Ranking Boston Celtics' Most Realistic 2014 NBA Draft Picks
After finishing head coach Brad Stevens' first season with a 25-57 record, the team landed the No. 6 overall pick. Boston also holds the No. 17 selection via last year's blockbuster Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo is expected to be 100 percent healthy this season after playing only 30 games last season upon his return from a torn ACL. Jeff Green led the team in scoring last year with a career-high 16.9 points per game, and young players like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are on the rise as well.
This year presents a deep and talented draft class. As a rebuilding team, Boston will have the opportunity to go in any number of directions with their two first-round picks. With some glaring holes on both sides of the ball, they will look to bring in rookies who will not only provide youth and energy but production as well.
Keeping in mind schematic fit and team needs, here are some names who could be realistic options for the Celtics at pick No. 6 or pick No. 17 in the 2014 NBA draft.
7. Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Boston Celtics could certainly use Doug McDermott's shooting ability and overall offensive prowess.
McDermott is a gifted scorer. His three-point range is exceptional, and he's also savvy with his penetration and smart enough to draw contact. He led the NCAA with 26.7 points per game last season thanks to a complete offensive repertoire.
It may be a bit of a reach for the Celtics to take McDermott at No. 6, but he certainly fits a need. Boston severely lacks reliable outside shooting. McDermott could be a lethal catch-and-shoot option for Rajon Rondo to kick out to after carving the opposing defense with his penetration.
McDermott doesn't have the elite athleticism and explosiveness that some of the other prospects on this list possess, but he atones for it in other areas. He's been making the rounds on the workout circuit, having visited Boston, the Charlotte Hornets and most recently the Sacramento Kings, per Jay King of MassLive.com.
Expect him to go somewhere between eighth and 11th unless Boston scoops him first.
6. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Boston could use some backcourt depth.
Other than Rajon Rondo, they lack playmaking ability and offensive production from their guards. Avery Bradley was solid last season, but his status as a restricted free agent means the Celtics desperately need some help at the position.
With Dante Exum presumably going either fourth or fifth, Smart will likely be the best available guard on the board at No. 6. His fit within the roster would be uncertain, though, since he, like Rondo, is a point guard. After all, the Celtics shouldn't be using their No. 6 pick on a perceived backup or someone they want to transition into an unfamiliar position.
But it's worth noting that Rondo has been on the trading block plenty over the past year, including being part of a potential deal with Sacramento, who is now desperately trying to move its No. 8 pick, per Josh Hill of FanSided.com. All signs seem to point toward Rondo staying in Celtic green, but general manager Danny Ainge is not afraid to make a splash. If Rondo gets moved, Smart will rocket up this list.
Ultimately, Smart will be in consideration, but his contentious fit on the team's current roster will most likely lead to Boston passing on him. He's a tenacious player with tremendous leadership and toughness, but he's just not a perfect match due to the presence of Boston's incumbent point guard.
5. Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Nik Stauskas is another guy who could be a terrific fit for the team but could potentially find himself selected somewhere between Boston's No. 6 and No. 17 selections.
He finished third in the Big Ten last season with 17.5 points per game while leading the conference in three-point percentage (44 percent) and free-throw attempts (204). No matter where he is on the court, he can get the ball in the hoop.
His kill set is sorely needed for a team who had the third-worst shooting percentage, both overall (43.5 percent) and beyond the arc (33.3 percent), in the NBA last season. He would be a fantastic fit alongside Rajon Rondo, and at 6'6" he has ideal size for the 2-guard position.
While he will certainly be on the board at No. 6, it is unlikely that Boston will pull the trigger on him, regardless of fit. There are more talented players on the board who they will key in on.
However, keep an eye on their No. 17 selection. If Stauskas gets past the Sacramento Kings at No. 8, Boston might be able to find a potential trade partner in Denver, who currently holds the No. 11 selection. According to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, the Nuggets are said to be shopping that pick and would be open to trading back and picking up more assets.
A move up the board might be worth it for the Celtics, who are in dire need of Stauskas' offensive talents.
4. Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Noah Vonleh might be the league's hottest prospect right now.
He looks to be firmly entrenched in the next tier of players selected once Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins come off the board. Orlando (No. 4) and Utah (No. 5) are sure to give him long looks.
He's physically ready for the pro game. At 6'10", 240 pounds, he can be an imposing presence on the block. His 7'4" wingspan is devastating for opposing guards attacking the rim. He's an excellent rebounder, as he led the Big Ten conference with nine boards per game last season.
While there's a strong chance that Vonleh is gone before Boston picks, all it takes is for one team to fall in love with another player. If Vonleh's sitting there at No. 6, even with the rest of these players available, it will be very difficult for Danny Ainge to go in another direction.
But as of right now, I think Vonleh will be wearing another team's hat when Boston makes their first selection.
3. Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
That blur you just saw is Zach LaVine shooting up draft boards.
His stock is so hard to handicap right now since he's been working out with most of the teams in the lottery. His upside is spectacular, with a ridiculous first step and tremendous leaping ability. He's a solid shooter, especially in catch-and-shoot situations, and can easily rise over defenders in pull-up situations because of his bounce. He's also very long. At 6'5" with a 6'8" wingspan, he can become a tenacious perimeter defender.
He's still very raw, having just turned 19 in March. There have been murmurs of him eventually transitioning to point guard, but right now his decision-making is still a work in progress, and he needs to improve his game management. This is why he may be available at pick No. 17.
Most experts have LaVine going anywhere from 12-17, while ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) has him falling right into Boston's lap in his latest mock draft. Landing him at No. 17 would be tremendous value, and his talent could certainly warrant a trade up the board if Boston thought it was necessary.
He made need some seasoning, but he has all the tools to be an exciting player.
2. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle's name has been coming up a lot in draft discussions due to a potential foot issue.
He was working out with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday when he tried to dispel those whispers, via ESPN's Dave McMenamin:
Julius Randle: "I met with the best foot doctor in the country & he said he wouldn’t do anything with my foot ... No scheduled surgery"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 17, 2014
While he may express that type of confidence, not every lottery team's front office feels the same way. All indications are that Randle will be on the board when the Celtics make their pick at No. 6.
While the Celtics sport a bit of a logjam at forward with Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace and second-year man Kelly Olynyk, Randle would be a marked improvement over a few of those names. The Celtics finished the season 17th in rebounding and 24th in blocked shots, and Randle would be able to boost those stats immediately.
Boston desperately needs easy buckets. They ranked third-worst in the NBA last season in field-goal percentage. Randle thrives down on the block. He's a versatile scorer who averaged 15 points per game on 50 percent shooting during his lone season at Kentucky.
The Celtics certainly have bodies down in the paint, but they have no one who is really making a name for himself. Randle could be that guy, as long as Danny Ainge isn't worried about his foot.
1. Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona
At 6'9" with freakish athleticism and an unbridled competitive fire, Aaron Gordon would be a welcome addition with the No. 6 pick.
He's relentless on both sides of the ball. Last season, he led the PAC 12 in offensive rebounding, as well as both defensive rating (88.6) and win shares (3.3), per Sports Reference. He can be the backbone of Boston's defense, much like Joakim Noah is in Chicago.
According to various reports and speculation, it looks like Dante Exum and Noah Vonleh will go fourth and fifth in some order. This leaves Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott in the mix at No. 6, all of whom Boston has worked out and seen up close.
McDermott and Stauskas would be a bit of a reach, and Smart wouldn't be the right move with Rondo already in town. To me, it comes down to Randle and Gordon.
Boston needs to draft a starter with this pick, someone who will contribute on both ends of the floor and assist in the team's long-term rebuilding process. If they have any shred of doubt about Randle's foot, then Gordon's the guy.
Of course, they could always package these picks in an offer for Kevin Love.