless future second-round future picks.
Stevens’ trade-happy 2023 performance flopped
Like many of Belichick’s drafts, after a terrific trade, Stevens punted away an opportunity to add a player who at least had the promise of a future other than as a defensive specialist.
He chose quantity over quality when there were other options available like big center James Nnaji from Barcelona a strong seven-footer. Nnaji would have even been available at pick number 31 which the Boston Celtics acquired from the Detroit Pistons for the 25th pick.
Instead, Stevens passed, traded that pick, and then traded twice more in a dizzying series of frenzied deals that left the Boston basketball media’s and fans’ collective heads spinning.
Like Belichick, these seemed like deals for deals’ sake. It’s hard to believe that at pick number 25 or 31 there isn’t a player(s) who’d have a chance to be a solid NBA player in a year or two.
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Stevens took a page out of Belichick’s flawed draft strategy and flopped himself after making the nice deal for Porzingis. He subsequently traded down and out of any meaningful addition for a squad that is anything but perfect.
Expect Walsh to likely never set foot on the Boston Garden’s parquet floor like Stevens’ previous second-round flops (at least to date) Juhann Begarin, and J.D. Davison. Neither of these picks has even sniffed an appearance on the TD Garden floor.
Boston Celtics head honcho Brad Stevens joins the Boston sports GMs who can’t seem to get too much right drafts in their respective sports.
Maybe someday there will be a draft that Boston sports fans can actually embrace wholeheartedly. But until then, it’s the same old-same-old and wait ’til next year. As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deja vu all over again”.