Draft banter: Boston Celtics

Team: Boston Celtics

2011 Draft Assets: 1st (#25), 2nd (#55)

2012 Draft Assets: 1st, Clippers 1st (Top 10 Protected), 2nd

DraftExpress Mock Selection(s):

#25 – Tyler Honeycutt (SF) – UCLA (Profile)

#55 – Malcolm Thomas (SF/PF) – SDSU (Profile)

Chad Ford’s Mock Selection(s):

#25 – Jeremy Tyler (C) – Tokyo Apache (Profile)

#55 – Jemine Peterson (SF) – NBDL (Profile)

Roster Analysis:

UFA’s of Significance: Delonte West, Glen Davis, Troy Murphy

RFA’s of Significance: Jeff Green

Despite their four headliners (Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen) coming back for one more run at an NBA Championship, the Celtics are in quite an unenviable position. Shaq has retired and the other O’Neal (Jermaine) is still contemplating his future. Nenad Krstic has already reached an agreement with CSKA Moscow, a deal most likely influenced by the upcoming lockout. Avery Bradley, an unknown quantity after essentially red-shirting during his rookie season, is the only other Celtic under contract coming back.

Needs: Youth and plenty of it, especially in the frontcourt.

“Safe” scenario: Boston is reportedly trying to trade out of the first round. That is a mistake. Boston needs some youthful energy if they want to compete for a championship next season and can’t afford to leave the cupboard completely bare with Kevin Garnett’s and Ray Allen’s contracts expiring after the 2012 season.

Despite the weak prospect field in this draft, getting a viable rotation player at #25 is certainly doable. DraftExpress has the Celtics loading up on the wings with Honeycutt and Malcolm Thomas. Given their apparent commitment to Jeff Green and the relative ease in finding replacement level wings for minimum deals or D-league call ups, Boston must focus solely on adding a big, within reason (see: Chad Ford’s  Tier Article)

After all, restrictions with the new CBA may make it even tougher to add veterans into the mix of a frontcourt that currently has only the aging Garnett penciled in for minutes.  Boston needs to do everything they can to find at least one rotation player (particularly at the 5 spot) with their two selections in this draft.

By staying at #25, the C’s may be able to get their hands on the following big man prospects:

Nikola Vucevic (C) – USC

JaJuan Johnson (PF) – Purdue

Jeremy Tyler (C) – Tokyo Apache

Jordan Williams (C) – Maryland

While Johnson isn’t a true center, he can play with KG (who can handle 5’s) and spell him during the regular season. His experience (four year senior) may give him a better chance to contribute right away.

At #55, Boston should double down and continue to stock their frontcourt with youth. Although the likelihood of finding a rotation player at this point, in this draft, is thin, it’s worth the gamble. Big men that could be available in that range include:

Josh Harrellson (C) – Kentucky

Michael Dunigan (C) – BC Kalev/Cramo Tallinn

Greg Smith (C) – Fresno State

Giorgi Shermadini (C) – Union Olimpija Ljubljana

–BK

Low Risk Scenario: The first thing to consider with the Celtics No. 25 pick is that by the end of the first round teams can afford to take fliers, especially in a class such as this one, so devoid of future superstars. If Boston opts to go the high-risk, high-reward road, Jeremy Tyler might be the man they select. The 20-year-old’s (somewhat) failed journey from high school to professional basketball overseas has been well documented, but the story has reached its most interesting chapter. While his offensive production progressed overseas with time, his game remains very unpolished and there’s no question he will be a long-term project for whoever rolls the dice on him. With that said, every year we see players drafted based on look alone and Tyler certainly passes the eye test. At 6-foot-10.5 in shoes with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and a 262-pound frame (according to Combine measurements) he has an NBA body, even if it will need time to get stronger. His athleticism is enough to present plenty of intrigue as well. We saw the good that a hardened veteran like Kevin Garnett was able to do for an immature Glen Davis a few years ago, he might be able to do the same for another young big man with way more upside.

Nikola Vucevic may be off the board by the time Boston makes its first selection, but the USC center has done more to help his stock than almost any other player in this draft class. The tallest individual measured at the Combine (6-foot-11.75), Vucevic is a true inside-outside threat offensively, proving a good catch-and-shoot player at the college level based on Synergy data and reportedly has been working to further improve his stroke in workouts. He can score and rebound inside, but don’t expect him to be a traditional banger, despite possessing a large frame.

Jordan Williams has gained quite a bit of steam as of late on many mock draft boards as a possible option for Boston in the first round. The Maryland product is slightly undersized for the center position at 6-foot-9, but has reportedly gone a long way to improving his physique, slimming down as he prepares for draft night. Williams has a solid back-to-the-basket game, was one of the most productive rebounders in the country last season (at both ends), and has continued developing his jumper to the point that he could be a pick-and-pop option in the NBA. Boston has clearly had success in the past with undersized frontcourt players (Glen Davis, Leon Powe), and if he continues to develop offensively Williams could be the next. Still, he could be somewhat of a reach at this spot as well.

The remaining players all intrigue as possible frontcourt fits, while at the same time bringing obvious shortcomings. JaJuan Johnson for all of his success at the college level, particularly as a defender, could struggle in the NBA based on his physical profile. At 6-foot-10 with just 220 pounds packed onto his frame, he had issues at times in college against stronger big men which does not bode well for his ability to handle NBA forwards and centers.

Michael Dunigan and Greg Smith both have great measurements (tall, long, big hands, large frames) but are very underdeveloped players in regard to skill. Both are physically capable of playing center in the NBA, but right now wouldn’t provide much offensive production.

That isn’t the case with Giorgi Shermadini, however. The 7-foot Georgian has a solid length and frame coupled with slightly above average athleticism. He seems to have a pretty good feel for the game, able to execute a handful of post moves with consistency, but isn’t the kind of player to blow anyone away. The same can be said for Josh Harrellson, who despite owning a strong 6-foot-10, 275-pound frame, isn’t a highly polished player and could use some work with his conditioning. No one will ever question his motor or toughness, but most project him to go undrafted at this point given his physical shortcomings and lack of an elite skill that could translate to the NBA.

In the second round you could almost flip a coin for any of the aforementioned prospects listed. Currently Smith and Dunigan are the only ones projected to be selected; though some see Boston going a different route and drafting San Diego State power forward Malcolm Thomas who has looked good in workouts as well. Either way, if the Celtics are looking for more size late in the draft, there will likely be a surplus of it available. – JW

High Risk Scenario: The Timberwolves have interest in moving the #2 pick if the right deal comes along. Could Boston put together a good enough package to position themselves to land Arizona’s Derrick Williams? Perhaps.

Given that Ricky Rubio is a complete unknown and Kevin Love’s rocky tenure, the Minnesota roster is in a real state of flux. Adding Williams to mix that already includes Love, Beasley, and Randolph doesn’t seem like the best strategy. Despite the pressure on David Kahn to produce a winner, the best course of action for the Wolves maybe to rollover their assets while trying to find whether they should be building around Rubio or Love, or both.

Would a deal of Avery Bradley (#19 pick in 2010), #25, and the Clippers top 10 protected #1 in 2012 be enough to pry the #2 pick from Minnesota? It’s a question that begs asking because adding Williams would be a huge boost for Boston.

With him on board, the allure of overpaying a moderately productive Jeff Green is mitigated or perhaps all together unnecessary. For his rookie season, Williams could fill the role of coming off the bench and backing up both forward spots, perhaps even spelling Garnett in the starting lineup during the second game of back to backs.

If Williams can show he’s capable of being a starting caliber power forward (or shows even higher potential), he could make the Celtics a very interesting destination for Dwight Howard to consider should he choose not to re-sign with Orlando. Would a Rondo-Pierce-Williams trio be enough for D12 to defect? Given the uncertain landscape of the CBA, we can’t really begin to speculate too much on this, but it’s certainly a scenario worth exploring for Boston. –BK

Twitter: @BKoremenos; @JoeyWhelan

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