Within the last couple of days, Chad Ford, Draft Express and NBADraft.net have all released new mocks. With only three days to go, chances are this is the second to last mock for each of them, and barring anymore big news, we probably won't see a huge shake-up before Thursday nights festivities.
Here are who each of them have landing with the Celtics at #6 and 17.
#6 - Joel Embiid
#17 - Dario Saric
Ford says that Embiid will not go first (to the Cavs), second (to the Bucks) or fifth (to the Jazz), leaving Philly and Orlando standing between the Celtics and a chance at the best/riskiest player in the draft. Either of those teams could decide to roll the dice on Embiid, but Philly would be taking an injured center for the second straight year (Nerlens Noel), and Orlando has a good young center in Nikola Vucevic and they reportedly love Marcus Smart. This obviously paints a pretty decent picture for any Celtics fans hoping that the decision to pick Embiid lands in Danny Ainge's hands. Personally, I'm on record as saying you have to do it. He's the best player in the draft, one of the best big men prospects to come out in the last decade, and despite the major red flags it's hard to pass on that type of talent at #6.
Saric is another interesting case, as he is not going to be coming over to the NBA until at least 2016-17. But Ford has him as the ninth best prospect in the draft, and it's going to be tough for Danny to pass on that type of value if he falls to #17. For those who are not familiar with his game, Saric is the second best international player in the draft behind Dante Exum, and he averaged 16.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.6 SPG for his Adriatic league team last season. He's a 6'10" SF with the ability to shoot, run the floor and pass, and is still only 20 years old, meaning whoever drafts him is likely to get him when he turns 22. Saric was the leading scorer in the Adriatic league last year, and he did it efficiently, sporting a 58% true shooting percentage.
Here's his Draft Express video scouting report:
There is no doubt that an Embiid/Saric combo would have tremendous upside, but there is also a ton of risk to these picks. There's a good chance neither would play in 2014-15 (Saric for sure, Embiid could return at some point but who knows with how conservative teams are with young players), setting up what would likely be another long season. I also think if this duo gets picked by the Celtics that Rajon Rondo's time in Boston is done. It would signal a long term rebuild that revolves around player development and the continuation of asset stockpiling. Dealing Rondo for young players and picks would seem to fit that plan better than paying him $80-100 million next summer would.
#6 - Marcus Smart
#17 - James Young
Smart is a name we've heard a ton of, and one of the "core four" guys that have been linked to the Celtics since lottery night (along with Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon). Smart is a bulldog point guard that plays great defense, rebounds, gets to the hoop, and shoots far more than he should. He's a ridiculous competitor though, and reminds me of a slightly less athletic Russell Westbrook (as I've written before, Smart is very athletic, but Westbrook may be the most athletic point guard of all-time. That guy is insane). There's also some thought that Smart could play in the same backcourt as Rondo. They would certainly give opposing teams fits with how they could break down defenses and get to the hoop, but it would be a terrible shooting backcourt, creating some issues with spacing. Therefore Smart getting picked wouldn't be a great sign for holding on to Rondo either.
Young is a guy who has been predicted for the mid-first round for awhile, but we really haven't heard a ton of Celtics buzz attached to him. He had an underwhelming Freshman season at Kentucky before playing well in the tournament, as he averaged 14.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 1.7 APG while rocking 41/35/71 shooting splits. He has tremendous length (7' wingspan) but isn't a great athlete, causing some to wonder how he'll defend in the NBA. But he can really shoot, despite what his pedestrian numbers at Kentucky might tell you, and has a shot to be a 20 point scorer at the next level.
#6 - Dante Exum
#17 - TJ Warren
Not going to lie, I absolutely love the results of this latest round of mocks. No Randle or Gordon in any of them (I like both guys, but much prefer Exum, Smart or Embiid), and the Celtics land big time talents with the 17th pick in all three.
Interesting that NBADraft.net has Embiid #3, Smart to the Magic at #4 (it's reportedly a toss up between Smart/Exum there) and Vonleh at #5 (the Jazz reportedly really like Vonleh). That would allow Exum, long rumored to the be the 4th best player in the draft, to slip to Boston at #6. I don't think anyone would be upset with that.
As for Warren, he's one of the best scorers in the entire draft, averaging 25 PPG at NC State last year on his way to being an All-American. If the Celtics do decide on a path that sees Rondo stick around, this would be a really good way to use their draft picks. Exum can definitely play the 2 (he's a really good shooter and has the size), and Warren would add firepower that the Cs just don't have right now. Both guys would help next season, and if the Celtics could bring in a legitimate center (Asik, Sanders) for cheap, they would be a fun team to watch. Granted I'd rather they go either all-in and bring in a star or go all-in on the rebuild and deal Rondo, but it's at least another path to consider.
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