10 Draft Targets That Make Perfect Sense for Boston Celtics
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At the moment, Boston owns just pick No. 16 in the June 27 event. Their second-rounder was shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers in last summer's deal for Courtney Lee.
With their lone pick, the Celtics will be entertaining the idea of drafting a big or possibly a point guard. The team was burned last season when Rajon Rondo suffered an ACL injury. They had no true backup, and a lack of ball-handling skill knocked them out in Round 1 of the postseason.
Their need for a big man is well-known. The Celtics went with two bigs in the first round a year ago. However, they managed to get only 51 total NBA games out of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Sullinger's back acted up mid-season, knocking him out for good, while Melo competed for much of the year in the D-League.
Backup Chris Wilcox is a free agent, and Shavlik Randolph holds a non-guaranteed offer. Kevin Garnett is where most eyes are turning, but he was on the trading block a week ago and may still be on his way out. This could leave undersized power forwards Sullinger and Brandon Bass as the only reliable bigs on the roster.
Luckily, the 2013 draft seems to be teeming with second-tier size. At No. 16, the big names will be off the board before the Celtics pick. However, there are a host of players who will slip down into their range. Most of these players have experience banging bodies in the paint, something the Celtics need in their middle.
There are also a few talented point guards who would do well playing behind Rondo.
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The Boston Celtics quickly realized in the postseason that with no Rajon Rondo, they had no chance to compete at a high level. Avery Bradley simply didn't have the handle or court vision to run the team's offense successfully.
To play right behind Rondo, as the team's backup point guard, Shane Larkin seems to be a perfect fit.
Larkin burst onto the scene last season as a member of the Miami Hurricanes. In his second collegiate season, the Orlando native averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and two steals per game, all of which led the team. He connected on 40.6 percent of his three-pointers as well.
As a sophomore, Larkin led the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16 after missing the NCAA tournament the year before. He posted 28 points and seven assists against North Carolina while winning the ACC championship. On a team featuring some heavy senior talent, Larkin became an emotional leader.
Skill-wise, he fits with a team trying to run pick-and-rolls, as the Celtics have done often in the past. Obviously, with a new coach that may change. The major benefit for Larkin appears to be his range and willingness to shoot. On the Hurricanes, he shot more threes and overall field goals than anyone else.
That 40.6 percent from beyond the arc would be a nice change of pace coming off the bench. Rondo has improved his shot but is still very weak from long range. If Larkin could come in with a decent three-point shot and an ability to run a basic offensive system, the Celtics would improve drastically in the draft.
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Freshman, Providence College
Shooting guard, 6'6", 197 lbs
Danny Ainge rarely does things like follow common NBA protocol when making decisions. He can often fly by the seat of his pants, especially while exploring unique moves and picks.
At No. 16, Ricky Ledo would be that unique pick. The 20-year-old wing could wind up being the biggest sleeper of the draft. Because of an issue with his high school transcripts—yes, plural—he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last season. He spent the year with the Providence College basketball team but did not play in any games.
Thanks to his lack of college numbers and experience, Ledo won't be picked early on. Even though his skill level could be that of a top wing in the draft, his weird recent history will knock him down.
Ledo appears to have the makeup of a Jeff Green-type slasher. His shot isn't fully developed yet, but he is fantastic with the ball in his hands. While that isn't a great trait for playing alongside Green and Rajon Rondo, the Celtics were desperate for confident scorers off the bench last season.
His defense isn't all there yet, but without a year of seeing him guard top Big East talents, it is tough to say for sure. At 6'6", though, he has the body necessary to defend NBA-size shooting guards.
Ainge went with a high-risk, high-reward player in Fab Melo last season, so he definitely has it in him to make Ledo the No. 16 pick.
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Center, 6'11", 230 lbs
One of the more-polished NBA-ready big men in the draft is Gorgui Dieng out of Louisville. Despite putting up very draft-able statistics a year ago, Dieng forwent the draft for another year of school.
He wound up working to get stronger and more efficient, in the meantime leading the Cardinals to the national championship. He posted eight points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks in the title game. Going up against Mason Plumlee in the Elite Eight, Dieng posted 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
At 230 pounds, Dieng may still be a little light for the NBA, as a lot of pro centers run north of 250 pounds. However, Dieng has shown an ability recently to add weight to his profile and is already a very strong defensive player. His shot-blocking instincts have been evident since his freshman season, and he averaged 2.5 a game as a junior.
When the Boston Celtics drafted Jared Sullinger last season, they were looking for a power forward with interior scoring and rebounding abilities. Fab Melo was a pick for pure upside. Given that Melo likely still won't be ready for next season, Dieng gives them an option to play right away.
As a junior with Louisville, Dieng averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He shot 53.4 percent from the field and 65.2 percent from the free-throw line.
He is already 23, with three years of high-level college experience. Dieng's body and brain should allow him to see minutes for the Celtics out of the starting gate.
19 years old, Braunschweig, Germany
Point guard, 6'2", 165 lbs
Dennis Schroeder may very well be the German Rajon Rondo.
It is an interesting concept, but the 19-year-old point guard even compares himself to the Boston Celtics star.
He is a player with fantastic court awareness and passing ability, but lacks an efficient scoring move. His jumper is shaky, but he excels at creating offense for others, especially off pick-and-rolls. The potential for an outside jumper is there, though, as he seems to have some confidence in his own shot, per DraftExpress.
While it would seem slightly redundant to bring in a backup point guard who can't get his own shot immediately in the NBA, like Shane Larkin can, the Celtics need a ball-handler. Their second-best playmaker last season was Paul Pierce, after Rondo. Schroeder has an excellent handle, which would immediately improve the second unit.
If Boston's plan is to surround Schroeder with shooters, a la Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass, he will have a bunch of space to play with and find the open man.
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Center, 7'0", 234 lbs
Kelly Olynyk responded very well to increased playing time his junior season with Gonzaga. His minutes per game practically doubled (to 26.4), allowing him to turn in 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.
The Bulldogs star led his team to a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, they fell in the second round, with Olynyk shooting just 8-of-22 from the field. Still, the 7-footer scored in single digits just twice on the year, topping 20 regularly. Even in that second-round loss to Wichita State, Olynyk posted 26 points and nine rebounds. He worked his way to the free-throw line 14 times.
The refined offensive game is something that has elevated his draft stock considerably. Olynyk shot 62.9 percent from the field and 77.6 percent from the line as a junior.
The Celtics are no strangers to unique players, which is exactly what Olynyk presents. The Canadian big has an exceptional handle for a player of his size and decent range on his shot. He won't impress with explosiveness or particularly stout defense, but creativeness on the block is an attractive trait for teams with a strong point guard.
The Celtics would probably prefer to get a defense-first player at the 5, but with a new head coach, philosophies could change. Olynyk has the potential to be a low-post scorer right away, and the Celtics of a year ago needed all the points they could muster.
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Center, 7'0", 238 lbs
Sticking around Duke University for his senior season turned out to be a great decision for Mason Plumlee. Teams are now viewing him as one of the most polished and well-rounded big men on the table.
Seeing a considerable bump in minutes with brother Miles Plumlee in the NBA, Mason averaged 17.1 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior leader for the Blue Devils. He became a more efficient scorer as well, while seeing more opportunities each night.
Plumlee measured out at an honest 7'0" but still runs the floor better than most big men. In the Celtics' proposed new look, featuring Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green in transition, Plumlee would presumably fit right in. Throughout his collegiate career, he showed an ability to fill the lane in transition.
He had a successful showing in the 2013 NCAA tournament, leading Duke to an Elite Eight appearance against Louisville. Plumlee posted 17 points and 12 rebounds against Gorgui Dieng.
Defensively, Plumlee blocked 1.4 shots per game last season, but doesn't have the full frame yet of a NBA-caliber center. What he still lacks in size, the Duke grad makes up for with fundamentally sound rebounding. That is what allowed him to post gaudy totals in college, despite playing top competition.
Plumlee would help fill the Celtics' need at the center position, though probably not as a starter right away.
Junior, San Diego State
Shooting guard, 6'5", 191 lbs
If Danny Ainge goes the route of drafting on talent instead of need, Jamaal Franklin could be the pick at No. 16.
The do-it-all junior from San Diego State University opted to enter the draft after leading his team in nearly every statistical category. Franklin averaged 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season, while leading the Aztecs to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
There, Franklin ran into the Cinderella Florida Gulf Coast, falling despite putting up 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
A lack of quality teammates helped Franklin boost his own impressive numbers, but a lack of challenging competition will cause him to drop in the draft. The Mountain West Conference doesn't turn many heads, and neither did Franklin's performances against Syracuse and Arizona.
Still, Franklin proved throughout his collegiate career that he is a fearless attacker on the offensive end and has the ability to defend multiple positions on defense.
Compare that with the Celtics' current wing of choice in Jeff Green, who has shown tendencies to defer and not attack with full force on a consistent basis. Franklin could prove to be a nice change from that.
The position is a tad backed up with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry all soaking up the shooting guard minutes, but if Ainge plans to move someone, Franklin is a nice value here.
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Center, 7'0", 222 lbs
Four years as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks will do a lot for a player’s basketball skills and draft stock.
Jeff Withey is a prime example of working hard to earn opportunities. Over four years of collegiate play, the 7-footer has worked himself into a solid first-round draft pick. As a senior, Withey posted career highs across the board. He averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.
He helped the Jayhawks advance to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, posting a 16-point, 16-rebound effort on the diminutive North Carolina Tarheels.
At 222 pounds, Withey is a bit scrawny for an NBA center, but he makes up for it defensively with excellent timing and fundamentals. While that size may scare off some teams, Danny Ainge will enjoy seeing how well his work ethic has funneled into becoming a real NBA-caliber player.
On the offensive end, Withey doesn’t have many go-to moves and rarely is looking for his own shot. Most of his points at the NBA level will come as a product of solid point guard play at the end of pick-and-rolls.
With a gaping hole developing at the top of the Celtics lineup, Withey is a solid, defense-first candidate to stop the bleeding.
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Center, 7'0", 255 lbs
While his freshman year at Pittsburgh did little to set the NCAA on fire, many pro scouts and GMs are enamored with the potential of Steven Adams.
Unlike some of these other candidates for a big-man pick at No. 16, Danny Ainge has to see that Adams boasts the most NBA-ready body of any of them. While his skills and fundamentals lack refinement, one cannot teach 7 feet and 255 pounds.
Adams averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and two blocks per game as a freshman. He did manage 13 points and 11 rebounds in his lone NCAA tournament game, a loss to Wichita State. Still, those averages pale in comparison to other top bigs.
The potential for a serious NBA player is in that body. Unfortunately, Ainge took a chance on a project last season when drafting Fab Melo at No. 22. If he wants to do so again at No. 16 this year, Adams will have to have really impressed in his workouts and interviews.
Not that the Maine Red Claws couldn't use another big, but Adams' 44.3 percent free-throw shooting speak volumes to his skill set. Adams simply hasn't yet learned a lot of common, big-man basketball skills.
With a couple years of refinement, he could really develop into something usable. If the Celtics do go full-rebuild mode, they've got that kind of time.
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Senior, South Dakota State
Point guard, 6'5", 195 lbs
Should Danny Ainge make a move to enter the second round, there are a few players he should be targeting to fill the role of backup point guard. One of those players is Nate Wolters.
Coming out of South Dakota State, Wolters shouldn’t have a whole lot of lookers until the second round rolls around. Boston has had other projected late picks in for workouts, indicating that a move might be taking place in order to get a second-round pick.
Wolters could be the offensive counterpart that Rajon Rondo needs as a backup. He scored more than 19 points per game in each of his final three collegiate seasons, topping out at 22.3 as a senior. Wolters added 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game to those points.
Wolters is definitely a winner, leading the Jackrabbits to the NCAA tournament in both his junior and senior seasons. He knows how to run an offense as the primary ball-handler, which would allow the Celtics second unit to transfer seamlessly from Rondo to him for short spurts.
The worries are obviously based on the competition faced in the Summit League, as well as his defensive athleticism. Wolters is an experienced and skilled player, but he may not be able to keep up with NBA point guards defensively. However, as a second-round pick, Ainge could give him a shot.