Boston Celtics' Biggest 2014 NBA Draft Needs

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Boston Celtics' Biggest 2014 NBA Draft Needs
Associated Press
Danny Ainge made a safe move in drafting Kelly Olynyk last year.

Want versus need is a battle as old as time. In the Boston Celtics' case, they want Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and all the big things that could come with him. What they need should be addressed in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft.

The Celtics, and a large portion of their fanbase, want the quick fix. Their blueprint is to go through one down (possibly tanked) year and then sell off assets on the trading room floor to try to become an instant contender.

Call it the 2007-08 plan, if you will.

The quick fix can definitely work, and banner No. 17 is proof of that. However, leading up to the trades that brought in Ray Allen from Seattle and Kevin Garnett from Minnesota, Boston nailed a couple key draft picks. Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Leon Powe, all players Boston drafted, played more than 50 games that season in green. All five had memorable playoff moments as well.

Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk are a good start, but much of that value may be headed out if the quick-fix option comes to fruition. Boston needs reserves, both in the basketball sense and the asset/ammunition sense.

The team can replenish that pool on June 26, when it is scheduled to select sixth and 17th in the NBA draft. As you can imagine, there are quite a few specific needs for a squad that finished 25-57 last season. However, without a pick in the top three or four, it will be tough to target specific positions.

Instead, Boston may focus on more generalized needs.

 

Rim Protection

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Kendrick Perkins and Marc Gasol are rim-protecting bigs who were drafted late.

This is the most obvious need for Boston to address. Unfortunately, it won't be an easy fix through the draft. There simply isn't a good enough batch of centers in this year's draft class, and general manager Danny Ainge likely won't be in a position to select possible top overall selection Joel Embiid.

Luckily, rim-protecting bigs don't always have to come so early in the draft. There are plenty of examples of talented big men, especially on the defensive end, who were swiped late in the draft.

Boston's old friend Perkins certainly comes to mind. The Celtics took Perkins 27th overall in 2003, and he worked himself into being one of the better big-man defenders in basketball, helping Boston win a title along the way.

The Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, Marc Gasol, was a second-round draft pick (48th overall) of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007. The following year, Roy Hibbert was taken 17th overall by the Indiana Pacers and DeAndre Jordan 35th by the L.A. Clippers. Tiago Splitter, who is a frontcourt starter for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, was taken at No. 28 in 2007.

Even 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah was taken ninth overall by the Bulls in 2007.

The Celtics don't have to land Embiid to get an impact defensive big. With the right system in place and the right mindset, that No. 17 pick could be used to draft a future starting center and rim-protector.

We haven't seen enough of head coach Brad Stevens yet to know if he is capable of doing that kind of work on a raw talent, but choices are limited. Stevens is here for the long haul, so Boston better get started with supplying him a real, well-designed NBA roster.

 

Wing Scoring

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Boston was a terrible outside shooting team last year. Stauskas or McDermott would help

If Jeff Green isn't going to be a guy who can get you 18 to 20 points per game efficiently, (16.9 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting in 2013-14) then Boston has to look into supplementing his scoring or moving him.

With no true elite scorer on the roster, the Celtics have to become more well-rounded. Tony Parker led San Antonio in scoring this season with 16.7 points per game but did so on 49.9 percent shooting. In addition, the Spurs had eight players average more than nine points per game and are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals.

That is one of the—admittedly many—reasons they are still playing into June. The Spurs space their scoring, while teams with two players averaging north of 19 points per game, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Clippers, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, have had to pack up for the summer.

There are a lot of factors weighing on this situation for Boston. The free agency of both Bradley (restricted) and Jerryd Bayless (unrestricted) will have an effect on the team's need in this scenario. However, even with those two playing a combined 101 games, the Celtics shot a 27th-best 33.3 percent from three-point land this season.

Gerald Wallace has likely become a nonfactor with his season-ending injury and advancing age (31), so looking for an explosive or sharp-shooting wing who will see minutes at the shooting guard and/or small forward positions would be great.

Boston has worked out some of those possibilities recently with prospects like K.J. McDaniels and Nik Stauskas. Those two illustrate pretty well the different avenues Boston could go down to fill this scoring need.

 

Take a Risk

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press/Associated Press
Aaron Gordon comes with sizable risk but is an athletic specimen on Boston's radar.

Boston's needs aren't all positional and related to filling holes left by guys who may depart. The Celtics need to add some flair as well.

You'll often hear when teams have these somewhat middling picks—middle of the lottery and middle of the first round—that the goal is to simply get an NBA player. Guys who can hold the fort and have long careers as role players are vital to any team, and getting them with pick Nos. 6 and 17 is a wise, fruitful move.

The Celtics are in a somewhat different situation, though. Aside from the Fab Melo (drafted No. 22 overall by Boston) risk in 2012 and whatever that JaJuan Johnson deal was about, they have been able to acquire that type of role player in recent drafts.

Olynyk at No. 13, Sullinger at No. 21 and Bradley at No. 18 are all solid examples of that. Boston also will likely bring back Brandon Bass, and to a lesser extent Phil Pressey and Chis Johnson, to its crew of NBA-caliber role players.

That is why the Celtics can and should take a risk in this draft. The gamble has much better odds of success in a draft as highly touted as this one.

According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, who spends a lot of time in Boston media circles, Ainge is zeroing in on Arizona star forward Aaron Gordon. 

"Several league sources believe that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon," writes Mannix. "While Gordon's shooting is a concern, he is a strong rebounder and shot blocker who can defend either forward spot and has been compared to Shawn Marion."

That may be exactly the type of move Boston needs to make, and in the No. 6 spot, it is in perfect position to do so. There are a lot of sure-things available then, but Gordon's athleticism and potential is big and eye-catching.

In addition with all those future assets already stockpiled, Ainge can trade his way to a step above mediocrity with relative ease. It will take risks to get back to the top, and Boston is in a great spot to pull the trigger.

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