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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Draft Promises

The NBA Draft is tonight, so get ready for David Stern to be uncomfortably posing with high school kids he wishes weren't eligible for the league and mangling foreign guys' names. There's plentiful griping in the press now about how the draft is less interesting because we don't know the players and they have less immediate impact. Despite all of this, the Celtics, by all accounts, have promised Robert Swift, a seven-foot redheaded teen from California, that they will take him at #15 (here's info on him). This seems really bad to me, perhaps because it reminds me of the not-so-secret promise to Kedrick Brown in 2001, but the larger issue is there too: why would a team ever make such a promise?

A promise to someone at #1 makes perfect sense if there's a clear-cut best player and you want to build a good relationship from day one by taking out the uncertainty. A promise in the top five can make sense for similar reasons too since the possible scenarios before getting to the pick are not that numerous. But a promise at #15? Who knows what might happen in those first 14 picks? What if someone who the Celtics think has no chance of slipping that far actually does fall to them? Then they would have to risk pissing off Swift's agent, and suffering with whomever else the agent represents, just to do what's best for the team. And slides do happen--remember getting Paul Pierce at #10 in 1998? I'm just saying, the C's better be 100% certain Swift will be the best guy left on their board when #15 rolls around (that is, assuming he's still available). This suggests to me that they must consider Swift a top-five prospect in this draft in order to have that type of certainty, and that leads to another worrisome question: why is the Celtics' judgment so different from that of the other teams on this guy's talents? Maybe they've found a guy who's been underrated, sure, but based on Ainge's moves thus far with the team, I'm fearful that Swift may be pegged for outside the lottery for good reason.