I’d like to address the NBA draft coming up next week from a Celtics perspective but first I’d like to kick a guy when he’s presumably down…
Not one, not two, not three, but four championship losses for “King” James!
Yes, Lebron apologists, I am fully aware Cleveland was extremely shorthanded (no Irving, Love, Varejao) and your man (admittedly) played brilliantly for a few games in this series. That being said, the bottom line is that the “king” has a 2-4 record (a crazy Ray Allen three pointer from being 1-5…) in his NBA finals appearances. No matter how you slice it, this record alone should effectively eliminate him from “greatest player of all time” status…
But I digress; let’s focus on Banner 18.
Due to Danny Ainge’s accumulating, the C’s are strapped with 4 selections on June 25 and there are a number of different scenarios that could play out with these picks.
First scenario: Keep the picks (round 1: 16, 28 round 2: 33,45)
The unsexy move, but the move that happens most frequently. If the C’s stay put at 16, I think they’ll look at Justin Anderson (small forward, Virginia), Bobby Portis (power forward, Arizona), or Sam Dekker (small forward, Wisconsin), the latter someone a lot of us are familiar with because of his impressive performance in the NCAA tournament. Justin Anderson brings a prototypical “3 and D” game. At 6’6 230 pounds Anderson has the strength and physicality to give thinner players trouble on the perimeter. Anderson averaged just over 12 points a game, and shot 45% from outside the arc. If he continues to improve his shot, I think he can carve out a spot in Brad Stevens’ rotation next year. Portis has good size for a power forward (6’11 245) and averaged 17 and 9 (53% FG, 73% FT) for the razorbacks last year. He brings a non-stop motor, works hard on D (can switch onto perimeter players if needed), and has improved his shooting range out close to the 3-point line. Assuming Bass has played his last game in green, and with Sullinger/Olynyk being dangled in trade talks, Portis could step right in and play a role. Dekker is a jack-of-all-trades type player, but I’m not sure he really excels at any one skill. At 6’9 220, he has great size for a small forward, and as I mentioned before, really exploded onto the scene during the NCAA tourney. He dropped 27 points against Arizona in the elite 8 round, and 23 points 10 rebounds against North Carolina in the sweet 16. The only thing about Dekker that is concerning is the occasional lack of assertiveness. I’ve heard the Jeff Green comparison and it does make a lot of sense. At pick 28, a name I would be familiar with is the high-risk higher reward once center for Washington Huskies, Robert Upshaw. I say “once” because he was dismissed from the team during the season because of detrimental conduct. If he can figure out his personal issues, he could be a legitimate rim protector in the NBA. At 7 feet 260 pounds, Upshaw blocked 4.5 shots and averaged 8.2 rebounds before his dismissal. I would take a flier on him if available, as size and rim protection are major areas of needs for the Celtics.
Second scenario: Trade up
Behind the scenes, this is definitely the draft route Danny favors. Whether packaging 2 or 3 picks or a pick and a player (Olynyk /James Young), Ainge has the ammo to move up half a dozen picks. Two very different guys I could picture Ainge making a legitimate push for are the 7-foot, 240-pound big from Kentucky Willie “Trill” Cauley-Stein or Mario Hezonja, the 6’8 215 pound Croatian shooting guard. Cauley-Stein is quite possibly the best defensive prospect in the draft, and in a pinch, could cover all five positions on the court. That kind of versatility is almost unheard of. The only guy who comes to my mind that can do something close is Draymond Green, who stands at 6’7, not 7 feet. Cauley-Stein will probably never be a plus player on the offensive end, but with his length and athleticism he could make contributions such as put-backs, alley-oops, and pick and roll finishes. On the other hand, Hezonja brings an explosive offensive game right away. Based on Youtube highlights, my amateur scouting talents tell me one thing for sure about this kid is his unlimited shooting range. He has a hint of JR Smith in him, in that he arrogantly shoots from anywhere he wants, whenever he wants. Unlike Smith however (God is he terrible), Hezonja hits with more consistency, has a good basketball IQ, ability to make the smart pass, and is not a liability on the defensive end. He has a very high ceiling and I’m interested to see when and where he’s selected on the 23rd. Either of these guys would be fascinating chess pieces for Coach Stevens for years to come.
Third scenario: Trade down
I find this scenario pretty unlikely because Ainge is really no longer in asset collection mode. However, for the sake of argument, if he finds a deal he likes and lands in the later teens or low 20s, a guy I look at is 6’6 190 pound sharpshooter from Georgia St., RJ Hunter. Stevens wants guys who can stretch the floor, and Hunter certainly qualifies, regardless of what his low 3 point percentage (just 30%) may indicate. In the NBA, he won’t be asked to be the top scorer and facilitator and can focus on playing to his strengths, hitting jump shots and showcasing his outstanding fundamentals (87% from the line) and high basketball IQ (coach’s son).
Fourth scenario: Trade the picks in a package deal for a proven player (read: Demarcus Cousins)
Boogie Cousins is one of the more polarizing players in basketball. On one hand, he can be an immature, volatile personality that keeps coaches up at night, and on the other hand, sans maybe my good pal Lebron James, he is the most unstoppable force in the NBA. Boogie can do it all. At 6’11 270 pounds, he bullies most in the post, and for the two or three guys who can neutralize his strength, his athleticism and quickness doesn’t leave them with any more than a prayer. He averaged 24 points almost 13 rebounds (not to mention 3.6 assists and 1.7 blocks) last season, and is only getting better. He has no ceiling. Ok, back to earth. Is he worth the potential headache? I would say yes, and based on Danny’s trigger finger history, I would think he agrees. But, prying him away from Sacramento will be more difficult than stopping him on the low block. The best bet is to get George Karl’s (current Sacramento coach) old team the Nuggets involved, who are reportedly willing to move Ty Lawson and/or Kenneth Faried. Would something like this work? Bear with me. I’m not exactly sure about salary cap restrictions, etc. this is just a very rough outline.
Gerald Wallace’s expiring deal
Celtics #16 pick this year
Celtics #33 pick this year
Celtics 2016 first rounder (via Brooklyn)
Again, while I’m not sure if this works financially or if the Kings would be happy enough with their haul, I’d argue it does make at least some sense for all three. George Karl would get his boys (Lawson, Faried), a high ceiling project in James Young, and what looks to be an exciting pick in 2016. This gives Karl the ordnances to install his up-tempo style with a point guard he trusts. The Nuggets get to start over, with two picks in this draft, a former lottery pick (Olynyk) and a big expiring contract (Wallace), which leaves them with a young core and chunk of change going into next offseason. Last but not least, the C’s get their star. If Stevens can harness Cousins’ talents, look out, especially in the Eastern Conference.
In conclusion, my head is spinning. No one knows what will happen the night of June 25th, but I have to say I’m excited to find out. Goodluck, Danny.