2014 NBA Prospects Who Could Turn Boston Celtics Around the Fastest
There’s sometimes a difference between prospects who can help make a bad team less bad overnight and prospects who need time to develop. Different environments spawn different objectives.
The Boston Celtics, a team that’d like their rebuild to take as little time as possible, are less concerned with the difference between a prospect with a limited ceiling and a full-blown project. They just want the best player available.
Here are five college stars who, if taken at No. 6 or 17, should be able to step right in and make a positive difference. Each won’t be the best player they can be in year one, but they’re ready for the NBA right now, with skills and strengths that translate against stiffer competition.
The five are ranked by how good their rookie year can be.
5. Nik Stauskas
Quite possibly the best complement to Rajon Rondo found in this draft, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is an elite three-point bomber who shot 44.2 percent from behind arc last season.
That number is outstanding but would be even better if most of his shots were open and attempted with his feet set. Instead, most of Stauskas’ shots as Michigan's best player last season came off the dribble with a hand in his face.
He’s a tremendous offensive talent and someone who could immediately come in and help space the floor for Rondo to operate. His mere presence would do wonders for one of the most cramped offenses in the league.
4. Doug McDermott
Most draft projections have McDermott falling somewhere in between Boston’s two first-round picks, so they can either reach for him at No. 6, hope he tumbles to No. 17, trade up or acquire another pick.
Crazier things have happened, though, and the 22-year-old forward would be a fantastic addition for a team that desperately needs outside shooting. McDermott is one of the best three-point marksmen in this class, and at 6’8” with a quick release, he has the size and ability to get his shot off at the NBA level.
The four-year player is much more than a spot-up shooter, though. He averaged 26.7 points per game last season, posting an impressive 33.2 player efficiency rating. The Celtics need all the offensive firepower they can get, and McDermott would instantly provide a good amount.
3. Julius Randle
The NCAA’s leader in double-doubles last season at just 19 years old, Julius Randle knows how to get his own shot and pounce for rebounds off the glass.
In his one and only year at the University of Kentucky, Randle made over 50 percent of his shots from the floor. He got where he wanted with a ferocious first step. The 7’0” wingspan accompanying his broad 6’9” frame should allow him to bully his way toward the rim for points and boards, even against larger, tougher competition in the NBA.
The Celtics are crowded at power forward, with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both already in the mix, but Randle is more athletic than them. His score-first mindset would greatly improve a frontcourt that needs some punch.
2. Adreian Payne
The main reason Payne isn’t projected to go in the lottery? He turns 24 on February 19 and is nearly six years older than lottery hopeful Aaron Gordon.
He’ll be 28 by the time his second contract comes around, meaning whichever team drafts him is looking at a second contract that takes Payne into his 30s.
But for next year? He’s one of the most polished players in this class, a stretch 4 or 5 with defensive versatility. Think Taj Gibson with a three-point shot. That’s something the Celtics (or any team in the league) would love to add next season.
1. Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart would’ve been a top-three pick in last year’s draft. He can play either backcourt position (on both ends), attack the rim and create for others.
In Boston, he’d either start beside Rajon Rondo or spell Avery Bradley off the bench. Either way, when he’s on the floor, the Celtics would have an incredibly dynamic decision-maker in the game.
He could also run the point as a lead ball-handler on bench units, which is similar to Lance Stephenson’s role with the Indiana Pacers last season. Smart’s body is NBA-ready, and even though his jumper doesn’t appear to be as good as it’ll ultimately wind up to be, all the other areas of his game are already above average.