Full Scouting Report for Boston Celtics' Top 2014 Draft Targets
Boston has a pair of top-20 picks and will make its selections at No. 6 and No. 17. However, that’s it—the team will not draft in the second round unless a trade occurs.
The Celtics’ 2013-14 campaign was expected to be a down year. General manager Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets last summer in a deal that included three future first-rounders—one of which is this year's 17th pick—and a slew of role players.
While Boston has a franchise cornerstone in star point guard Rajon Rondo, the team needs more. And if the C's draft wisely come June 26, they'll be able to put out a young squad next season and still have hoards of draft picks over the next few years.
Things are looking up for the Celtics. But drafting well is crucial for a team in the midst of a rebuild.
Here’s everything you need to know about Boston’s top three targets at both of its draft spots.
No. 1 Option for Sixth Pick: Aaron Gordon, Arizona F
Measurements: 6’9”, 220 pounds, 39-inch max vertical, 6'11.25” wingspan
Strengths: Athleticism, defense, rebounding, versatility
Weaknesses: Ball-handling, jump shooting, creating his own shot
Comparable NBA Players: Blake Griffin, Shawn Marion
Key 2013-14 Stats: 12.4 points on 50 percent from the field, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, the Celtics are “locked in” on taking Aaron Gordon with the sixth pick:
Several league sources believe that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon. 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. A trade is possible here, too. Ainge is always on the lookout for a make a blockbuster deal, and with Boston's assets he is more than equipped to do so.
Playing alongside Rondo could help hide the offensive flaws in Gordon’s game, and the pair would likely turn into a lethal duo in transition.
Gordon’s half-court skills need work, but his upside outweighs the negatives that come along with drafting him.
DraftExpress notes that Gordon, the second-leading scorer on a 2014 Final Four team in Arizona, plays with a “fantastic motor.” That gives his offensive game hope for the same type of improvement that Blake Griffin has made in the pros.
If he’s available, Boston should take Gordon. But there is a chance that he won’t be, which is why the Celtics must keep an open mind about other prospects.
No. 2 Option for Sixth Pick: Noah Vonleh, Indiana F
Measurements: 6’9”, 247 pounds, 37-inch max vertical, 7’4.25” wingspan
Strengths: Growing offensive repertoire, big frame, rebounding
Weaknesses: Turnovers, distributing, leadership
Comparable NBA Players: Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph
Key 2013-14 Stats: 11.3 points (52.3 percent from the field), 9.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.4 blocks
He was a strong player on a weak team last year, but he’s been so impressive since declaring for the draft that he is now being thrown around as a top-five pick.
The Hoosiers forward led the Big Ten in rebounding this past season, and his wingspan is the second-longest in the draft class.
Per DraftExpress, he has great measurements in all areas: “More importantly, Vonleh had the largest height-to-wingspan differential (8.25 inches). Vonleh also measured freakishly large hands in terms of length (9.75 inches) and width (11.75 inches), both tops in the combine.”
The physical tools are there. His frame is ideal for a power forward in today’s NBA, and his offensive game has taken major strides and will likely continue to do so at the next level.
But is he cut out for stardom?
Here are Michael Visenberg and Aran Smith of NBADraft.net discussing some of Vonleh's flaws:
Visenberg: Confidence is still an issue. Despite possessing great offensive tools, he took relatively few shots for a team banking on him to be a 2nd scoring option.
A hard working kid with a lot of upside, the only drawback is that he may take time for things to click and could lose confidence if he is not successful in his first 2-3 seasons. A candidate to disappoint initially and break out with his second NBA team.
Smith: Becoming a star is just a matter of confidence and believing in himself ... A very nice kid. Needs to learn to develop a little more swagger on the court ... Can learn to become a more vocal leader
Boston would love to have Vonleh, whose “ceiling sits about three stories higher than [Jared Sullinger's] or [Kelly Olynyk's],” according to Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman. “He's skilled in the post with his back to the rim, and he's got a promising perimeter game.”
It’s unlikely that Vonleh takes the league by storm immediately, but he has All-Star potential down the road.
Whether or not the Celtics want to wait on that remains to be seen.
No. 3 Option for Sixth Pick: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State PG
Measurements: 6’3”, 227 pounds, 36-inch max vertical, 6’9.25” wingspan
Strengths: Playmaking, athleticism, defense, heart
Weaknesses: Jump shooting, composure, efficiency
Comparable NBA Players: Eric Bledsoe
Key 2013-14 Stats: 18 points, 42.2 shooting percentage, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.9 steals
Are the Celtics in dire need of a point guard? Nope—Rondo is their guy.
But what if he leaves next summer in free agency? What if he demands a trade? What if he gets hurt again?
Come to think of it, grabbing Marcus Smart with the No. 6 pick might not be a bad idea for Boston.
Granted, he has some issues. His jumper, for example, needs a ton of work. But hey, rock-solid point guards without reliable jump shots seem to work for the Celtics.
Smart plays with a ton of fire, but it can also get the best of him. He’d probably flourish in a more veteran-oriented team like the San Antonio Spurs or the Chicago Bulls, but backing up the no-nonsense Rondo wouldn’t be a bad gig for him either.
The Celtics would get a solid insurance policy for their superstar, and being that point guards are so crucial nowadays, Smart could also be used as part of a blockbuster deal involving Kevin Love or other marquee players.
If Gordon and Vonleh are both snatched up by the time it’s the Celtics’ turn to pick, Smart would be a wise choice.
No. 1 Option for 17th Pick: Zach LaVine, UCLA G
Measurements: 6’6”, 181 pounds, 41.5-inch max vertical, 6’8.25” wingspan
Strengths: Height/length, freakish athleticism, explosive scorer, quality shooter
Weaknesses: Slimness, toughness, defense
Comparable NBA Players: Russell Westbrook, Jamal Crawford
Key 2013-14 Stats: 9.4 points, 49.4 shooting percentage, 37.5 three-point percentage, 1.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds
At this point we’re getting into the draft’s deeper waters, where the Celtics are coming back for a second helping of the first round.
The C’s are playing with house money. And that’s why they should take a chance on Zach LaVine.
The 19-year-old from UCLA is scary athletic. While his 41.5-inch vertical leap at the combine ranked as the third best in the class, LaVine got even more air in his predraft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers—46 inches, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Again, that’s 46 inches.
Despite not getting a whole lot of playing time during his freshmen year at UCLA, LaVine has some scouts salivating over his superstar ceiling.
I am the type of person that is going to go in there and try and take someone's job, It is the NBA, which is a business, and I am just 19 years old, but I definitely feel I can contribute from Day 1. My dream isn't to be in the NBA or go to the D-League or be sitting on the bench -- I want to compete and try and win a spot.
Lynam also likened LaVine to former Philadelphia 76er Jrue Holiday, who was drafted out of UCLA as a freshman despite pedestrian college numbers of 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
Per Lynam, the young player believes that he can play either guard spot at the next level, which means that he could earn a spot next to Rondo as Avery Bradley’s replacement.
He's extremely raw on both ends and could get pushed around defensively due to his slender frame.
But his explosiveness, smooth offensive game and overall upside outweigh the negatives for LaVine.
No. 2 Option for 17th Pick: P.J. Hairston, D-League F
Measurements: 6’5”, 229 pounds, 37-inch max vertical, 6’9” wingspan
Strengths: Scoring, three-point shooting, getting to the basket
Weaknesses: Distributing, defensive concentration, undersized
Comparable NBA Players: Danny Green, Caron Butler
Key 2013-14 Stats: 21.8 points, 45.3 shooting percentage, 35.8 three-point percentage, 3.5 rebounds
"What these young bloods have to understand is that this game has always been, and will always be, about buckets.”
The Celtics can be as young, athletic and big as they want, but they needs some guys who can straight up get buckets.
P.J. Hairston is one of them.
And Boston, which finished 27th in three-point shooting last year, is starving for a scorer like him.
There, he reinforced the notion that he’s lethal from long range, a valuable skill that will translate fluently to the NBA.
The former Tar Heel has all the tools to be a lockdown defender, and if Stevens can get through to him, Hairston could emerge as one of Boston's better wing defenders.
B/R’s Todd Salem pointed out that while Hairston has lottery skills, the fact that he’s coming from the D-League—and not UNC—hurts his draft stock.
Taking him at No. 17 would be considered a reach by some, but the move would pay dividends for Boston.
No. 3 Option for 17th Pick: Kyle Anderson, UCLA G/F
Measurements: 6’8”, 230 pounds, N/A max vertical (injury), 7’2.75” wingspan
Strengths: Size advantage, versatility, post game
Weaknesses: Strength, defense, speed
Comparable NBA Players: Boris Diaw, Draymond Green
Key 2013-14 Stats: 14.6 points, 48.0 shooting percentage, 48.3 three-point shooting percentage, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals
At 6’8”, Kyle Anderson can line up as a guard or forward. He’ll have to put some more meat on his frame and tighten up his footwork to establish himself as a decent pro defender, but he's a solid offensive prospect.
At UCLA, he was essentially a point forward, and it’s likely that he can continue creating matchup problems at the next level.
According to Wasserman, Stevens should be able to utilize the versatile Anderson: "Forget about whether or not he can run the point like he did at UCLA—at 6’9” with his passing instincts, shooting stroke, rebounding ability and basketball IQ, you're doing something wrong as a coach if you can't make use of his unique skill set."
Much like Boris Diaw of the Spurs, Anderson has guard skills in a power forward’s body. The UCLA product won’t lead the league in scoring, but he can take on a role in Boston similar to Diaw’s in San Antonio.
His height and ability to see the floor give him an advantage against smaller defenders, while his ball-handling, passing and shooting range give him a leg up on bigger defenders.
This would be a relatively safe pick for Boston at No. 17—not a whole lot of superstar potential here, but Anderson will likely be a decent NBA player.