Celtics draft: Baylor Scheierman wants to work, Brad Stevens wants to keep roster together (2024)

BOSTON — Brad Stevens was in a chipper mood when he took the podium at 6:45 pm Thursday. He’s been doing these post-draft press conferences for a few years now. Before this year, they usually happened around 2 a.m. Nobody wanted to be there. Those were long, rough nights.

But the NBA finally decided to break the draft up into two days, starting the second round at 4 p.m. Thursday. Stevens’ son texted him yesterday and said, “I’m not staying up to see you trade back, am I?” Everyone was relieved.

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So once Stevens wrapped up business and selected Gonzaga’s Anton Watson with the 54th pick, he was happy to field questions.

“This is way better. Let’s move it all to 4 (p.m.),” Stevens said. “Maybe Mike (Zarren) could work on having it in the morning in the first round, and then a little break in the afternoon, and then late-afternoon, early-evening draft and get it all done.”

Zarren made it clear that’s not happening. He was part of the group of front-office executives who have been pushing for this change for years. It wasn’t just to make sure everyone could get a good night’s sleep.

Second-round picks used to have a two-minute clock, but moving to a second day allowed the NBA to expand that to four minutes. That gave teams enough time to work the phones and get deals done, as they would often get a team on the phone only to find they made a deal moments earlier. That was vital this year with the second apron adding another line teams have to dance around as they try to hold a strong roster together.

Whenever there is a transaction deadline in the NBA, teams start frantically moving to change their cap position. For so long, it was whether or not a team wanted to be in the luxury tax, which generally signified they were making a push for contention. Now with the second apron, the consequences are dire enough that you have to be convinced you are making the NBA Finals to go there.

The draft saw several teams maneuver to duck the second apron, most notably Denver. The Celtics don’t need to worry about those kinds of moves. They are going to be above the second apron for some time, especially since Stevens implied he wants to retain Derrick White, who is extension-eligible. When asked about their free-agent centers Xavier Tillman and Luke Kornet, he dodged the question while saying they value continuity there. It’s vital that happens, because Kristaps Porziņģis is going to miss some time after having surgery this week.

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“Get him back, get him fully healthy, and get him ready to go, and let him a little do his little WWE entrance in the Garden whenever that time comes,” Stevens said. “And maybe we’ll need a jolt in December whenever that is and then that’ll be a good little evening.”

The 5-to-6-month timeline makes December the likely return if all goes according to plan, so Boston will have to get through a few months of basketball without him. Stevens mentioned they made trades last season because they knew they only had the minimum to offer this summer. So there’s a good chance Tillman and Kornet are back in green next year barring a surprise market. Do we need to address Jayson Tatum? Boston has been handing out some large contracts lately and they aren’t done.

“I would just say that I’m not going to get into the particulars of what decisions we’ll make with each guy and their contracts,” Stevens said. “But I will say we want (Sam) Hauser to be here for a long time.”

Drafting Baylor Scheierman out of Creighton gives the Celtics a fallback if they can’t get a Hauser deal done. But that still won’t make a big impact as they wrestle with the second apron. They aren’t just toeing the line, they are hurdling over it.

Stevens said they are evaluating how to navigate the financial and basketball penalties of operating in this fiscal territory. But the key distinction he made is his focus on long-term sustainability. The second apron is designed to force teams who dive into the deep end to swim to shallow waters after a few years. You can’t stay there forever or you’ll lose draft picks and your team will eventually age out. So even if they get everyone to sign a new deal, which he said he wanted, something must give eventually.

“One of my main objectives is to not have this be — and it goes back 10 years — not have this be anything but sustainable. Keep finding a way to be sustainable,” Stevens said. “Keep finding a way to sustainably put yourself in themix for years and years and years. Doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a down year or a rough year, or maybe we don’t make the playoffs one year. But it’s just not big dips. That’s what we would like. It’s hard to do because the other teams are good, too.”

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The Celtics have been able to do that up until this point. They’ve been to the conference finals with remarkable consistency over Stevens’ decade in Boston. They barely made the playoffs one year when injuries hurt them, but they have exemplified the “no dips” standard Stevens has set. It’s unclear if that is even possible anymore with the new CBA.

That’s why hitting on draft picks is now more important than ever for contending teams. It used to be that you wanted to have some prospects in the pipeline so you didn’t have to overpay your role players when they build a market. It’s what Denver is trying to do after Bruce Brown left following their title a year ago and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit free agency this week.

The Celtics stayed put at 30 and then drafted Anton Watson at 54, a versatile defender who could fill several roles if he becomes an NBA player.

Watson is a good fit for Boston’s defensive scheme since he has the size to guard bigs, could probably grow to be a pick-and-roll defender, and can hold his own if guards want to take him out into space. He’s got a little bit of a post-up game on offense, but he’s mostly a floor spacer and even pick-and-pop guy in all likelihood who can cut and get second-chance points. He was a 4 in college but if his improved shooting sticks, they can pretty much play him at any position.

Unlike their last few second-round picks, he is already 23 and can plausibly get some action even this year.

But before age, skill, and fit, the first box a prospect has to check with the Celtics is their attitude. Will they walk into the building every day and lift the energy? That was part of their success this year, that there was hardly any tension throughout the season and everyone valued doing their job. It sounds like Scheierman will fit in just fine.

“I like to work and I like to compete. I like to just impact the game in any way I can,” Scheierman said. “I like to impact winning, whether that’s diving on the floor, making 3s or blocking shots. Whatever that might be. I like to have fun while doing it. I think basketball obviously is a game that’s meant to be enjoyed.”

(Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images)

Celtics draft: Baylor Scheierman wants to work, Brad Stevens wants to keep roster together (1)Celtics draft: Baylor Scheierman wants to work, Brad Stevens wants to keep roster together (2)

Jared Weiss is a staff writer covering the Boston Celtics and NBA for The Athletic. He has covered the Celtics since 2011, co-founding CLNS Media Network while in college before covering the team for SB Nation's CelticsBlog and USA Today. Before coming to The Athletic, Weiss spent a decade working for the government, primarily as a compliance bank regulator. Follow Jared on Twitter @JaredWeissNBA

Celtics draft: Baylor Scheierman wants to work, Brad Stevens wants to keep roster together (2024)
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