Jared Sullinger proved to be a solid pick late in the 2012 NBA draft.
The Celtics have decisions to make beforehand, choosing who they want to bring back or shop in the trade market. However, the direction they see the draft going, or route they want to take with their picks, could influence those free-agency decisions.
General manager Danny Ainge has had a so-so track record with the draft. This isn't entirely his fault, because the Celtics, as a result of their playoff appearances, haven't been in great position lately. The fact remains, though, that of the last 10 players Ainge has taken, only Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley have played meaningful roles with the franchise.
The good news is both of those players were late first-rounders. That is where the Celtics will be set up in June. By virtue of finishing with the second-worst record among playoff teams, they will pick at No. 16, just behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the lottery teams.
There are some glaring needs that must be addressed by Ainge, and the draft is a great spot to cure a position or two.
The most distracting problem with the Boston Celtics this past season was how much Rajon Rondo's absence meant.
Danny Ainge has repeatedly failed to get a quality backup point guard for Rajon Rondo. He has gone through a number of ancient floor generals and young combo-guards, none of which have flawlessly fit in.
Things finally caught up to this risky lack of depth in 2012-13. When Rondo went down with an ACL injury, there was no one on the roster who could fill the hole. Instead, responsibilities fell on a slowing Paul Pierce and inexperienced Avery Bradley.
The Celtics averaged 17.3 turnovers per game in their postseason loss to the New York Knicks. Up against just 16.8 assists per game, that is unacceptable.
Whether it happens with their No. 16 pick, or sometime later on, the Celtics have to target a young point guard. He can learn a lot from Rondo and give the Celtics a legitimate option when their star needs a breather or gets injured.
Since Rondo has now missed 13 or more games in each of the past three seasons, this spot is incredibly important. Hopefully that postseason performance was the wake-up call Ainge and the franchise needed.
Who to look into
Myck Kabongo, Texas (DX Profile)
Dennis Schroeder, Germany (DX Profile)
The Boston Celtics' long-range shooting problem ties into another glaring issue they discovered after Rajon Rondo's ACL injury.
This team had really only one or two guys who could create a quality shot for themselves. That includes Jeff Green, whose "quality shots" were usually covered threes or super-athletic crashes towards the rim (usually to the right). The other was Paul Pierce, whose ability creating space is well-documented.
That was it, though. Everyone else on the roster relied almost solely for Rondo to get them the ball in position to score. When he went down, it was a shock to the system of everyone on the court in green. The majority of guys weren't sure how to go about getting their offense right away.
A big part of that offense was the lack of quality outside shooting. The Celtics were a middle-of-the-pack team from beyond the arc, hitting 35.8 percent of their threes. However, removing Pierce's 38 percent on five attempts per game, a real possibility, and that number quickly drops.
That is an issue Danny Ainge can help mend in the draft. At No. 16, the premier talents are largely going to be picked over. However, this is a spot when you can really hone in on a singular skill. Jared Sullinger, No. 21 in 2012, was a pick almost solely for rebounding. Avery Bradley, a defensive specialist, went No. 19 in 2010.
If Ainge sees a player at No. 16 that has proven an ability to create his own shot, particularly from outside and against high-level competition, he should nab him up.
Who to look into
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (DX Profile)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia (DX Profile)
The Boston Celtics have been an abysmal rebounding team for a while now. It is no secret, just something Doc Rivers doesn't preach.
His defensive strategy absolutely decimates any possibility of offensive boards and second-chance points, while their overall lack of size makes it difficult to even grab simple defensive rebounds.
Boston grabbed just 39.3 rebounds per game, good for second-to-last in the NBA. Their rebounding differential and offensive boards per game were both dead last.
Losing Jared Sullinger to a season-ending back injury, just as he was hitting his stride as a rebounder, obviously hampered those numbers slightly. However, it is still indicative of an overall problem with the roster makeup. This team doesn't rebound because the bigs are bereft of talent or soft jump-shooters.
With the No. 16 pick, or elsewhere if Danny Ainge gets creative, Boston should seek a rebounding big. In particular, one who can play the center position. As it stands right now, if Kevin Garnett retires, the Celtics' center position is manned solely by Fab Melo.
Garnett's retirement is a very real possibility, with BFF Paul Pierce sure to be shopped relentlessly this summer. Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph aren't moving the needle, nor are they under contract right now anyway. Ainge used both first-round picks a year ago on bigs, and he should continue to hammer away at that position until it is fixed.
Who to look into
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville (DX Profile)
Jeff Withey, Kansas (DX Profile)
Another spot the Boston Celtics seem to completely ignore in recent years is interior scoring.
Their best shot at getting an easy look from the paint is a crazy Jeff Green drive. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass, Boston's regular starting backcourt, prefer perimeter jumpers to anything resembling post moves, making the Celtics very one-dimensional on offense.
The work Rajon Rondo could do with a legitimate interior scorer seems worth the risk of taking someone with a post game and little else in the first round. Jared Sullinger, No, 21 last year, was touted as having some interior scoring abilities, but his lack of size make it tough to score at the NBA level in the paint.
Fab Melo, taken one spot behind Sullinger, is still an offensive project, and he improved little with a year in the D-League.
The Celtics would benefit from grabbing a taller, NBA-ready player with some variety of post moves. They need a guy who doesn't mind playing inside and who can get his shot off against seven-footers.
The description fits Al Jefferson, a former Boston No. 15 pick in 2004. He's a free agent this summer, but the Celtics may be short on cash. If they can find the next Jefferson in the 2013 NBA draft, it could cure some of their offensive disabilities.
Who to look into
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (DX Profile)
Mason Plumlee, Duke (DX Profile)
Should Kevin Garnett return to the Boston Celtics next season, he is going to need help.
The Celtics have gone the cheap veteran route, as well as the unknown D-League/foreign league route, with the likes of Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins, Shavlik Randolph and Greg Stiemsma lending a defensive hand to Garnett.
If he returns, his minutes are going to need to be shorter than ever during the regular season, the perfect time to break in a strong rookie defender. Danny Ainge will need to locate a player as strong mentally as they are physically. If they come to Boston and don't get it, or supply sufficient effort, Garnett will cast them aside quickly.
A player who comes in like Jared Sullinger or Kendrick Perkins did, and learns from Garnett, can quickly enter his good graces. That is a great place to be as a young teammate of one of the best defensive minds in history.
In the No. 16 area there are typically some offensive projects, with bigger bodies who use defense as a means of getting by. Perkins was taken at No. 27 in 2003. In the 2008 NBA draft, Serge Ibaka went at No. 24, while Roy Hibbert fell to No. 17. Current Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol was a late second-rounder in 2007.
These guys are out there, and Ainge has to do a good job seeking them out.
Who to look into
Steven Adams, Pittsburgh (DX Profile)
Tony Mitchell, North Texas (DX Profile)