I say five potential positions, because it's possible (though unlikely) the Celts do not make a swap with the Brooklyn Nets, who currently sit alone at the basement of the league, a full six games behind their nearest "competitor" (the Phoenix Suns) at 9 wins and 40 losses, among the worst seasons in recent memory. This means that Boston, who would have a 25% chance of a #1 pick and 64.3% chance of a top three pick if the season ended today, will almost certainly retain and use the selection. But it's also possible that Brooklyn - with copious cap room available for absorbing salary - could see the pick swap returned to them in order to facilitate a multi-team mega-deal including the Celts.
As unlikely as that scenario may be, it is a potential pick for Boston, so I'll include it in analysis in this and future articles to come as the season progresses. Right now, it's pretty safe to say the Brooklyn pick will not fall below sixth, barring a very unlikely surge in the standings from the Nets, or a deep dive by Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers, or a similar team selling off assets in a late (and successful) attempt to tank. Boston, as noted, could also select near the end of the first round with its own pick, and has three picks in the second round via Minnesota Timberwolves (likely first third of the second), the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers (both likely to finish in the back third of the second).
So, we can than assume the range of potential picks to fall in the following sections of the draft:
1-6 (via Brooklyn)
50-60 (Los Angeles and Cleveland)
This means, for yet another year, the Celts may have a crack at almost any player in the draft, depending on what happens. I'll be taking a deep dive in a series of articles on the draft after the trade deadline passes (and we have a better idea of whether or not we'll still have all these options on the table), but for now, let's take a VERY quick look at some of the more interesting prospects in each range, which I'll label late and early first and second round options, working our way towards the top.
LATE SECOND ROUND OPTIONS
These picks are very rarely converted into players that stick. Granted, we've got one of the best examples of that working out in Isaiah Thomas, but Boston can't take credit for that, and we should not expect it. That said, you ought to swing for the fences with these picks, gambling on guys with high upside, even if they look to need several years in the NBA D-League to shape into an NBA player. So, who might be worth a gamble?
Amida Brimah - Connecticut
A raw but sometimes devastating shot blocker - he averages almost three a game over his career - who has seen his stock drop after this year's UConn squad was devastated by injuries.
Melo Trimble - Maryland
A capable point guard with noteworthy pick-and-roll skills and comfort in a pace-and-space system with decent size who should translate to a solid rotation distributor with a starter ceiling.
Alpha Kaba - Mega Leks
Something of a project, his seven-foot, five-inch wingspan helps him pull down rebounds at a high rate, and has a solid shooting form for a big this late in the draft.
EARLY SECOND ROUND OPTIONS
These potential picks typically turn into quality rotation players when you're lucky, and rarely into starter- (or better) level players, but not so much that "best player available" is necessarily more important than positional need or contract considerations (with so many picks, Boston may need to stash players for a year or more overseas). Who is worth a look in this range?
Caleb Swanigan - Purdue
Though his stock has fallen somewhat after an aborted entry into last year's draft, he's a rebounding machine - currently pulling down double digit boards on average - with a seven-foot, three-inch wingspan, a solid shot, and a knack for scoring.
Devonte Graham - Kansas
A solid distributor one guard with a decent catch-and-shoot stroke that should translate into the pros who has the speed to be able to hold his own against some second units, and can create his own shot at a lower level from most places on the court.
Monte Morris - Iowa State
A pick and roll expert on offense with great playmaking and rebounding skills, Morris has a lot of potential at the next level if he can make improvements on the defensive end of the court. Very quick, he's also got a solid handle to work with.
LATE FIRST ROUND OPTIONS
These players are much less likely to fall into Boston's hands, but largely are in the same framework as the previous group, save the fact that their guaranteed contracts mean they'd likely be traded before next season starts, save a jaw-dropping Summer League performance.
John Collins - Wake Forest
A bit of a project for this range, but his knack for rebounding and potential as a rim protector coupled with a promising but faulted post game suggests he may be a diamond-in-the-rough of sorts who may develop a solid midrange game to compliment his solid interior presence.
Anzejs Pasecniks - Gran Canaria
A former teammate of Kristaps Porzingis, he's also a 7-foot Latvian with a great deal of athleticism and speed for his size and a solid shot that may translate with some work. He's also thin, weak, and has a middling basketball IQ, leaving both his floor and ceiling in the solid rotation player range.
Johnathon Motley - Baylor
Incredibly long (7'3" wingspan at just 6'10") and athletic, Motley pulls down near-double digit boards with a good shooting form that may be able to improve. His post game and strength are a work in progress, but with a good coaching staff, he could project as high as a starting power forward.
EARLY FIRST ROUND OPTIONS
This is what we're all waiting on. Who will it be? There's really only two players likely to go at number one this far from the draft, and the next tier dives well into any of seven or eight players afterwards. Perhaps as many as ten players look like they might end up in the range Boston will likely be selecting in, but today, we'll look who Boston might pick at one, two, three...and outside the top three, saving the finer-grained analysis for later in the year.
#1 - Markelle Fultz - Washington
Early on, I was critical of his tendency to take (and make) circus shots, using his ability to contort and create to get shots off against double, even triple coverage on an undermanned and outmatched Washington team. While it's looking more and more like Fultz won't get a chance to shine on that biggest of college stages (see also: Ben Simmons), his continued ability to connect coupled with his plethora of skills have pushed him ahead of the next option in my mind.
#2 - Lonzo Ball - UCLA
His combined size and uncanny playmaking skills, plus an innate ability to score on a deep UCLA squad playing top-notch opponents suggest he's the only other option for the top pick, though a smaller odds favorite for that slot. He would virtually be a lock for this position, save the concerns recently swirling around Josh Jackson of Kansas, whose recent connection to a campus vandalism incident may give Danny Ainge pause. It's by a razor, but for now I'll give Fultz the edge.
#3 - Jonathon Isaac - NC State
Concerns over his wiry frame and its potential to develop have held me back in evaluating him higher, but I have warmed to his game as he continues to shine in big games this season. A combo forward with the skills (if not strength) to play either position at the pro level, he's got good handle and solid shot mechanics. If he can put on 15 or so pounds of muscle, he could be a star in the NBA.
#4-6 - Lauri Markkanen
I've been watching this guy for a while. He's got one of the best shooting strokes I have ever seen, and is a true seven footer with a great deal of mobility and a release point that is almost unstoppable. He's currently shooting over FIFTY percent from deep on over 90 attempts, and might just end up being the number one pick by year's end if he continues producing such gaudy stats. One to keep an eye on, for sure.
That's all I have for you folks for now, but we'll revisit these slots - and probably players - depending on how they close out the collegiate season - after the trade deadline passes. Until then, feel free to comment on players you think should be in one of these ranges, and why!
For more stories on the NBA Draft on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.
Data via sports-reference.com, Draft Express, and nbadraft.net
Top photo via Logan Riely/The Seattle Times
Bottom photo via Wikipedia
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn Justin Quinn 2/03/2017 05:29:00 PM Tweet Edit