With the Boston Celtics' postseason behind us and the hope for new beginnings afresh, the clear horizon entails mock draft scenarios. Everyone has an idea of who president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might target, but nobody knows for sure.
Analysts around the country have stockpiled research and team needs to compose their prognostications for the entire NBA Draft. None of them have ever been completely accurate.
For that reason, it's important to pick apart their individual mock drafts and pinpoint which areas of each prediction are faulty and which might be foolproof.
NBADraft.net: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
This particular website has Dario Saric, an athletic star in the making from Croatia, going to the Celtics at pick No. 16. At 6'10", 223 pounds, Saric has the body and talent to be a significant long-term option at small forward for the Celtics.
He goes all-out on both sides of the floor, delivering a type of athleticism that just screams Boston Celtics basketball. And he has scoring capabilities off the dribble as well as off the jumper. Coach Doc Rivers would love to have a hard-working and constantly evolving player like Saric.
The teenager has shown positive signs with his playmaking, including strong passing and impressive offensive boards. He has a great motor and would certainly improve a transition offense led by Rajon Rondo.
His fatal flaw seems to be his pure shooting percentage, which needs improvement. His medium- to long-range percentage failed to exceed 40 percent the past two years.
But Saric offers unlimited potential as far as intelligence and hustle are concerned, and he exhibits confidence when the ball finds him. He could end up a more agile Hedo Turkoglu—in time.
As Shakespeare would say, “Aye, there's the rub.” Unless Saric gets targeted as a lottery pick, he will apparently not make himself available until 2014. If Ainge buys out Paul Pierce's contract for $5 million out of the $15 million the captain would be paid next season, it doesn't look like an option for Boston.
DraftExpress.com: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Draft Express, which has Saric going 23rd, believes the Celtics will take point guard Dennis Schroeder with their 16th pick. Also an international talent, Schroeder hails from Braunshweig, Germany, where he has impressed with exceptional ball-handling and penetration.
This kid is an absolute freak. He stands 6'2” and weighs 170 pounds soaking wet, but he can move up the court with Leandro Barbosa-type speed. Beyond that, his wingspan reaches nearly 6'7”, making him a viable threat on the dribble-drive.
Schroeder has good vision for a 19-year-old, in the open court as well as the drive. With some guidance from Rondo, he could become the best young point guard in the NBA.
Alongside young talents like power forward Jared Sullinger and slashing small forward Jeff Green, Schroeder would certainly benefit. And if Garnett stays aboard for another year, the half-court offense stands to improve with such a quick penetrator with handle.
Of course, a player at his size worries GMs like Ainge based solely on size, considering he might not be able to handle the wear and tear of professional ball. Many analysts have also pointed out his issues with passing instincts, indicating that his score-first mentality overseas might blind some prognosticators who have him going mid-round.
While it's imperative that the Celtics address their issue at the backup point guard position, it seems hasty to spend a 16th draft pick on such a wild card. Expect Schroeder to go later in the first, if not the second round.
Chad Ford, ESPN.com (subscription required): Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Perhaps the most respected NBA Draft analyst, Chad Ford sees Syracuse's big point guard Michael Carter-Williams as a potential steal for the Celtics. With the mentality that Rondo's future in Boston remains “up in the air,” Ford says this would be the best available option based on length and athleticism.
If Carter-Williams somehow stays on the board into the middle of the first round, Ford could be right. Not many teams stand to benefit from grabbing floor generals in the lottery besides the New Orleans Hornets—and Michigan's Player of the Year Trey Burke has clearly surpassed his counterparts as the top option. So why not?
At 6'5”, 175 pounds, Carter-Williams offers size, ball-handling and NBA-ready scoring ability. He keeps his head up at all times and looks for the open teammate despite the fact that he flashes a Derrick Rose-type first step.
He also maintains solid skills on man-to-man defense, something that would clearly stick out in Ainge and Rivers' minds. He can disrupt an offense with his quick hands and ability to move his feet on the fly.
His jumper could use some improvement, but what Boston Celtics fan isn't used to a point guard who struggles to shoot? This guy could really lead an offense for years to come, so it seems natural for Ainge to grab him if he stays out there at No. 16. That just remains a big “if.”
CBSSports.com: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Interestingly, CBS Sports has Carter-Williams going sixth, Saric going 22nd and Schroeder going 23rd. They see the Celtics pinpointing a much-needed position at center with Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng.
Yours truly has been on this guy's radar for a long time. If he continues to evolve, he could end up a Dikembe Mutombo with a jumper and some advanced low-post scoring. As it stands, he has the talent on both ends to be the next Serge Ibaka.
Regardless, the Celtics would take the 23-year-old's size and wingspan in a heartbeat if better options did not remain.
Dieng dazzled audiences with his emerging talent during the NCAA Tournament, asserting himself with his shot-blocking skills on one end and showing soft touch on offense. He also grabbed boards and provided something Boston never sees: second-chance opportunities.
Dieng finished the NCAA season with six rebounds per contest, 3.4 of which came on the offensive end. He harassed opposing players in the Big Dance and showed that he has no fear regardless of who comes near the hoop.
His wingspan alone makes him a formidable talent on the professional level. He could easily end up getting picked earlier by the Utah Jazz, who probably won't be able to hold onto free-agent center Al Jefferson. The young, small Milwaukee Bucks roster would also love to add his size and talent.
But if Dieng is still available at No. 16, expect Ainge to finally consider adding a promising center out of the draft. To me, it seems the most logical choice.
HoopsWorld.com: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Like CBS Sports, HoopsWorld has the Celtics addressing the Celtics' center position, thinking Ainge will target Gonzaga standout Kelly Olynyk. But like CBS Sports, as well as Ford, Draft Express and Draft Net, I believe Olynyk will be off the board by pick No. 16.
And if not, I still think Ainge should pass on the big Bulldog. Despite the fact Olynyk averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 turnovers per game in his junior year, the 7'0", 238-pound center still leaves a lot to be desired.
Many scouts and analysts liken him to a Pau Gasol, but he runs the risk of becoming a poor man's Raef Lafrentz in the NBA. He has the frame and shooting touch, but lacks the toughness, athleticism and defensive prowess to make it big.
My Pick: A Center!
Hopefully Ainge decides to confront the Celtics' perennial issues down low and grabs a formidable center. Dieng would provide help on both ends of the floor and could eventually flourish into an All-Star with a batch of rising young talent around him.
It would also seem worth Ainge's while to bring in 7'1" French standout Rudy Gobert and 7'0" Brazilian Lucas Nogueira for workouts. Both players have been targeted by mid-round drafters, and both provide spectacular upside (not to mention humongous wingspans).