I always have to laugh, at least a little, at “day after report cards” for the NBA Draft. Unless there are major swings and misses, like the Timberwolves last year wasting two top six picks on point guards, it is difficult to get a grasp on a draft because there are still so many other pieces that need to fall into place.
This is true in other sports too. But at least in the NFL, the free agent portion of the offseason occurs before the draft. Imagine how much different last night’s draft would have been had teams actually known whether they were winners or losers in the Great LeBron and Others Sweepstakes of 2010.
And while the Celtics are not in on that situation, their draft is still difficult to judge right now. A draft grade does not make much sense. An offseason analysis certainly does, though, with the draft being the first part of it.
Over a week has now gone by since the end of the season (anyone else still not over it?), and the Celtics' many needs are apparent.
The problem, though, is that there is much left Boston must wait on.
Is Doc Rivers returning?
Can they resign Ray Allen?
Will Paul Pierce opt out, and if he does, is it just to make sure he finishes his career in Boston?
Will Rasheed Wallace retire?
How serious is Kendrick Perkins’ knee injury?
All of that adds up to a great deal of uncertainty. Entering the draft, there were, however, two areas that Boston knew it had to address: backup point guard and front-court depth.
With that in mind, Dann Ainge may have done about as well as could be expected, grabbing Avery Bradley, a guard who played one year at Texas, with the nineteenth pick.
John Wall was the consensus top pick in the draft and rightfully so, but only a year ago, Bradley was actually ranked ahead of him. And now, while Wall will have a great deal of pressure to produce right away in Washington, Bradley will have time in Boston to develop as a player.
We all know Rajon Rondo is Boston’s point guard. That leaves really one of three options for Bradley’s career:
- He develops into the player many thought he would be when he was ranked ahead of John Wall, earns more playing time, and becomes a tremendous trade chip for the Celtics in the future or insurance if something were to happen to Rondo;
- He becomes a good NBA player but never quite reaches the potential some saw in him, making him perfectly suited for a top spot coming off the bench;
- He never develops and is Marcus Banks Part II.
Hearing Bradley talk about his drive to be the best rookie in the league next year, I don’t think the Marcus Banks comparison will ever be needed, leaving just the other two options. Both would be fine for the future of the Celtics.
What the Celtics love about Bradley is his defense. That is important, especially if Rivers returns as coach. To be kind, Rivers has been hesitant to play young players, normally due to perceived defensive deficiencies. If Bradley can play defense like they say, he should be able to find the court quicker than other Boston rookies did under Rivers.
What I like about Bradley is that he should be able to play either guard position, another reason he is a good fit in Boston. Bradley might not be ready right now to be a starting point or shooting guard in the NBA. But he certainly should be able to do either in a reserve role.
Also, finding a backup for Rondo has not been easy for the Celtics. The task has become that much more difficult as Rondo has improved each year, because no quality point guard wants to be a backup to a star and be relegated to 10-15 minutes per night.
A combo-guard is exactly what Boston needed coming off the bench. A quality player who can give Rondo a break, but also be able to play with Rondo, thus playing 20-25 minutes a game instead of 10-15. I was thinking a Kirk Hinrich-type player.
Bradley has a different game than Hinrich, but he nonetheless fits the description.
He can float between either guard spot and has lottery-type talent. He is a great defender on the ball, has a solid mid-range game, and can be explosive around the rim.
Avery does need to improve his long-range shot, but he and Rondo can work on that together.
Bradley is now the first piece of Boston’s offseason puzzle to be put in place. Next up will be resolutions of the Doc Rivers and Ray Allen situations.
As far as what I would like to see happen:
Rivers returns for one more year.
Paul Pierce opts out and resigns, saving the Celtics cap space in 2010-11 and all but ensuring Pierce finishes his career as a Celtic.
Ray Allen returns.
Ainge can find someone to fill the James Posey role who can reduce the burden on Pierce; and Ainge finds an athletic big man capable of running the floor with Rondo.
Whether Ainge can do all of those things will dictate what Boston’s final offseason grade should be.
For now, though, the drafting of Bradley was a good first step.