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Boston Celtics 2014 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Lottery Edition

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Boston Celtics 2014 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Lottery Edition
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Ping-Pong balls ruined Boston's chances at a few of these guys.

Welcome back, saddened Boston Celtics fans seeking a silver lining from the disappointment of the NBA's draft lottery. 

Just like Kotter heading back to James Buchanan High in Brooklyn, the names have all changed since you hung around. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid? Those names no longer mean much in New England.

The Celtics weren't massive losers in the lottery this year. It was nothing on par with 1997, when a 36 percent chance at Tim Duncan and 14 straight postseason trips turned into 51 games of Chauncey Billups and 121 games of Ron Mercer.

However, there is still disappointment in Boston landing the No. 6 overall pick. It had the fifth-best chance to get No. 1, and its 10.3 percent shot at it was far better than eventual winner Cleveland's 1.7 percent chance.

Who is your top choice at No. 6?

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Boston had visions of moving into the top three and, in the process, increasing the value of its trade package—the one that was addressed to Minnesota and had a paid-for return envelope, marked "fill with Kevin Love" and addressed to the TD Garden.

Can president of basketball operations Danny Ainge build an enticing enough package around the No. 6 overall pick? It would seem doubtful, though at least Boston stayed ahead of Love's other potential destination of choice, the Los Angeles Lakers, who got the No. 7 pick.

"We would have tried to do something with the pick [no matter where it landed], including keep the pick. We are still in the same boat now, we just have less value now," Ainge told The Boston Globe's Brian Robb. "There is less value in the sixth pick compared to a one or two pick, but we will try to make the best choice."

Boston's big board has likely shrunk in the wake of these events. Five major names, ones that Boston spent all winter hearing about in the midst of unbearable tanking talk, will not be available if and when the Celtics make their call at No. 6.

Bleacher Report's draft guru, Jonathan Wasserman, has Embiid, Wiggins and Parker going in the top three in that order. They are followed by Dante Exum and Noah Vonleh, two guys the Celtics had to have been taking hard looks at through the combine. For the Celtics, Wasserman mocks that Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart is the pick.

Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Nik Stauskas and James Young round out his top 10. Obviously, anyone outside the top three is likely in play for the Celtics. It will all depend on who the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz draft at Nos. 4 and 5.

 

Noah Vonleh, Indiana University

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

With Joel Embiid no long a real optionbarring notification of a worsened back problemand the Love dream fading, the Celtics shouldn't give up on thinking about their frontcourt. 

In his own draft, and definitely in last year's, Jared Sullinger could have been considered a No. 6 pick, or at least in that range. Adding a guy like Vonleh to that frontcourt does a lot to raise hopes.

Though he couldn't get Indiana into the postseason, Vonleh has impressed in workouts and at the combine. There, at just 18 years of age, he measured north of 6'9" with a wingspan of well over 7'4". That meant a standing reach of 9'0", an impressive number and one that could equate to abilities at the center position in the NBA.

He is still too small to play a traditional, bruising style in the paint. However, with Brad Stevens, positions appear more fluid. Sullinger was heavily encouraged to play the perimeter, and with such a young frontcourt, Boston could become a major transition team.

Boston's No. 21 pick in 2012 is a more grounded big with excellent hands and growing footwork. Vonleh presents more athleticism and length. With all the lip service Boston has paid to finding a rim protector, Vonleh could be an under-the-radar filler.

 

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State University

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

When scanning Boston's shopping list at the NBA draft grocery store this summer, point guard either isn't on there or is at the very bottom, just above flax seeds and quinoa.

However, if the Celtics aren't going to find a game-changing star or starter at No. 6, Marcus Smart may be the best option. The Oklahoma State product is a physical specimen who may very well make NBA All-Defensive Second Team member Avery Bradley look like a rag doll.

At their respective combines, the two measured out fairly similarly in the height department (about 6'3"). However, Smart outweighs Bradley by nearly 50 pounds and has a solid two-inch advantage in wingspan. The weight and strength should help Smart be more durable during an NBA season while the excellent reach should help defensively (2.9 steals per game as a sophomore), where he may be a step slower than Boston's shooting guard.

This is important because Bradley may no longer be a Boston Celtic after free agency, leaving the backcourt rather bare. While Rajon Rondo is under contract as the definitive starting point guard next season, he will also test the free agency waters next summer.

By shoring up the backcourt now with a player like Smart, Boston alleviates some concern down the road. There is also ample playing time next season for Smart to learn the NBA game and for Stevens to experiment with Smart at shooting guard.

Playing the 2-guard opposite Rondo takes away a lot of Smart's turnover concerns while allowing him to focus on things he does well. Smart got to the basket at an incredible rate in college, and his size shouldn't force him to shy away from that style in the pros. He shot 72.8 percent on 8.1 free-throw attempts as a sophomore.

 

Julius Randle, University of Kentucky and Aaron Gordon, University of Arizona

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Unfortunately, when the Celtics didn't move into the top three, they missed out on the more versatile forward prospects in Parker and Wiggins.

Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are two other freshmen who fans heard a lot about this past college hoops season. However, both project to be a more standard power forwards in the NBA while Wiggins and Parker can play more with the ball in their hands on the wing.

What Boston must decide is whether Randle or Gordon could be better down the road than Sullinger, who is just 22 years old himself.

Both players have more athleticism, especially the high-flying Gordon. However, Sullinger is a crafty rebounder with similar size and a year under his belt with Stevens and Rondo running the show. Gordon may be better suited to play alongside a player like Sullinger, but his lack of a facing-the-basket offensive game means he probably shouldn't go as high as No. 6.

Randle may very well be a Sullinger clone given his strengths as an interior player, both scoring and rebounding. However, he was a less prolific college scorer than Sullinger and should be considered a year or two behind him development-wise. Boston wants a quick return to contention, not another waiting period.

 

Nik Stauskas, University of Michigan

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Is No. 6 too high for Michigan product Nik Stauskas?

Maybe, but only two NBA teams shot worse from beyond the arc than Boston (33.3 percent last season on 21.1 attempts per game).

The Celtics starting backcourt of choice, Rondo and Bradley, is mediocre at best from three-point land. Jeff Green was a bland 34.1 percent on 4.8 attempts per game on the wing.

Stauskas busted out last season as one of the top shooters in the country, and there is a lot more to him than that smooth stroke. Yes, the former Wolverine hit on 44.2 percent of his 5.8 bombs per game as a sophomore, up from 44 percent of 4.7 as a freshman, but Stauskas may have more to his game.

He was solid with the ball in his hands, leading Michigan on a deep postseason run in the wake of injuries and last year's draft poaching. Numbers like 3.3 assists and 5.7 free-throw attempts per game speak volumes.

As should his combine numbers, which show his 6'6.5" height is no joke. That, coupled with a solid vertical (35.5"), should allow him to keep relative pace at the next level.

At the 2003 pre-draft camp, Kyle Korver measured very similarly with a slightly better wingspan and height. However, Korver is a small forward while Stauskas plays the two-guard.

Giving Rondo a deadeye shooter to run with, either instead of or along with Bradley, would give the Celtics a different look. Stevens would have more options to alter game plans, and Boston would become a more exciting team in general.

None of these guys are going to bring the hype of a Wiggins, Parker, Embiid or Love. However, despite the names changing, the dreams of contention have remained, and they're turned around.

Welcome back, Celtics fans.

All combine information courtesy of DraftExpress.com

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