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Brad Stevens Explains Why He's OK Trading Away Draft Picks

BOSTON (CBS) -- There was a time when the Boston Celtics hoarded draft picks. Danny Ainge collected them like Pokémon cards and then locked them away where no other team could get them.

It worked out well when those picks turned into Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but not so much over the last few years. That vaunted "King's Pick" wasn't worth as much or nearly as exciting when the clock struck midnight and it turned from a potential top pick to the 14th selection in the 2019 draft. But Ainge was ultra-hesitant to part with his treasure trove of picks, and it ultimately cost him and the Celtics opportunities elsewhere.

This is not the way under Brad Stevens. The new sheriff in town has shown no hesitation to send a first-round pick out the door, whether it be to offload a massive contract (Kemba Walker over the offseason) or bring in a key role player (Derrick White at Thursday's deadline). The fact that he's done both in his eight months of being Boston's president of basketball ops., not to mention him tossing in a first-round pick swap in Thursday's trade with San Antonio for White, kind of sets the tone that Stevens has a big bugaboo when it comes to draft picks.

That pick swap has received quite a bit of backlash in the 23 hours since the trade went down, because some folks are very hung up on the 2028 Boston Celtics already. Apparently, there are a lot of incredibly talented 13-year-old ballers out there that will be can't-miss NBA prospects in six years.

Ainge is somewhere in Utah shaking his head in disgust at his former protégé. But Stevens defended his pick inclusion on Friday morning, doing his best to explain that he in no way hates draft picks. He acknowledged there is absolutely some risk in dealing away picks, especially that swap six years from now, but he believes that White will be a perfect fit for the team over the next three-plus seasons.

"I really value the picks, and a lot like we talked about this summer in moving last year's pick, we wanted to do a deal that didn't encumber us moving forward. I think there are the benefits of the deal with that, but it's not without its risk," Stevens said Friday. "I'm looking forward to having Derrick and we think he'll be a really good player here and a really good player around our best players."

Stevens pointed to Boston's recent draft picks that have struggled to find a way into the team's rotation. Romeo Langford (he of "King's Pick" fame) was one of them, and he was included in the White trade. There have been exceptions -- like forward Grant Williams, who has turned into an important piece to Boston's success this year -- but with a pretty front-heavy roster and Ime Udoka finding his best success with a shorter rotation, opportunities are not always there for the young guys.

"I think in some cases our younger players has been somewhat a function that it's hard to break through the guys in front of them. Jayson plays 36 minutes a game, Jaylen plays a ton, so there are only so many minutes left. When you're so deep, and 11-15 is recently drafted guys, it's really tough. There aren't many minutes on a normal night, so it's the balance there with that.

In sending seven players out on Thursday, and only bringing two back, Stevens acknowledged there will be more opportunities for other youngins like Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith. As for the pick swap, let Stevens be the one to have some sleepless nights regarding something that is so far down the road.

"That can go either way, right? That's the one you lose sleep over for a couple of days, but the analysis of that is that we have some really good players and we have a person we think fits in perfectly with them as another really good player and can only make them better," he said.

And if you're hoping that Stevens finds something that he likes to hoard, just look at Boston's collection of trade exceptions. He reportedly created five more of those with his Thursday wheeling and dealing. They're not as sexy as future picks, but he's got a bunch of them. And like draft picks, they're useful -- until they're not.

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