Eye on the Draft: Chris Mannix's thoughts on the Celtics

There is still half a season to be played and the draft is months away. But with the Celtics making a number of recent moves with the future clearly in mind, it's hard for fans not to think along those same lines.

A few days ago Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated helped to fuel that fire by talking about Boston's draft prospects on Twitter, starting with Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein.

A 7-foot, 240-pound junior, Cauley-Stein is lanky but is a presence defensively and can be a terror defending the rim. Here are Mannix's thoughts from his latest Big Board, where he has the Wildcats' big man rated as the draft's fifth-best player:

A monster stretch in early December rocketed Cauley-Stein up draft boards, and while he has cooled off since then, teams still rate him among the best big men prospects in the draft. Scouts love his defense, citing his ability to defend the paint and step out and guard on the perimeter. Is he a top-five pick? Teams will be reluctant given his offense has a short ceiling. But he will be ready to play right away.

Cauley-Stein is averaging 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds while serving as Kentucky's top defender. He's averaging 1.9 blocks and 1.7 steals and fouling less than twice per game.

Mannix also suggested that pairing Duke guard Justice Winslow with Celtics rookie Marcus Smart might be a smart move:

Winslow is averaging 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds on 43.3 percent shooting (35.7 percent on 3-pointers) this year. Mannix has the freshman as the No. 7 player on his Big Board:

Winslow missed 5-of-6 three-pointers against NC State and was flat-out awful in Duke’s loss to Miami. Still, he is an explosive athlete who has been reasonably consistent from beyond the arc this season. If Winslow can parlay his ability to score around the rim with a more polished perimeter game, he’s a lock to stay in the top 10.

It's telling that Mannix's two suggestions are completely different players - one is a defensive-minded big, the other a shooting guard with a smooth stroke. While they have some promising players, the Celtics need help just about everywhere and don't have to be picky and select by position. Dozens of names will likely be linked to Boston in the coming months as the Celtics' draft position becomes more clear and the top prospects start to take shape.

Photo by Lance King, Getty Images