Danny Ainge is one of the savviest executives in the NBA, however, there is one area of his tenure that involves plenty of debate among fans: His track record at the NBA Draft. Just how well has Ainge done with his drafting as a whole over the past 17 years in Boston? In order to get a better sense of his body of work, I teamed up with BSJ contributor Ryan Bernardoni to look closely at Ainge’s 47 draft night selections since 2003.
Bernardoni and I teamed up to rank all of Ainge’s selections from top-to-bottom over the past two decades. We considered each player’s stats, pick positioning, and performance, focused primarily on the time played with the Celtics.
While there will be plenty of compelling choices to choose from at the top of the rankings, there was no shortage of duds in the mix for the bottom of these rankings. You can check out Part I here. Without further ado, let’s get to Part 2: Marcus Banks and the second round misses.
40. Marcus Thornton (No. 45 overall in 2015 NBA Draft)
The Celtics had already taken three players in the 2015 NBA Draft by the time No. 45 rolled around, so they went with a player they knew they could stash overseas. The problem? Thornton never made it to the NBA. The Celtics renounced his draft rights in 2017 to open up cap room. The Cavs actually signed him to a 10-day deal in 2018 but he cruelly never played a minute and was sent back down to the G-League instead. He’s now playing pro ball in France and is perhaps most famously get confused with the other Marcus Thornton who played for the Celtics during the 2014-15 season. Plenty of No. 45 overall picks don’t make it in the NBA but this one hurts a little bit with Norm Powell going No. 46 overall.
39. Ante Zizic (No. 23 overall in 2016 NBA Draft)
Another draft-and-stash with limited success! (Sensing a trend here). Luckily for Boston, they managed to include Zizic in the deal for Kyrie Irving instead of using up a roster spot on him during his rookie deal. He did get a chance in Cleveland last year, starting 25 games for the rebuilding Cavs but failed to impress during his extended minutes. He’s a strong rebounder but a slow-footed defender who doesn’t offer much rim protection at 6-foot-10. That and a lack of shooting range makes him an expendable part in the NBA these days. The Cavs did not pick up his fourth-year rookie option for a modest $2.2 million for next year so he will be a free agent this fall. The guess here is that he heads back overseas to resume his career.
38. Ben Bentil (No. 52 overall in 2016 NBA Draft)
A harsh assessment for the former PC star but this was a puzzling pick for the C’s. Bentil was the sixth(!) player drafted by Boston in the 2016 NBA Draft. To say there was no roster room for him would be an understatement. He played for Boston in summer league and was waived after three preseason games as expected. Bentil did catch on with Mavericks later in 2017 and has spent the rest of his career overseas since then. Can’t expect much out of the No. 51 pick but C’s would have been better off moving this one for a future second or cash instead of taking a player they simply didn’t have room for.
37. Marcus Banks (No. 13 in 2003 NBA Draft)
Ainge’s first-ever draft pick as part of the Celtics' front office was a tantalizing choice on paper. Banks was a speedy guard out of UNLV who looked like he would be a menace on the open floor in the NBA. Despite lasting eight seasons in the NBA, Banks was never able to put it all together and live up to his status as a lottery pick. He suffered from an inconsistent jumper his entire career (32 percent from 3 on low volume) and never possessed a great feel for the game as a point guard with an assist rate that was usually on par with his turnover rate. The Celtics tried to move on him from early, dealing him after his rookie season initially to the Lakers in a trade that was partially rescinded (Banks returned to Boston) after Gary Payton initially refused to report to Boston. A year and a half later, Banks still had a little bit of trade value left, so the C’s packaged him with Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Wolves in 2006 for a future first-round pick along with bad salaries. Banks eventually bounced around the league as a backup guard for a couple more seasons before his NBA career came to a close at age 29.
Banks was one of several busts during the 2003 NBA Draft, which keeps him on the lower end of this list. Luke Ridnour had a solid career at No. 14 overall while David West went at No. 18 to New Orleans were the biggest names that went after him in this range, but there were also plenty of duds in the teens with Troy Bell and Reese Gaines failed to make it in the NBA.
36. Kris Joseph (No. 51 in 2013 NBA Draft)