NBA Draft 2012: 7 Big Men Who Must Be on Boston Celtics' Radar
There are several high upside players, including Royce White and Meyers Leonard, who they could target with the picks and several productive college players who also fit the bill. So, which route should the Celtics take?
Meyers Leonard, Illinois Center
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Leonard has the most upside of any center in the draft besides Connecticut phenom Andre Drummond. He measured in as a legit 7-footer during the lead-up to the NBA draft and has natural length, athleticism, and defensive instincts. Leonard could go as early as the late lottery, but lack of production and raw skills could push him to fall to the Celtics in the early 20s. If Boston can get him there and teach him alongside Kevin Garnett, he could be a cornerstone of the Celtics' future.
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina Center
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Zeller is almost Meyers Leonard's total opposite—a polished, senior center who has all the skills and boasts good production in college but lacks the physical upside to dominate in the NBA. Zeller can start because he has the height, rebounds and can shoot the ball out to mid-range. But he is slow—more of a Brad Miller-type starter than a truly dominant big man.
Zeller could go in the lottery, but his lack of upside could push him to the late teens where Boston could move up a few spots to get him. Alongside Garnett, Rondo and Pierce, he could be part of another title run.
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State Power Forward
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Moultrie has a lot of upside and will intrigue the Celtics if he falls from the mid-teens to the early 20s. He is a very athletic player, nearly 7' tall and able to leap and collect boards. Moultrie also has more offensive skills than he is given credit for and averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds as a team leader in his last collegiate season. He needs to add strength and become more of a low-post player, but he would be a nice complement to Boston's big man rotation.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure Power Forward
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Nicholson is one of the most underrated power forwards in the draft, and he could be a great get for Boston in the early 20s. Originally not considered an NBA prospect, Nicholson has improved in every year at college.
His is a long, deceptively athletic forward with one of the best arsenals of polished offensive skills in the draft. He averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in his last year of college and is a very good shooter and defender. Along with JaJuan Johnson, he could be the heir to Kevin Garnett at Boston's power forward spot.
Royce White, Iowa State Forward
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White is the most talented player likely to be available to the Celtics when they draft in the early 20s. He is a top-five pick on talent with legitimate All-Star upside, but teams are worried by his past team history and mental issues. White has been very open about addressing these concerns, and his abilities on the court are undeniable.
He plays hard on both ends of the floor, is tough, rebounds and can play both the three and four forward spots. He is tremendously talented and could be, alongside Rajon Rondo, the heir to the Big Three's mantle.
Fab Melo, Syracuse Center
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Melo is a difference maker on the defensive end. Plain and simple, if Boston wants to acquire a player who can protect the paint against anyone, Melo is the guy to pick. The problem is that he lacks basketball IQ, any kind of offensive skill and consistent production. But if Boston grabs a high upside player with its first pick, Melo would be a great second pick to shore up the team's future defense.
Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt Center
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Ezeli is one of the most intriguing picks in the second half of the first round. When healthy, he is dominant on defense. But, like Fab Melo, he lacks offensive skills or a high basketball IQ, and he has recurring injury concerns. So, Boston will likely have better options when it is picking in the early 20s.