Celtics Workout 8 Guards This Weekend
While the Draft Combine serves as an important, but preliminary way for draft prospects to get the attention of teams around the league, most teams place significantly more stock in their private workouts. Team workouts allow a franchise's front office to create a specific atmosphere in which draftees can compete against one another. Teams typically place more stock in the results of their team-tailored workouts than in the aftermath of the draft combine. This past weekend, the Boston Celtics held their first batch of pre-draft workouts for players in the 2013 NBA Draft class. Mike Dyer previously posted a great piece about the four big men candidates the Celtics brought in: Jeff Withey, Steven Adams, Colton Iverson, and Gregory Echenique. This article will examine the 8 guards that Danny Ainge brought in to practice this past weekend and how these players may fit with the Celtics.
Shane Larkin (Point Guard, Miami)- Larkin may have done the best job of raising his draft stock out of any guard at the NBA Draft Combine. He topped the combine in many of the athletic drills, measuring a camp-maximum 44 inch vertical leap. Larkin busted out as a star at Miami this year, leading to the Hurricanes to one of the best seasons in school history. Larkin is an absolutely deadly shooter with extremely deep range and great mechanics on his jumpshot. He's super quick and is a persistent defender who gives full effort pressuring the ball. He's a good scorer in the isolation setting but also does a great job seeing the floor and putting the ball in his teammate's hands in ideal places to score. The concern about Larkin is his height; he measures just 6 feet tall. The Celtics already have an undersized backcourt with Rondo and Bradley. Larkin is a talented, high character player, but size may create a fit issue for Larkin with the C's. Many believe that the Utah Jazz are in love with Larkin with either their 14th or 21st picks. If the Celtics are serious about him, they may need to move up in the draft to snag him.
Pierre Jackson (Point Guard, Baylor)- Like Larkin, Jackson is an undersized scoring threat at the point guard position. He's extremely quick and has great ball handling skills, making him a really good pullup threat in the high pick and roll. He plays consistently at one speed: quick. He's drawn some recent comparisons to another undersized former Celtic: Nate Robinson. While Jackson is actually 3 inches taller than Nate, at 5'11", their games are very similar. Jackson struggles at staying in front of his matchup on defense, which may drive the defensive-oriented Celtics absolutely nuts. He also has trouble playing at different tempos. Sometimes he'll turn the ball over because he'll be playing at a different speed than the rest of his teammates are trying to play at. That said, Robinson certainly figured out how to deal with the tempo issue a bit during this year in Chicago. Jackson is taller and is more inclined to play unselfishly than Robinson. His stock has risen a lot recently as well and he's currently sitting as an early second round prospect. He wouldn't make any sense for Boston at Pick 16, but if Ainge were looking to move down or to buy a second round pick, he would certainly be an upgrade over Jordan Crawford as instant scoring off the bench.
Myck Kabongo (Point Guard, Texas)- Kabongo reportedly outplayed both Larkin and Jackson at the workouts this past weekend and his stock appears to be rising. Unlike the previous two guards, he has good size for his position at 6'3". He's a pure point guard prospect who has very good court vision. He's a good athlete with decent range. Most importantly, he's a good defensive player as well. He certainly struggled during his two years at Texas, and even had to sit out a few games due to NCAA eligibility issues this season. That said, Rick Barnes hasn't exactly been known as a coach who gets the most out of the talent he recruits and other Texas players (Avery Bradley) have come out of college and played better in an NBA style of game. He's not as advanced offensively as either Larkin or Jackson, which may hurt his chances of being selected by the offensively-challenged Celtics. As with Jackson, he wouldn't make much sense right now value-wise with the 16th pick, but he is worth keeping an eye on. Jackson and Larkin were both ranked higher than he was heading into the workout and he reportedly was the most impressive out of the three. Kabongo could continue to rise up from a mid-second round level pick, but right now it seems unlikely that he'd be the 16th pick in this year's draft.
Phil Pressey (Point Guard, Missouri)- Pressey was one of the more disappointing point guards in the country this season for his Missouri Tigers. This past season, his junior year, his shooting percentages dropped across the board as he tried to assert himself as more of a scoring guard. His assist to turnover ratio also fell by 2/3 of an assist, a huge dropoff. Pressey is at his best when he is looking to set up his teammates to score; he has very good court vision. He's shown that he can be a very confident floor general. His defense needs work, as does his jumpshot. He has decent potential but he's trending in the wrong direction. This draft appears to have a lot of point guards that could go in the early to middle portions of the second round and Pressey needs to find a way to differentiate himself in a positive way from the other prospects. If the Celtics get into the second round somehow, he could make sense as the pure backup point guard that they've lacked in the past few years, but only if he appears committed to revisiting his distributing ways.
Erick Green (Point Guard, Virginia Tech)- Despite earning the honor as the ACC's Player of the Year this past season, Green was one of the best kept secrets in college basketball. Green is a very efficient scorer. Despite opposing defense keying in on him, he produced as one of the best scorers in the country. He has good size at 6'3" and very good athleticism for his position and with his skills, he's a very good slashing guard as well as a guy who can score in the isolation, or coming off of cuts. He also has improved his shooting range every season with the Hokies. The question marks surrounding him deal with whether or not he can be a point guard in the NBA or if he's destined to be an undersized shooting guard. Green has the athletic tools, but hasn't demonstrated all that much commitment to becoming a good defender. He's another player that could look to fill a void for the Celtics as a scoring guard off the bench if they could pull off acquiring a second round pick.
Peyton Siva (Point Guard, Louisville)- Siva has been one of the most productive players in the NCAA for his past four years under coach Rick Pitino. Siva has two main things going for him right now that will help his draft stock. First, he's extremely athletic; he out tested many other guards in the speed drills at the combine. Additionally, he is a very good defensive player; he uses his athleticism, strength, and positioning to pester and lockdown opposing point guards. Unfortunately, he's undersized, which will become a problem against bigger NBA point guards, like Deron Williams. He also isn't much of a threat to score from the perimeter. While Rajon Rondo made strides this season with his jumper, Celtics fans may cringe at the thought of another point guard that defenses are allowed to sag 5 feet off of in order to cut off more passing lanes. Siva currently isn't projected to be drafted at all, but he could be a great addition to a Celtics training camp or summer league roster if another team doesn't snatch him up.
Vander Blue (Shooting Guard, Marquette)- Blue gave NCAA Tournament fans one of the better buzzer beaters of March Madness as he hit a game winning layup to help Marquette hold off a Davidson team hungry for a huge upset. Blue is one of the most explosive players in this draft class. He has a quick first step which can really help him fly and finish above the rim. He's also another very good defensive player; Danny Ainge really likes to bring these type of guys in. He can defend either the 1 or the 2 spot on defense, although he may need to bulk up a tad to hang with some of the bigger guards. Blue doesn't have a great jumpshot, which is hindering his draft stock right now; he shot just 30% from 3 point range this past season. That said, he is a good passer and some teams are beginning to wonder if they can convert him into a super athletic point guard. If he shows progress in that area, his draft stock could sky rocket. Until then though, he would make sense as another guy that the Celtics could target should they get a pick in the 50-60 range of the draft.
Ricky Ledo (Shooting Guard, Providence)- Ledo is a super athletic combo guard who has very little trouble creating his own offense. He was ruled ineligible for his freshman season at Providence and eventually changed his mind from returning to school to declaring for the draft. He's 6'6" which is good size for either of the guard positions. He has no trouble creating his own shot. He is prone to tunnel vision occasionally despite being a crafty passer. It would be interesting seeing whether or not he could coexist with Rajon Rondo on the court. Both players like to be the primary creators; Rondo prefers to create scoring opportunities for his teammates with the pass while Ledo likes to create his own scoring opportunities by trying to beat his man off the dribble, rather than by moving without the ball. He isn't a good defender despite his great athleticism and size. There may be potential there, but it's unclear if he'll ever be a good defender. He's been rising quickly up the draft boards and he could make sense for the Celtics at the 16 pick if they decide to take a riskier approach towards drafting more for potential than someone who is a certainty to contribute. He's a high-risk, high-reward guy who could really make sense for Boston.
Looking at the 8 guards that Ainge brought in for workouts this weekend shows a fairly common theme. Danny Ainge is doing his due diligence in examining point guards who may fall into the second round. While the Celtics don't have a pick there currently, it is relatively easy for teams to move into that round during draft night. Ledo and Larkin could make sense with the current first round pick, whereas most of the rest of this workout's guards are solid players who could become good fits with the right trade into the second round.