Danny Ainge's history of drafting defensive studs, and who the Celtics may draft this year

In recent years, the Celtics have had their finger prints all over the All-Defensive team. Of course a lot of that has been courtesy of Kevin Garnett, who has been either first or second team defense in four of his six seasons with Boston.

But a lot of the selections have come from guards drafted during Danny Ainge's tenure. Rajon Rondo (a 2006 Ainge draft selection) has been All-Defense four times in seven pro seasons, Tony Allen (2004 draft) just earned his third consecutive selection, and Avery Bradley (2010 draft) picked up his first All-Defensive team nod this season.

All three came out of college as somewhat raw talents, but Ainge and the Celtics saw the same thing in all of them — the ability to be great defenders.

The Boston Herald caught up with Ainge on his way to this year's draft combine, and he talked about the C's success in drafting defensive aces.

“Tony and Avery were both basically made that way,” Ainge said. “We fell in love with both of them because of their defensive abilities — they’re both just great defensive players. I don’t think anyone can just become a great defensive player; it takes mental and physical qualities. Playing hard and being in good shape, being quick with your feet, these are all things you need.”

Rajon Rondo, obviously a better-rounded player than either Allen or Bradley, has made the NBA’s all-defensive lists four times, with two appearances each on the first and second teams. But unlike either Bradley or Allen, Rondo has had more than defensive excellence to worry about. It’s difficult to be a great two-way point guard.

“Rajon has the physical skills that great defensive players have, but he’s never used his ability to be the consistent defender that Avery and Tony are,” Ainge said. “He can turn it on when he has to. He reminds me a lot of Dennis Johnson in that way. DJ had that ability.” . . .

Unfortunately for the Celtics, Allen's success has come mostly with Memphis after being blocked by several future Hall of Famers in Boston, but the point stands. No one has drafted stud defenders better than Ainge since his tenure in Boston began (Kendrick Perkins never made an All-Defensive team, but was a really good defender pre-knee injury).
Carter-Williams (#1 - left) gives opponents fits

Of course that begs the question, who is Ainge scouting this week that fits the 'defensive stud' bill? One name to keep in mind is Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse, who ESPN's Chad Ford currently projects to the Celtics in his mock draft.

Carter-Williams is a freakishly long point guard (6'5"), and was a dominant defender for Syracuse as they made their run to the Final Four. Of course, the 'Cuse play a zone while the Celtics play man-to-man, but MCW's instincts and physical abilities seem like they'll translate just fine.

Ford currently has Carter-Williams as the #9 overall prospect (#2 PG), but has him slipping to the Celtics in the #16 position. While Boston is currently flush with guards (Rondo/Bradley/Jason Terry/Courtney Lee/Jordan Crawford/Terrence Williams are all under contract), it would be hard for Ainge to pass on that type of value in the middle of Round 1.

A few other guys projected as mid-1st rounders that are known for their defense:

Gorgui Dieng, C (Louisville) - Dieng was fantastic for Lousiville before a disappointing championship game against Michigan, but his shot blocking ability and massive wingspan (7'4") will certainly catch Ainge's eye. Currently projected by Ford to go #12 to OKC.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG (Georgia) - To be honest I don't expect Caldwell-Pope to be sitting there at #16, simply because he's the type of freak athlete that climbs fast on draft boards. However, if for some reason he is (and this Hoops World mock has him going pretty close to where the C's pick), don't be surprised if Ainge makes a move. Caldwell-Pope is a lanky guard (6'5", 195 lbs), who also was among the SEC's leaders in three pointers made last season (he shot seven threes a game at 37% — not too shabby). The 'D and 3' role was supposed to be filled by Courtney Lee, but KCP may be a better fit.

Rudy Gobert, C (France) - Ah, Europeans. The wild card in every draft, as even the most diehard hoops aficionados have seen only youtube mixes of these guys, usually accompanied by a terrible music choice in the background as they dunk over guys who look like they should be in my rec league. With that said, Gobert is an absolute freak of nature. He stands 7'1", is legitimately quick (watching this youtube clip, his basketball IQ appears to already be more advanced than Fab Melo's), and his wingspan is a ridiculous 7'9". A center who doesn't walk into doors, and has a longer wingspan than Yao? Consider me intrigued. Again, Euros are complete guesses in many cases, but Gobert at least looks like he's worth a look.

It's possible the C's lean towards a more offensive player of course, and three of the four Hoops World guys having them take Gonzaga C Kelly Olynyk, a sweet shooting big man who projects to be an average defender at best supports that theory. But with Ainge's history, don't be surprised if the Celtics look to pick up another defensive diamond in the rough.

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