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Analyzing Boston Celtics' Biggest Draft Needs

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Analyzing Boston Celtics' Biggest Draft Needs
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Despite the rhetoric of the Boston Celtics' front office, it's hard to not look at Boston falling to sixth in the 2014 NBA draft as a disappointment. 

"[Danny will] look at the whole landscape now and it's nice to have the certainty -- we know we're sixth and 17th, there's certainty to make those decisions," co-owner Steve Pagliuca told ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg post-lottery.

Boston had a 33.4 percent at a top-three selection but wound up dropping squarely out of range for Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.

Still, the C's will be able to use the sixth and 17th picks—the latter of which was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets—to help plug some of their many holes.

They may be out of the franchise-altering superstar category, but they could still land a quality piece.

And coming off a 25-57 season, Boston needs talent more than anything else. 

With a talent-starved squad, 2013-14 was a year meant for assessing team weaknesses.

The Celtics certainly found plenty.

Let's take a look at those biggest issues, as well as how Boston may be able to plug them during this year's draft.

 

USA TODAY Sports
Boston won't get Joel Embiid, but Aaron Gordon could be an interesting fit.

Interior Grit

The Celtics obviously have talented, young offensive big men in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, but they aren't exactly bruisers. 

That is, unless your definition of a bruiser involves launching jumpers and barely getting to the foul line.

Olynyk got hot toward the end of the year, but 37.6 percent of his shots came from 16-plus feet out, per Basketball-Reference.

Sully was better, but he still shot just 26.9 percent on three-pointers for the season.

Both of them thrive playing in pick-and-pops and facing the hoop, so the C's desperately need someone better suited to play down low.

For as talented as Sullinger is on the boards (8.1 rebounds per game in 27.6 minutes), he's simply not tall enough or athletic enough to play much center.

Olynyk is a decent rebounder but a liability as a shot-blocker and as an interior defender. 

In this era of rim protection, the Celts need someone who can really challenge opponents at the hoop.

Obviously, Embiid would be ideal, but he's not a very likely option at No. 6.

Unfortunately, there aren't many other potential impact pieces out there. 

Indiana's Noah Vonleh (1.4 blocks per game) is better suited for power forward in the NBA but might be the best choice given what's available.

Aaron Gordon out of Arizona is an out-of-the-box fit, but he's athletic enough to be a shot-blocking threat. 

He's athletic, good on the boards and could be a nice complement to either Sully or Olynyk in smaller lineups.

With the C's likely to either let Kris Humphries walk or trade Brandon Bass, a third rotation big could be paramount.

 

USA TODAY Sports
Rodney Hood is a lethal pure shooter Boston could snag with its second first-round pick.

Outside Shooting 

Replacing lethal shooters like Ray Allen and Paul Pierce takes time, but the C's could make some serious strides by taking a gunner in the first round.

Boston was 27th in the league in three-point percentage this year (33.3 percent), indicating a serious lack of shooting touch. 

With the way the league is moving out to the perimeter, that number simply won't do. 

Avery Bradley can hit corner threes with regularity, and Jeff Green is a decent outside threat, but Boston doesn't have someone it can consistently run off screens to get open outside shots.

Add to that the chance Jerryd Bayless walks in free agency, and the need only grows larger.

Fortunately, shooting is something the Celts will have plenty of chances to address.

Rodney Hood could be available at No. 17 and is a lethal shooter with great range.

He hit 42 percent of his threes at Duke, averaged 16.1 points per game and is also comfortable putting the ball on the deck or pulling up from mid-range.

Gary Harris of Michigan State would be a bit of a reach at No. 6, but there's no denying his volume-shooting ability.

2013-14 was a bit of a down year for Harris from beyond the arc (35.2 percent), but he's a more multi-faceted guard who can also make plays and get into the paint.

Even specialists like Washington's C.J. Wilcox (39.1 percent) or Kentucky's James Young (34.9 percent) could be boosts to the backcourt. 

Boston needs a pure shooter it can run out with point guard Rajon Rondo to help create space for driving lanes and unclog the offense.

As NESN's Ben Watanabe noted, "They have the fifth-worst offensive rating in the NBA. They are the third-worst 3-point shooting team. ... The Celtics' weaknesses are both broad and deep."

Adding a shooter won't instantly give Boston an elite offense, but it would be a step in the right direction for a team that relied far too much on Green's isolation plays this season.

The C's are not in a position to grab a first-option scorer at either of their selections, but they could definitely stock up on shooting.

 

USA TODAY Sports
Boston could go big by snagging embattled point guard Marcus Smart at No. 6.

Secondary Playmaking

Rondo will be better in 2014-15 with an offseason to get healthy, but Boston could still use another facilitator and playmaker behind him.

Phil Pressey is a talented passer, but he often looks overwhelmed in some of the game's other aspects and may not be more than a 10-minute-per-game backup. 

When the Celtics offense was at its best a few years ago, it had the additional threat of Pierce playing point forward to complement Rondo's off-the-bounce creativity.

This past season, the C's tried to replace that with Green doing some handling and Bradley negotiating pick-and-roll plays. 

Unsurprisingly, the results were pretty disastrous.

Boston ranked 22nd in assists per game (21.0), 23rd in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46) and a mediocre 15th in overall offensive pace (95.9), per ESPN.com.

Green is at his best getting the ball on the move and attacking the rim while Bradley has a tendency to pull up for long two-pointers and barely played point guard this year for Brad Stevens.

Replacing what Pierce can do with the ball will not be easy, but the C's clearly need someone else to make plays when Rondo is resting or not having success.

Elfrid Payton is a tall, physical guard who can create his own shots and also set up his teammates, and he could be available at No. 17.

What is Boston's biggest draft need?

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He averaged 19.2 points, six rebounds and 5.9 assists for Louisiana-Lafayette but could slide into a more pass-first role in the NBA.

Kyle Anderson, the 6'9" point forward from UCLA, is a high-upside pick who could potentially be a starter for Boston one day.

He averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists as a sophomore and uses his absurd size to see over defenses and make tough reads.

He'll need to become a more willing outside shooter (48.3 percent from three, but just 1.6 attempts per game), but the physical tools are there. 

Boston could even go for a game-changer with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart at No. 6, looking for insurance in case it cannot re-sign Rondo long-term.

Smart had a turbulent sophomore season, but there's no denying his talent. 

He averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists, and he has the size and demeanor to thrive in the NBA. 

Smart may prefer to go to a team where he could start immediately, but drafting him would give Boston options in a potential Rondo trade package, and the two could even play together if Smart ups his three-point percentage.

Stevens is never going to be an offense-first coach, but it's clear the C's need a spark if they want to return to their former playoff glory.

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