The Boston Celtics are making an 11th-hour push to put themselves in position to draft Duke star Austin Rivers, son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, according to sources with knowledge of Boston’s plans.
But sources briefed on the matter describe the Celtics as pessimistic that they can acquire a draft pick high enough to land Rivers in Thursday night’s draft.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has long maintained privately that Rivers is one of the 10 biggest talents in this draft class and has no problems drafting the younger Rivers to play under his father, sources say.
The Celtics’ dilemma is whether they can muster the trade assets needed to acquire a pick high enough in the lottery to get in Rivers’ range. Sources say that Boston would be willing to part with both the No. 21 and No. 22 pick in the draft, but it’s believed that teams in the top 10 want more than that. And the Celtics, sources say, are struggling to offer more, because they refuse to include promising guard Avery Bradley in draft-night trade talks and lack other assets to sweeten the pot.
Let’s pretend for a second that the Celtics wouldn’t have to surrender an arm, a leg and their two first-round picks to get a draft pick high enough to select Rivers. Now let’s discuss.
Some people highlight Rivers’ inefficiency as a scorer in college to predict he won’t be a good NBA player. Not me. With his first step and ability to score in many fashions, Rivers — in my eyes — projects to be a better pro than he was at Duke.
Still, drafting Austin Rivers is not an avenue the Celtics should explore.
Why not? We can begin with Boston’s roster, which currently includes only four players, two of whom are young guards deserving of big minutes (Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, for those of you who didn’t instantly guess). With such a desperate need for big men, drafting a scoring combo-guard simply doesn’t make sense from a basketball standpoint — even if the Celtics also have a desperate need to improve their scoring, as their 25th-ranked offense might suggest.
The biggest hesitancy I would have about drafting the younger Rivers is that — I’m not breaking news here — his father coaches the team. A father-son combo can be done, sure, but it presents dozens of potential problems, not the least of which is the possibility for resentment among Austin’s teammates (if he plays a lot) or Austin himself (if he doesn’t). Perhaps it would be easier if Austin were a clear-cut star. But he won’t be a star, at least not right away, and — as much as I trust that Doc has the best interests of the Celtics at heart — GODDAMN, IT MUST BE TOUGH TO BENCH YOUR SON.
If Austin were, say, Anthony Davis, it might be worth the risk. But even though I love the younger Rivers’ potential, he’s not a sure thing. And maybe not worth all of the potential headaches.