NBA Draft 2011: Boston Celtics' Five Best Options to Replace Shaquille O'Neal
In trading Kendrick Perkins this season, Danny Ainge took a gamble and bet the Boston Celtics' playoff hopes on the continued health and productivity of aging former All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal.
As NBA fans learned last week, the gamble didn't pay off. Not even close.
With the June 23 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have their first chance to begin the rebuilding process.
Given Shaquille's likely retirement, and Jermaine only expected to play one or two more meaningful seasons, the Celtics will need to draft a big man to fill their gaping hole in the middle.
Although the Celtics will be drafting very late in the draft—holding the 25th and 55th picks—the opportunity still exists to secure a young big capable of contributing from Day One.
5. Keith Benson
The Maryland big man has the potential to add much-needed athleticism to the Celtics front line.
Benson is capable of running in the open court, and finishing the alley-oop pass. Benson is also able to use his impressive 7'2" wingspan to shoot over defenders, particularly in the mid-range.
His potential as a 'pick and pop' player could see Benson used in the style of a more athletic Jermaine O'Neal.
With Rajon Rondo's ability to drive to the lane and kick to the open man, Benson would make a good fit for the Celtics offense.
4. Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is another big man with the ability to shoot the ball.
Although not as athletic as Benson, Vucevic's range extends all the way out to the three-point line. He averaged just under a three a game last season at a decent enough rate (34.9 percent) to keep opposing defenders honest.
His defense is still mediocre at best, but the Celtics defensive system has shown itself very capable of covering up individual defensive blemishes.
If selected by the Celtics, Vucevic could play a role similar to that of Rasheed Wallace in 2010—a big man capable of spacing out the defense.
3. Jordan Williams
Although officially listed as a power forward, Williams' 260 pounds gives him the size and strength to clog the middle like a center.
Williams is much more of a banger than Vucevic or Benson, which is understandable given his frame and physique.
Not blessed with their speed or shooting skills, Williams adds value through crashing the boards...both offensive and defensive.
Williams may not be a cure for the Celtics' offensive woes, but his size and rebounding would be a nice start in filling the vacuum that will be left with the departure of the O'Neals.
2. Lucas Nogueira
One of the most intriguing prospects in this year's draft, Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira would be the Celtics' most risky draft choice.
The young Brazilian is a shot-blocking natural, combining excellent speed and timing. He runs like a gazelle on the fast break, and he can finish with a variety of dunks.
However, despite standing seven foot tall, with a 7'6" wingspan, questions still remain about Nogueira's ability to put on the weight that would be required for him to play at the NBA level.
He remains raw and a long-term investment, but he could develop into an intimidating presence in the middle for the Celtics.
If the Celtics have the patience to nurture his development, as they did with Kendrick Perkins, the return could exceed everyone's expectations.
1. Bismack Biyombo
There are a number of things all NBA scouts agree on with regard to Congolese baller Bismack Biyombo.
He blocks. He rebounds. And he boasts a wingspan (7'7") that is almost a foot longer than his actual height (6'9"). This perfect defensive combination could be just what the Doctor ordered to fix the Celtics' soon-to-be-hollow frontline.
However, there remains a number of things regarding Biyombo upon which scouts cannot agree.
The first question is his age. Estimates range from 18 to 22. While this could scare off some teams, the Celtics' demonstrated love of veteran players indicates that this would not be an issue for them.
The other question mark hovering over Biyombo, though, is how high he will be drafted. Mock drafts have him projected anywhere from mid-lottery to late in the first round. As such, the Celtics may not even get within sniffing distance of Biyombo anyway.
However, if teams' fears regarding his age see him fall in the draft and the Celtics are able to nab him in the late first round, they could find themselves with an immediate impact player.
His toughness, tenacity on defense and athleticism would make him the perfect fit for the league's stingiest defensive team.
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