They’re gonna keep it, right? Let’s assume the Celtics don’t trade their entire haul of draft picks for the next five years for Kevin Love. Let’s assume, for this exercise, that they keep the No. 6 overall pick on June 26. If the status quo stays the same, the Celtics have plenty of options with the pick, from drafting a scoring big man to a European unknown to a potential replacement for Rajon Rondo. The following is my take on three players the Celtics would be wise to select, and three they should avoid. Next
Draft: Aaron Gordon, Arizona F, 6’9”
What we know about Gordon is that he can jump out of the gym—his vertical leap was measured at 41.5 inches at the NBA Draft combine last month in Chicago. We also know he’s been compared to a young Blake Griffin. And we know he averaged 12.4 points and 8 rebounds per game in his freshman season for a very good Arizona team.
What we don’t know is how Gordon’s athleticism translates to the NBA, particularly on the offensive end. What does he do well? It’s not shooting free throws, where he made just 42 percent of his 180 attempts. It’s not as a volume scorer—he took just 10 shots a game. He made a respectable 35-percent of his 3-point attempts.
The hope here is that Gordon’s game catches up to his athleticism. It’s not going to be quick or easy, but the talent is just too much to ignore. Gordon is versatile on both ends of the court, defends without fouling, and can finish around the rum. He needs to be more efficient—a 20.8 player efficieny rating is the worst among the top-10 prospects on DraftExpress.com. Take a flier on this kid, though, and he could be one of the best two or three players to come out of this draft. Next
Avoid: Julius Randle, Kentucky PF, 6’9”
A consensus top-4 player entering the season, Randle is still the big man many pundits would like to see go off the board following Kansas’s Joel Embiid. Not me. Randle averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes per game at Kentucky. That’s a lot of exposure, and he clearly showed an ability to put the ball in the basket, good footwork, and aggresiveness around the rim.
Where I think Randle was exposed was in the national championship game vs. UConn, a team which essentially plays without a true center or power forward. Randle took seven shots in that game and made three. Is that bad coaching? Partly. But it’s also indicative of not stepping up on the biggest stage when it matters, despite a clear advantage. What’s he going to do against taller players? How’s he going to handle covering stretch-fours on the perimeter?
I’d be lying if I said Jared Sullinger didn’t factor into this. If the Celtics keep the No. 6 pick, Sullinger is likely to still be here. You can’t draft for position this high in the lottery, but given that Randle isn’t far and away the best player available, you shouldn’t draft a guy at a position you’re already happy with. Next
Draft: Noah Vonleh, Indiana F, 6’9”
The NBADraft.net NBA comp on Vonleh—Jamal Mashburn—is perfect. The 4th overall pick in the 1993 draft, Mashburn averaged 19.1 points per game in 12 NBA seasons. Vonleh has a little Mashburn in him. He’s got the ability to stretch the floor and knock down the 3-ball (48.5 percent), but he’s also the No. 1 rebounder in the draft class, averaging 15 boards per 40 minutes. Vonleh is a good defender (1.4 blocks per game) despite not being a tremendous athlete, making up for it instead with a 7’4” wing span. He’s not Julius Randle or Sullinger in the post, a guy who is going to get his mitts on everything and bowl his way to the hoop. But the other skills and overall potential more than make up for it. Next
Avoid: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G, 6’4”
Smart is a man without a position. He’s a shooting guard who can’t shoot (29 percent on threes), a point guard who’s good at facilitating (5.8 assists per 40 minutes, good for 4th in the nation) but lousy at making the right decision (2.6 turnovers per game).
Where Smart excels is using his size and strength. He averaged 1 point/possession in post-up situations, first among point guards. He rebounds well and finishes at the rim. He pushes the tempo, though sometimes it’s to his detriment.
Smart struggles with a hand in his face: .061 points/possession when guarded, 1.29 when open. His shot selection is also a question mark. Much of his game is NBA-ready—maybe more than anyone else in this draft—but there’s a huge question as to whether or not he can keep NBA defenses honest. The Celtics already have one of those guys, two if you count Avery Bradley. It just doesn’t seem like a good fit. Next
Draft: Doug McDermott, Creighton F, 6’8”
The Celtics were a really bad offensive team last year. How bad? They ranked 27th in offensive rating among 30 NBA teams, scoring 102.9 points/100 possessions.
Enter Doug McDermott, the most efficient player in the top 10 of the draft, according to Draft Express. McDermott averaged 26.7 points per game during his senior season despite the fact that every team was keying in on him. He made 45 percent of his threes and 86 percent of his free throws. He was effective taking it to the rack, and he also threw in seven rebounds per game, playing bigger than his status as a swingman might indicate.
Did I mention that McDermott is white? Because he is. With that caveat, I’ll save you the standard aspersions about how McDermott isn’t as athletic as his counterparts (he’s in the middle of the pack, but his 42-inch vertical can be considered elite). Defense is an issue, as is McDermott’s status as something of an in-between forward who can post up but might not be able to chase some of the quicker threes in the league. Still, McDermott has all the makings of an elite NBA scorer, and if he slips past the Celtics, it won’t be far. Next
Avoid: Dante Exum, Australia G, 6’6”
Want to feel old? Dante Exum was born in 1995. Exum is one of the draft’s mystery men, an international sensation who is hyped to go as high as fourth despite not bouncing a basketball at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. Very few American basketball fans have seen this kid play.
I’m not going to tell you I’ve tracked Exum’s Australian Institute of Sport games, either. From highlight reels I’ve seen though, Exum reminds me of Michael Carter-Williams, a lanky guard who plays at a good pace but doesn’t do anything spectacular. Exum could turn into a stud someday, but without college experience he’s also the furthest away, and the Celtics can’t afford to wait. Back to the beginning
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