Celtics Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2021

Celtics Sleeper Prospects to Target in 2021 NBA Draft

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    No one needs to tell the Boston Celtics they should be tracking sleepers ahead of the 2021 NBA draft.

    Since they traded away their first-round selection in the trade that sent Kemba Walker out and brought Al Horford back to Boston, the Shamrocks are firmly planted in sleeper territory with only the 45th selection at their disposal.

    While the hit rate at this spot obviously isn't great, the following three players could help Boston uncover a diamond in the rough.

Kessler Edwards, SF/PF, Pepperdine

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Given the modern NBA's craze for three-and-D role players, it's a bit surprising Kessler Edwards hasn't generated a bit more buzz.

    Then again, his case probably isn't helped by the fact he spent three seasons in collegeβ€”or that he played all of them at Pepperdine. For as much ground as NBA scouts can cover, it's hard to get too fired up about the fourth-place finisher in the West Coast Conference.

    That said, Edwards is a 6'8", 200-pound combo forward who shot 39.5 percent from deep over his college career and projects as a multi-positional defender at the next level. He'll add most of his offensive value as a spot-up sniper, but his quick burst could give him enough off-the-dribble juice to slip past aggressive close-outs.

    He doesn't offer a ton of upside, but if he's a two-way contributor logging 15-ish minutes next season, the Celtics won't be complaining.

Jason Preston, PG, Ohio

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Much like Payton Pritchard last year, Boston could be drawn to a backcourt prospect who underwhelms physically but compensates for it with a cerebral approach to the game and an elite skill in his back pocket.

    For Pritchard, it was lights-out shooting. For Jason Preston, it's passing, which the Celtics should be chasing without a pure point guard on the roster.

    While Preston surfaced for most fans at the NCAA Tournament, when he helped steer the 13th-seeded Bobcats past No. 4 seed Virginia, he cracked the NBA radar well before that. In November, he produced 31 points, eight assists and zero turnovers in 37 minutes against a top-10 Illinois team.

    Preston's penchant for passing would play up in Boston, where he could feed the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and pick his spots as a catch-and-shoot sniper.

Herbert Jones, SF, Alabama

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    After finishing 13th in defensive efficiency, the Celtics clearly need more stoppers.

    That will be triply true if they use Marcus Smart to broker a blockbuster trade this summer.

    Either way, Herbert Jones should get a look for his defensive dominance. He has quick hands and faster feet, a Smart-like knack for drawing charges and the ability to hound anyone from speedy point guards to small-ball bigs.

    Offensively, Jones underwhelms to the point he could be on the board when Boston makes its pick despite being perhaps one of the top two perimeter defenders in this class. But he did close his four-year college career with his best shooting season, albeit while only making 20 threes and shooting 71.3 percent from the line.