Celtics

Who will the Celtics pick at No. 45? 10 prospects to watch in the 2021 NBA Draft

The Celtics can go any of several directions with their lone selection in the draft.

JT Thor
If JT Thor is available, he would be a good option for the Celtics. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

The NBA Finals wrapped up on Tuesday with just over a week remaining before the 2021 NBA Draft. After including the No. 16 pick in their deal that sent Kemba Walker to the Thunder for Al Horford, the Celtics have just one selection — the 45th pick, midway through the second round.

Here are 10 prospects the Celtics could consider.

JT Thor, Auburn

Thor is 6-foot-10 with long arms and explosive athleticism. A ruthless, switchable defender with a high IQ, he has the potential to guard every position and can protect the rim. Offensively, he has some potential in the open floor and off the dribble, but his shot needs quite a bit of work.

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If mock drafts are to be believed, Thor might not be available for the Celtics — he’s projected to go a little higher than 45. Still, anyone can slide in the second round.

Daishen Nix, G-League Ignite

Nix reportedly got in significantly better shape after questions about his conditioning persisted throughout the G-League Ignite season. A terrific passer with an advanced understanding of the game for his age, Nix has major question marks about his shot. If he can become a passable defender, his long-term chances improve, but in either case, teams will still be intrigued by a player with a truly elite skill.

Nix is projected to land right in the Celtics’s range, if they want to pursue a back-up point guard option. He was considered a high-level high-school prospect.

Herbert Jones, Alabama

Jones is not Ben Simmons, but there are some shades of Simmons in his game. A good passer and ball-handler in the open court at 6-foot-7, Jones is also a tough, versatile defender with a high IQ who can swallow up opposing guards and switch onto several different positions. The big question mark: Are the improvements to his 3-point shot real? Jones shot 35.1 percent from deep with new form this past season after struggling mightily prior. His 71.3 percent free-throw shooting — also way up this past season — isn’t high, but the improvements are an encouraging sign even if his shot is still robotic.

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Jones’ projected range runs the gamut from the end of the first round to late in the second. If his 3-point shot continues to improve, he would be a steal.

Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

Wieskamp’s player evaluation is pretty easy: Do you need a shooter? If so, Wieskamp is your guy. He shot 46.2 percent from deep on 5.1 attempts per game, and that somehow undersells his effectiveness behind the arc both spotting up and off the move. The biggest question will be whether he can defend at the NBA level, but he has good size.

Wieskamp is projected by most mock drafts to be available when the Celtics pick.

Austin Reaves, Oklahoma

Reaves is a lot of fun to watch — a flashy playmaker with an impressive finishing package around the rim. His 3-point percentage isn’t great (30.5 percent), but his free-throw percentage (86.5 percent) suggests he’ll be fine if he reins in some of the wild attempts he fired up from deep last year. His position is a little hard to pin down, but he offers some potential in the middle of the second round.

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Reaves reportedly impressed at the combine, but he is still projected to be available when the Celtics pick.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

Robinson-Earl’s projections are somewhat similar to Grant Williams — a heady, solid contributor with a relatively low ceiling but a relatively high floor. Robinson-Earl plays hard and is a highly versatile defender who can cover a variety of positions. Offensively, he has some upside as well as a spot-up shooter and as a passer out of the post and off the dribble.

Robinson-Earl’s projected range is slightly above the Celtics — if he makes it to their selection, he likely wouldn’t fall much further.

Quentin Grimes, Houston

Grimes was a projected lottery pick coming out of high school, and he’s still only 21 after struggling through a tough freshman year at Kansas and two bounce-back seasons at Houston. Grimes has good size and a nice 3-and-D skill set which bodes well for the NBA level. Questions about his play-making and ball-handling could limit a potential rise in draft stock, however.

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Grimes should be available for the Celtics if they like him.

Bones Hyland, VCU

One of the purest scorers in the draft, Hyland looks like a first-round talent, but many projections have him in the second round and some project he will fall near the Celtics (for the record, we would be stunned by that development). Hyland can score at all three levels, with extreme confidence in his shot from deep, especially off the dribble. Adding another dimension would go a long way toward cementing Hyland’s status in the NBA — scorers can get a job, but playmaking for others or defending at a high level is a good way to keep it. Hyland could also benefit from packing some muscle onto his skinny frame.

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Hyland is a first-round talent, so it would be a surprise if he falls into the second round, but some mock drafts project he will slide.

Again — for the record, we would be stunned.

Terrence Shannon Jr., Texas Tech

An explosive finisher with some potential as an isolation scorer, Shannon had a down year as a freshman especially from 3-point range, but he hit 35 percent of his triples as a sophomore and shot a high percentage from the free-throw line both seasons. Shannon would be a potential high-reward prospect, and around 45, the risk would be relatively low, but he might struggle to find minutes on the Celtics’ roster.

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Some mock drafts put Shannon late in the first round or early in the second, but others project he could fall to the Celtics’ range. As always, the second round is a bit of a crapshoot — every year, a number of players slide further than expected.

Matthew Hurt, Duke

Hurt projects as a potential pick-and-pop big man who can space the floor and score around the rim. His defense and lateral quickness will hurt his draft stock, but it’s difficult to argue with a 44.4 percent 3-point shooter at the big position.

Hurt is projected to be available when the Celtics pick.

Conclusions

The Celtics are in a unique position — they are loaded at the wings and guards especially if they re-sign Evan Fournier, and they have several intriguing options at center in Robert Williams, Al Horford, and Moses Brown. Any major improvements to the roster will likely come via trade or free-agent signing.

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For that reason, the Celtics can afford to go any direction with this pick — a project or a potential contributor at any position. Expectations at No. 45 won’t be high. If Brad Stevens hits on his first draft selection as President of Basketball Operations, it might feel like found money.

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