Boston Celtics’ Danny Ainge says player they want will be available at third pick

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Monday that he believes the player the team would have selected with the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft will be there when the team picks at No. 3.

“I think even before the lottery, we’ve been evaluating these kids for a couple years, and we felt like it was very close with the top handful of players and we still feel that way,” Ainge said in a conference call Monday after the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers formally announced their swap.

“We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at [No.] 3 is the same player we would have taken at [No.] 1. So this was a great opportunity to acquire an impactful asset.”

Ainge didn’t rule out the possibility that Boston could utilize the No. 3 pick in a secondary move but seemed to hint that the team made this initial move simply because it believed it could add a future pick while still getting its desired player.

“We think it’s very good value,” Ainge said. “We think the 76ers obviously wanted this No. 1 pick. I have all the respect in the world for what business they’ve done over the last few years. I have a good relationship with Bryan Colangelo and Jerry Colangelo and I think they’re doing a fantastic job there in Philadelphia. I think this is somebody they really wanted and stepped up to get. They have a lot of future assets and we’re gonna get a player that we like in addition to some further assets.”

Celtics fans have been leery about moving back, particularly with all the buzz about likely No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz. But Ainge repeatedly stressed that the Celtics are excited about this move.

“We feel like it’s a jump-start for us,” Ainge said. “We’re getting the player we want. They’re getting the player they want. And we’ll get an additional player that we want in next year’s draft, or the year after. So I think it’s a good deal for both teams.”

Ainge noted that Philadelphia’s trade offer was the best Boston received for the No. 1 pick and “by a significant margin.” Ainge also downplayed the suggestion that Boston might have aided what might be its primary Eastern Conference competition down the road and said Boston’s front office was unanimous on the decision to move down.

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