By: Sean Sendall
The sound of a broken record -Do modern youth understand this reference? Even those in their 30’s never actually used a record.- in late June: “The draft is an inexact science.”
This ‘science’ is nebulous, at best, and filled with ill-defined expertise. With the future unclear, fans clamor for the known commodity and scoff at the potential cost.
Any trade targets will come at a high price: Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and any other player currently under contract on the fan wishlist will cost more than just draft picks this year and a couple current roster players. Expect teams to ask for all three future Nets picks -the incoming NCAA freshman class is deep and the draft next year will, likely, be relatively deep as well- plus a couple players that will be tough to see leave town.
There is, however, a palpable irony with the target list. Not a single player listed above was drafted above the 5th overall pick. Both Love and Cousins were the 5th picks in ’08 and ’10, respectively, George was drafted 10th in 2010 and Butler was the last pick of the first round in 2011.
A majority of the premier teams in the NBA have built through the draft. The Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs are a few of the elite rosters in The Association. All three teams have built their core through intelligent draft selections. Why then are Celtics fans so quick to pass on the potential of the draft? Building through the draft has proven successful.
The problem? Annually, there are only six or seven players that turn into core, go-to, Big Three-type players.
If the Celtics find that there are no good trade options, or that the options are far too pricey, they will make their selections. Given the ridiculous asking price for an unproven commodity in Justice Winslow last year, this could be more of a possibility than fans are ready for.
The Celtics currently hold eight of the 60 selections in the draft Thursday night. Overall, Boston has the 3rd, 16th, 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st, and 58th picks -that’s three in the first round and five in the second.
Possible targets for the 3rd pick (assuming both Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are off the board):
Dragan Bender (F) – International, 18 years old, 6’11” – The true unknown – an International basketball player who is from Bosnia and Herzegovina and plays professionally in Israel. My problem with sports bloviation is when an analyst will say definitively how well an International player can play, when he has not seen him shoot around, let alone play in a game. I will not pretend, like many in the media, to know anything more than I’ve read from international scouts. His pure numbers in Israel are not impressive. In fact, he hardly plays for the club. What I have derived from everything that has been written: This guy is not Dirk Nowitzki, nor is he Kristaps Porzingas. The nearest comp is more likely his childhood idol, Toni Kukoc.
Comps: Ceiling – Toni Kukoc; Floor – Yi Jianlian
Jaylen Brown (SF) – Fr. Cal, 19 years old, 6’7″ – I had high hopes for Brown coming into his only collegiate season. He is in the mold of former Celtic great Paul Pierce. He has the size and first step that Pierce had at Kansas. Similarly, Brown will need to work on his perimeter game coming into the NBA, much like Pierce did. He will be able to slash to the lane at the next level, but his drive and determination will dictate how far he takes his natural ability. There, unfortunately, is the clear difference between he and Pierce. Brown turtled when his team needed him most in big games. He has plenty of natural ability, but the question will be if it will ever maximize it.
Comps: Ceiling – Paul Pierce; Floor – Derrick Williams
Marquese Chriss (PF) – Fr. Washington, 18 years old, 6’10” – The fastest draft riser this year. Chriss surprised everyone in his one season at Washington; shot up draft boards during the season and continues to rise during the workouts. He is a freakish athlete with the sought after ability to stretch the floor as a big man. This is the quintessential selection of potential. He could continue his meteoric rise and become a preeminent forward in the mold of Blake Griffin or he could stumble on his immaturity and never reach his potential.
Comps: Ceiling – Blake Griffin; Floor – Tyrus Thomas
Kris Dunn (PG) – Jr. Providence College, 22 years old, 6’4″ – Dunn is touted as the best point guard in the draft. He completed his junior season averaging 16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 6.2 apg, while shooting 37.2% from 3-pt. range and 47.7 from inside the arc. He can contribute at he next level immediately, on both ends of the floor, but will need to work on his perimeter shot. Dunn reminds me of a shorter Evan Turner. Turner was the best point guard on the Celtics roster this year and there’s no guarantee he is on the roster again next season. Dunn could be an immediate replacement for what Turner brought to the floor. I’ve heard comps to Russell Westbrook, which is like comparing Hield to Curry, simply unfair to the player.
Comps: Ceiling – Evan Turner; Floor – Jonny Flynn
Buddy Hield (SG) – Sr. Oklahoma, 22 years old, 6’4″ – Nothing was more evident than the Celtics lack of perimeter shooting during their final game of the playoffs. Atlanta was all but daring Boston to shoot from beyond the arc. The packed defense kept Isaiah Thomas away from the basket and forced kick-outs to unguarded teammates who threw brick after brick at the rim. Hield would immediately be the best shooter on the Celtics roster. The senior is a proven workhorse, who improved his game every year of college. During his senior year he averaged 25 ppg, 5.7 rpg, while shooting 45.7% from long-range and 55.2% inside the arc. His numbers earned him the Wooden Award for top collegiate player last year (for perspective the last Wooden Award winner to become a star in the NBA was Blake Griffin in ’09). With each challenge, he met the call by working in the gym on his deficiencies. His two biggest knocks: Size and age. If Hield were this type of player at 19-20, he would be an obvious pick for scouts. Why scouts now think 22 year old rookies can’t improve in the NBA is beyond me. Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, and list goes on, were all three- or four-year college players who played their rookie season at age 22 or 23 (Duncan was only 21, but was a four-year player at Wake Forest). No, Hield is not Steph Curry, that comparison is misguided.
Comps: Ceiling – Michael Redd; Floor – Jodie Meeks
Jamal Murray (G) – Fr. Kentucky, 19 years old, 6’5″ – Murray and Hield are the top two shooting guards in the draft. Murray is more athletic than Hield and has scouts wondering what his ceiling will be, since he is three years younger than Hield. The Ontario native can shoot from all over the floor and has the athleticism to attack the basket and play tough defense, but didn’t show much of either in college. Murray held the record for most made 3-pointers in the Celtics workout (out of 100) before it was broke a few days later by Hield.
Comps: Ceiling – Devin Booker; Floor – Jimmer Fredette
The later picks are always hard to predict, but here are a few guys to watch out for between 16 and 58:
Domantas Sabonis, Deyonta Davis, Denzel Valentine, AJ Hammons, Brice Johnson, Diamond Stone, DeAndre Bembry, Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, Ben Bentil, and a number of international players.
Make no mistake, the Celtics will not draft for a specific position. They will rank each player that has declared for the draft and take the best available. The reason? Ask Portland who made the mistake in 1984 when they drafted for need rather than the best player available. Thus, the best player ever dropped to third overall.
The Lakers have been throwing out a smokescreen saying they may not pick Simmons or Ingram. I firmly believe this is a tactic and they will select whichever player the Sixers opt to pass on. However, if either of those two fall to the Celtics, they are the clear choice.
If plan A, B, and C all fail (trade, trade, and trade) then look for a number of new faces in green this winter.
**Mock Draft coming soon**