NBA Draft 2012: 5 Prospects the Celtics Will Need When the Veterans Leave Town
The Final Four is nearly upon us, which means we're about to get into serious NBA mock draft time. Projections, opinions and potential scenarios are set to start flying, so why don't we join the fray?
The Celtics, who have just four players with guaranteed contracts for next season, may well be major players not just in free agency, but in draft maneuvering as well. It's more than conceivable that both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will be gone, and if neither of them come back, those are two giant holes that will need to be filled.
With Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass ($4 million team option for next year), all members of the current rotation sure to return, let's take a look at a couple of moves the Celts could make to bolster the roster come draft day.
1. Terrence Jones, Kentucky
In trying to guess who the Celts will pick first and measure that up against the likely talent to be had around that time, Jones seems to be a very logical choice.
As mentioned in this space before, Jones' versatility as a big man will serve the Celtics, who should be focusing on size, size and more size in this draft.
Jones is 6'8", but he's quick enough to step out and play the 3 and defend it as well. He handles the ball adeptly for a big guy, and most importantly for the C's, rebounds very efficiently.
If the C's bring Kevin Garnett back next for one last hurrah, it could be a huge plus for a guy like Jones, who despite being slightly shorter has a lot of KG in his game.
2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
To get a guy like Sullinger, the C's might have to trade up from wherever they're drafting. But given their needs, making a gamble like that could be worth it.
Sullinger is a solid, stout, difficult-to-move power forward who rebounds, plays extremely well when facing up, and is a physical, intimidating presence.
The Celtics are so thin up front and lacking in toughness in the paint that getting a guy like Sullinger, if he can replicate his college game in the pros, would be a masterstroke.
3. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
This one might be a bit of a reach given the amount of teams looking to add size and depth up front. But Zeller, who is solid if not spectacular, looks like the kind of guy who could fall to the middle of the first round.
Here's a 7-footer who's played four years at a top-flight school and has seen his numbers and performance grow every season. This past year he averaged 16 and 10 and for a big guy, he runs and moves very smoothly. There's not a lot of clunkiness to his game like another Carolina big man the Celts once drafted (hello, Eric Montross!).
Zeller looks like another guy the C's would have to trade up for, and if they feel like going that route, Sullinger is a better bet. But if they can get the Tar Heel product, they should feel more than OK about it.
4. Terrence Ross, Washington
The odds are pretty high that the C's will have to replace Ray Allen for next season, so why not do it with one of the best long-range shooters available?
Ross, a sophomore 2-guard who doubled his shooting and rebounding numbers this past season for the Huskies, has deep range and isn't afraid to fire away. He's also quick enough to beat his man off the dribble, and while slightly undersized (6'6", 190 pounds), is a solid defender.
Replacing Allen's clutch shooting and basketball IQ will be much harder than simply finding someone to fill in at the 2 and shoot three-pointers. But Ross looks like he has the right kind of makeup.
5. Royce White, Iowa State
Here's a wild card for you. White, who can do it all from the 3-spot, has some issues following him that may be effecting his stock.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN, White suffers from an anxiety disorder and serious problems with flying. Not exactly what you'd like to see in someone who will spend plenty of time in the spotlight and on airplanes.
But beyond that, and the fact that he was kicked off the Minnesota Golden Gophers and was forced to sit out last season after transferring to Iowa State, White can really ball. He's already sized for the NBA (6'8", 240 pounds) and can score, pass and rebound at a top level for his position.
White seems a bit of a Paul Pierce clone as far as his game goes. But he's so talented, he may be hard to pass up come the bottom third of the first round.