The results have finally arrived. Barring a trade between now and June 26, the Celtics will be picking at No. 6 and No. 17 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. And while No. 6 is arguably the luckiest number in franchise history (hello, Russ!), for the third time in as many top heavy drafts in which the Cs have owned a lottery pick, they simply had lousy luck.
Assuming the Celts hang on to their first lottery selection since the fateful summer of 2007, and judging by Danny Ainge’s post-lottery comments, that feels like something of a longshot, they will choose from a pupu platter of good, but not great, second tier prospects. Here’s a look a handful of potential names primed to be available at No. 6.
Noah Vonleh, PF/C – Indiana
Vonleh, a 6’10” big man originally from Haverhill, feels like the best option at this spot given what the Celts need most. A tough rebounder and shot blocker, Vonleh is a solid athlete for his size and can run the floor and score both in the paint and from midrange. He wowed at last week’s combine in Chicago thanks to his wingspan and enormous hands. While not a traditional center, Vonleh’s skill set translates very well to what the Celtics most likely will looking for and would prove to be a solid selection should he still be on the board when it’s the Celts’ turn to pick.
Julius Randle, PF – Kentucky
Danny Ainge noted on Comcast Sports Net New England immediately following the lottery that at No. 6, it’s imperative to choose the best available player even if he doesn’t fit a big need. Randle, who is basically Jared Sullinger minus 30 or so pounds and a plus a couple of inches on his vertical, would deifinitely fit that bill should he wind up the pick here. At 6’9″, Randle can score on the block both facing up or posting up, isn’t afraid of creating contact on his way to the rim and is an excellent rebounder. Sound familiar?
Marcus Smart, PG – Oklahoma State
It’s tough to imagine the Celtics taking a point guard here unless they plan to trade Rajon Rondo but again, Ainge noted that No. 6 is a spot for taking the best available player over need. Smart, who would have gone Top 3 had he come out last year, hurt his draft stock by staying in school for another season both on the court and due to some temper related issues. On the plus side, no one has ever questioned Smart’s passion for the game and he can both get to the rim with ease and is a terrific finisher. Mark it down: he will be on the board at No. 6.
Aaron Gordon, PF – Arizona
If the Celtics keep their pick and Vonleh is gone then Gordon feels like the safest bet. He’s a freakish athlete who posted the third-highest vertical leap for a player his size (6’9″, 220) in history at last week’s combine according to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and he’s known for being a demon on defense, a skill not found in many young players. Where Gordon needs to improve in a big way is on offense, where he doesn’t have a true position and is, to be kind, not so great a shooter. Still, his athleticism and passion to defend make him a tantalizing prospect. The question with Gordon will be whether the Celtics willing to be patient enough to develop this kind of project.