Danny Ainge Says It's an 'A-to-Z' Summer for C's

BOSTON – Danny Ainge is learning the entire NBA alphabet as he prepares for the league’s premier offseason events: the Draft and free agency.

Armed with an NBA-leading three first-round draft picks, and with only six players signed to guaranteed contracts for next season, Ainge admitted Wednesday afternoon that this offseason is proving to be the most challenging that he and his basketball operations team have faced in recent memory.

“We always talk about there’s A-to-Z… really, there’s A-to-G or -E,’” Ainge said of a team’s typical offseason agenda. “This year, there’s definitely A-to-Z.”

Ainge and his team are tasked with evaluating players ranging from the top 10 all the way to the end of this year’s Draft. Boston owns the Nos. 14, 20, 22 and 51 picks, and could very easily trade up or back from those slots.

Additionally, only four of Boston’s top nine players from last season have guaranteed contracts for next season. Eight players in total will either become free agents or face decisions on team or player options to enter free agency.

As Ainge summarized, “There’s a lot of unanswered questions with free agency and the Draft and all of the players on our roster.”

Questions to which Ainge must find answers.

The first order of business in Boston’s pursuit of a successful offseason is attacking the Draft head-on. The Celtics appear to be doing so at a high level, as Ainge revealed Wednesday that the team will have had upward of 100 prospects come to Boston and work out for the team by the time the Draft arrives June 20. That number doesn’t even include workouts that Ainge and his staff have attended in other locations.

The significant amount of NBA-hopefuls rolling through the Auerbach Center is a direct correlation to Boston’s significant draft and player stock. Agents are well aware that the Celtics could be in position to draft their clients at almost any stage of this year’s Draft.

“We couldn’t get Robert Williams in last year before the Draft because he was projected to be 10-15 (pick range), and so that was the group that they focused on,” Ainge said, alluding to the fact that Boston only owned the No. 27 pick. “This year it’s been easier because we have 14 all the way to 51, so we’ve seen a lot more guys.”

A-to-Z of the prospect list, if you will.

While the Draft looms just over two weeks away, it is not the only aspect of Boston’s summer, nor is it the most important. The Celtics have many options to evaluate when it comes to free agency, and they have some very important decisions to make.

Aron Baynes, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier, five of Boston’s top players for the last two seasons, are all scheduled to become free agents or have the option to become free agents in the coming weeks. Ainge said that he has already had conversations with the members of that group, and that he intends to have more as June unfolds and July enters the horizon.

One key conversation relates to Horford, who has a player option for next season. Ainge stated that he intends to contact Horford and his representatives to explore a re-negotiation of that deal to keep Horford in green for longer than just the one season remaining on the deal.

“That will be discussed, sure,” Ainge said of the topic. “That’s one of the priorities on our list as well.”

Regardless of the priority list, Ainge is not of the belief that there will be any domino effect with regard to his team’s transactions this offseason. The Draft comes first, and then comes free agency, but the results of the two events do not automatically affect each other.

“No, I don’t think there necessarily is (a domino effect),” he said. “There’s a domino to fall if it was my world and [we could do] everything that I wanted, but it doesn’t work that way, and so we just prepare for lots of (possibilities).”

The only way for the Celtics to do so, in Ainge’s eyes, is to evaluate every possibility, from A-to- Z, each and every day.

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