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Boston Celtics: Ranking the 5 Best Celtics Draft Picks Since 2000

Jeremy GottliebContributor IDecember 28, 2016

Boston Celtics: Ranking the 5 Best Celtics Draft Picks Since 2000

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    The jury will remain out on the Celtics three 2012 draft picks, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, until, at the earliest, the end of the upcoming NBA season.

    But it's definitely not too early to look back on the C's draft history since the turn of the century and examine who worked out best and why.

    If you're thinking about guys like J.R. Giddens, Joseph Forte or Jerome Moiso, look elsewhere.

    This piece is about the guys who have made the C's look good.

5. Joe Johnson

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    With the 10th pick in the 2001 draft, the Celts selected Johnson, a 2-guard out of Arkansas. He didn't do much in his very brief Celtics tenure (48 games, six points and three boards over 21 minutes per night).

    But what he did do was provide some ammo for the Celts to make a trade that season which helped them to the Eastern Conference Finals, their deepest playoff run at the time since 1988.

    Johnson was packaged with Randy Brown, "Miracle" Milt Palacio and a 2002 first-rounder (which would become forward Casey Jacobson) and sent to Phoenix for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. 

    Rogers and Delk were crucial pieces in the C's '02 playoff run, and Johnson went on to thrive for the Suns, increasing his scoring, rebounding and fhree-point shooting percentage numbers in each of his three-plus seasons in Phoenix.

    In 2005, he signed a max free-agent deal with the Atlanta Hawks, which he followed up with max extension with the team in 2010.

    Someone in the Celts 2001 draft war room knew what he was doing with Joe Johnson.

4. Avery Bradley

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    Bradley, the C's 2010 first-rounder out of Texas, looked so lost and confused while trying to learn how to be Rajon Rondo's backup in his first season-plus in Boston, it was a bit tempting to call him a flat out bust.

    But the 19th overall pick in that draft found his niche this season, taking what at the time was a rare start thanks to an ankle injury suffered by Ray Allen back in late March and running with it.

    Bradley scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting in that game, showing a tidy offensive repertoire to go along with his vast skills on the defensive end. From that point on, free of the pressures of running the point (a spot in which he was severely miscast), his minutes per game practically doubled and he pretty much supplanted Ray in the C's starting lineup.

    Bradley injured his shoulder late in the season and despite some pretty valiant efforts, he finally had to be shut down and undergo surgery during the Celts Eastern Conference semifinal series against the 76ers. His game was sorely missed in the C's Eastern Finals loss to the Heat.

    Though he's undersized for an NBA shooting guard (6'2", 180 lbs.), Bradley proved during the second half of the season that he can play at both ends and do it at a very high level. 

    And with that, the bust whispers went silent.

3. Kendrick Perkins

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    When the Celtics came away from the 2003 draft with a big high school kid named Kendrick Perkins, the needle barely moved.

    When Perk's defensive development helped the C's to a championship not quite five years later, everyone knew who he was.

    Perk, drafted 27th overall by Memphis and traded to Boston along with Marcus Banks for Dahntay Jones and Troy Bell, was a project, to be sure. He played a total of 35 minutes over 10 games in his rookie season under Jim O'Brien and John Carroll. When Doc Rivers arrived the next season, Perk's development really began.

    In each of the next six seasons, Perk's minutes per game increased and with that, so did his scoring, rebounding and shot blocking. He also turned himself into a solid, mid-range jump shooter and heavily improved his shooting percentage starting in the title year of 2007.

    He shot 61.5 percent that season, 57.7 percent in '08-'09 and 60.2 percent in '09-'10. And although he never averaged double-digit rebounds and only got to 10-plus points per game once, his defense, toughness and time spent learning from Kevin Garnett made up for the smallish numbers.

    Perk was a huge part of not only that title team but the 2010 squad that came within one quarter and one blown out knee of his from winning another. When he was traded to Oklahoma City at the 2011 deadline, the deal sunk the Celts season.

    How many role players can claim that kind of importance? Not many.

2. Al Jefferson

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    Big Al. The high schooler from Mississippi.

    He had future Celtics star written all over him after being taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2004 draft, and even though the Celts struggled in his second and third seasons, Jefferson really came into his own in that third year. He averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over 33 minutes per game, all career highs by far.

    Jefferson's Celtics career was cut short after that third season as he was the centerpiece of the package Boston sent to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Garnett. He would wind up playing for some lousy Wolves teams, suffering a major knee injury and eventually being dealt to an up-and-coming Utah team.

    It's tempting to wonder how Big Al would have developed had he stayed in Boston. But most C's fans probably change course from those kinds of memories the moment they recall his departure leading to KG's arrival leading to Banner 17.

    Still, Jefferson was a better-than-solid pick overall for the Celts. Pretty much a home run.

1. Rajon Rondo

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    First off, it's important to point out that Rondo was not drafted by the Celts. The Phoenix Suns took him with the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft, then shipped him and Brian Grant to the C's (who'd taken Randy Foye with the seventh pick and sent him to Minnesota) for a first-round pick in 2007.

    There, now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can go on to note that Rondo, no matter whether the Suns were picking for the Celtics or not, is the best Boston draft pick not only of the 2000s but since Paul Pierce came to town as the No. 10 selection in 1998.

    He's become one of the top five point guards in the NBA. He's a triple-double machine. He can score at will when he wants to (see Game 2, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals in Miami). He's a superior defensive player. He passes the ball as well as anyone in the entire league. He rebounds exceptionally well for a player his size. He's the total, spectacular package.

    The Celtics won one championship with Rondo running the show, came this close to winning a second and came within one game of the playing for a third. He's only 26 years old, which means he's just about to enter his prime.

    Watch out, NBA.

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