Celtics' Updated 2021 NBA Draft Targets After Lottery Drawing

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2021

Celtics' Updated 2021 NBA Draft Targets After Lottery Drawing

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    Brad Stevens' first NBA draft as president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics could be uneventful.

    That, or it will be full of trades. There really isn't much in between.

    As it stands, the once pick-rich franchise holds just a single selection in the 2021 talent grab at No. 45. A week ago, the Shamrocks were also slotted in the No. 16 spot, but they sacrificed it in the deal that sent Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder and brought Al Horford back to Boston.

    Stevens told reporters the trade was designed to give his club "flexibility" going forward, but without further trades, Boston doesn't have many options as far as the 2021 draft is concerned.

    Saying that, the following three prospects might be worth a second-round flier.

Max Abmas, PG/SG, Oral Roberts

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    The Celtics need more scoring options around star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That was true even before they traded away Walker, a 19.9-point scorer across his two seasons in Boston.

    Max Abmas is a walking bucket.

    The 20-year-old paced the nation with 24.2 points per game, then showed how much his production can matter by steering the 15th-seeded Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16. In three NCAA tournament tilts, the 6'1" scoring guard averaged 26.7 points and 3.3 three-pointers.

    Abmas can be prone to bouts of tunnel vision and will be targeted on defense for his lack of size, which is why he could be available in the middle of the second round despite such gaudy stats.

    For a team in need of some extra offensive oomph, though, his prolific pull-up game could be the right kind of jolt.

Johnny Juzang, SF, UCLA

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    An offseason transfer from Kentucky to UCLA positioned Johnny Juzang to get his college career on track. An eye-popping performance at the NCAA tournament elevated him to NBA draft range.

    As the Bruins' season progressed, the 20-year-old kept hinting at a major breakout. He dropped 27 points and five three-pointers on Stanford in late January. A few weeks later, he combined for 57 points and eight triples across consecutive contests against Washington State and Washington.

    But the NCAA tournament is where he pushed himself and his team to legendary status. The Bruins, who had to erase a double-digit deficit and survive overtime to defeat Michigan State in the First Four just to get the No. 11 seed, wound up rolling all the way to the Final Four. Juzang's line for the Big Dance featured 22.8 points per game on 50.9/37.5/77.8 shooting across six outings.

    The run alone should have caught the Celtics' attention, and his offensive arsenal might win them over. The 6'7" swingman is a natural shot-maker who can hit threes off the catch or the dribble, score with his back to the basket and pull-up from mid-range.

Terrence Shannon Jr., SG/SF, Texas Tech

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    Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

    Terrence Shannon Jr. intrigues with the balance of floor and ceiling.

    The 20-year-old is a bit of a project now, but his elite athleticism alone can have an impact. It helps him pester opponents of different sizes on defense, zip past defenders on timely off-ball cuts and spark viral wildfires with his above-the-rim highlights. Tack on a high motor and a fairly well-rounded skill set, and he has a chance to contribute right now.

    "Shannon profiles as the type of glue guy with upside a team should be eager to take a chance on," SI.com's Jeremy Woo wrote. "... He's an admirably tough defender who's willing to sacrifice his body, an underrated passer and does a lot of things that don't manifest in the box score."

    The hope is an NBA developmental system brings even more out of the Texas Tech alum. His career 79.0 free-throw percentage suggests he can do better than his 32.8 percent splash rate from three. A tighter handle would help him break down defenders and create more opportunities for rim-rockers.

    Shannon could be quite the prize if he makes it to Boston and maximizes his potential there.


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