In just a little over two weeks, the newest crop of NBA rookies will be selected. At this moment, our beloved Boston Celtics have two first round picks at #21 and #22. With only four players under contract for next season, I would say there are plenty of draft needs. Will Danny Ainge select the best available players at our picks or focus in on some need areas?
I will say this now: I do NOT believe that anyone we draft at either of our picks will make an immediate impact on our team next season regardless of who we re-sign this off season. If Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are back, you can bet that any big man prospect or shooter won’t be seeing a ton of minutes, if any, next year. If neither of them come back, I think players like JaJuan Johnson and E’twaun Moore would see playing time over these two new rookies.
I’ll break down each position, how we fare at all five and then name a target at our picks that would fit. Let’s take a look!
At point guard, we have a budding star in Rajon Rondo. Now, I do not believe that Rondo can be the alpha male on a championship team, but he can certainly be the second best player or even a “1B” to another star’s “1A”. He will see his normal 37 minutes per game, so there are only 11 minutes left to divvy up at the point for other players. Avery Bradley can play it in a pinch, but that’s only when players like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are on the floor to help ease the pressure off of him. Keyon Dooling brought it in the playoffs and could definitely be re-signed this summer. Doc Rivers has tried trading for him multiple times and I don’t see the Celtics letting him walk after just one year.
With all of that said, do I think that the Celtics will draft a point guard with either of their first round picks? Absolutely not, especially in such a weak point guard draft. But, I did promise to give you guys a target for each position, so here goes. Marquis Teague of the national champion Kentucky Wildcats fits the bill at that point of the draft. It is a bit high for him and doesn’t fit a need whatsoever, but if this front office believed point guard was a need, Teague would definitely be an option. He’s very young and raw, but has the talent to be a better NBA player than his brother Jeff who starts for the Atlanta Hawks. He would be a project and could take a few years to develop, but could be worth it for a team looking for a point guard. Fortunately, the Celtics aren’t one of those teams.
Avery Bradley is back next season. Hopefully his off season shoulder surgery will keep him healthy. Ray Allen is one of the two big wildcards this summer. Will he return to the Celtics after recovering from ankle surgery or will he play else where? Rumors are that teams like the Clippers, Heat and Knicks will be interested in signing him. Also, rumors are that he and Rondo had been feuding this season. If Garnett isn’t back, I think Ray is gone for sure. Honestly, if Garnett doesn’t come back, it won’t matter who we re-sign this year because we won’t be contending.
The shooting guard position in this draft is very strong up at the top, but outside of the lottery there are only players worthy of late 1st-early 2nd round picks. Many people will favor the more flashy name of Doron Lamb from Kentucky, but I’ll go with John Jenkins from Vanderbilt. Arguably the best shooter in the entire draft, he’s heavier and stronger than Lamb, has an additional year of experience and able to get hot at a moment’s notice. I think both Lamb and Jenkins will find a niche as a three-point specialist off the bench like Kyle Korver or JJ Redick, something this team has sorely lacked.
Paul Pierce is under contract for two more seasons and I, as I’m sure most of the Celtic fans around the world would agree, want him to finish his career playing in only a Celtic jersey. There is also the possibility of keeping Mickael Pietrus as well as re-signing Jeff Green, solidifying the small forward position for the current season as well as the future.
With that said, there are a few targets that would fall in the early 20′s that the Celtics should consider drafting, but the one that I would like to see them take a shot on is Moe Harkless of St. John’s University. He spent one season in college and was named to First Team All Big East as well as the Big East Freshman of the Year. He’s got incredible upside and could be a player worth developing and getting ready for the post-Paul Pierce era. Harkless is a fantastic athlete, very long and has ideal height to play small forward in the NBA. He has great timing and anticipation when reading and jumping the passing lanes, timing blocks and hitting the glass, especially on the offensive end.
He has a couple warts to his game, but that is to be expected from a 19-year old kid. His jump shot needs a ton of work. He struggled as a shooter whether it was off the dribble or spotting up. He excels at getting to the rim, but favors his right hand heavily. He needs to develop his ball handling, strength and a go-to move when he needs to score. Yes, that’s quite a few weaknesses, but give him two years to develop behind the veterans and he could pan out to be a very good player to run with Rajon Rondo.
This is a position that has been filled by Kevin Garnett for four season, but this season he has moved to center and made way for Brandon Bass. Bass has a player option at $4 million this coming season. I have read that he plans on exercising that option. I have also read that he will test the free agent waters. Either way, Bass is not the long-term answer at the four. JaJuan Johnson, the Celtics’ first round pick last season, showed flashes in minimal minutes and will be asked to play some more next season.
A player I really like in this draft is Arnett Moultrie out of Mississippi State, but I think he will get picked up just before our pick. If he is off the board, my choice would be Andrew Nicholson. The St. Bonaventure senior has been on the NBA radar for years, but burst on to the scene last last year as he carried the Bonnies to an Atlantic 10 tournament championship. He is only 6’9″, but he does have good length to make up for his size. He uses that size to be a deterrent at the rim as he has great timing on his blocks. He also has a silky smooth jumper for a player of his size and proved to have legitimate collegiate three-point range late last season. Nicholson is already on the Celtics’ radar as he has been brought in for a workout already.
Kevin Garnett played center for the second half of the season and became one of the top-3 at that position in the entire league. Question is will he be back next year? Behind him was our rookie of the year, Greg Stiemsma. Also, Ryan Hollins was a late-season pickup that played well sparingly. There aren’t very many impact centers this late in the draft, but there is an intriguing option.
Fab Melo, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, is slated to go somewhere in the 20s this year. He’s got prototypical size and is a very good athlete at a legitimate 7-feet tall. Defensively, he certainly can block shots, but his man-to-man defense is unknown at this point considering he played in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone his two seasons in school. His offensive game is raw, and that’s being kind, and he would certainly be a project to develop. He could be a total bust, but you know what they say about the NBA Draft: if you’re going to miss, miss big!
My dream scenario for this draft would be to grab both Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson with our two picks. Harkless would be our project player that we develop to hopefully become our go-to scorer when Pierce, Garnett and Allen are officially gone. Nicholson would be able to play much sooner, perhaps in his rookie season, thanks to his four years of college.