Normally, the Auerbach Center is full of hundreds of college prospects working out over the final two months before the NBA Draft as the Celtics front office works diligently to make their final evaluations ahead of draft night.
Teams have had to change their approaches dramatically in 2020 however in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Zoom meetings and watching video workouts are in, multiple player workouts are out. The NBA did start approving in-person visits in October for teams with up to 10 players and the Celtics have seen a number of top prospects live so far including RJ Hampton, Precious Achiuwa and Aaron Nesmith later this week.
To get a better sense of how the Celtics are navigating this new world when it comes to draft prep, I chatted with Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge earlier this week to get a look behind the curtain from the team’s preparations.
Boston Sports Journal: How has it been adapting from a prep standpoint to be out of the office for a big stretch with such a big draft coming up? Have updated protocols allow you to get back to more in-person meetings at Auerbach Center? How are you guys primarily communicating?
Austin Ainge: No Auerbach Center for a while. We've done a ton of staff zooms and zooms with the prospects so a lot of film, some zoom interviews with prospects and more recently we've been able to visit a few prospects. For that, everyone has to be COVID tested, everyone has to be able to do all these things and then we can watch kids in an empty gym.
BSJ: How have those visits gone so far? Have you been able to travel to them or do they come to you guys?
Ainge: We have gone to the players. We can bring three people and a maximum of 10 visits (with prospects). It's just one player shooting. One player, one rebounder, basically. We're allowed to talk with them (in-person) after working them out.
BSJ: You guys normally hold up to 100 workouts during a normal draft year so cutting that by 90 percent seems like a pretty drastic switch. What's the debate been like internally about which guys to see in person?
Ainge: We are just doing the best we can. Everyone is different, right? So when we get together as a staff and talk about who to see, one guy will say 'Well I saw this guy five times this year and I saw this guy once.' and with another (player) it's the exact opposite with another staff member. (laughs). Everyone saw guys a different amount so we all had different guys we wanted to see. We just did the best we could and saw a few guys. To be honest, it doesn't tell you that much even when you see them. It's