The best laid plans: Keeping an eye on the Celtics draft prospects
While the Celtics were out West running wild like Dwight Howard from a free throw, their treasure trove of assets back home just kept on appreciating in value. With an unprotected pick coming from the Brooklen Nets that looks like it will fall in the top 3 (ping pong gods willing), Celtics fans may rightly wonder just who they should be watching in the college game in anticipation of what could be a franchise-altering draft.
Well, Chris Mannix of SI.com gave us one of the first looks at who fits where in the national scene, and the scene looks pretty damn good for the Celtics.
Mannix’s number one, Ben Simmons, is actually a bit of a surprise considering most outlets, including Draftexpress.com, have him at number two behind Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere. The rest of the top ten has some interesting names, including Duke’s 6”11’ guard (seriously, look it up) Brandon Ingram, University of California small forward Jaylen Brown, and international big man Dragan Bender, all of whom have the ceiling of an all-star player and play positions of need for the Celtics.
I actually agree with Mannix, at least at the very top of the draft; not only am I really high on Simmons’ ability to do just about anything on the court at a high level, but his one weakness, shooting, is an area the Celtics have proven they can help to improve with a stellar player development staff. Labissiere has a ton of upside, with his potential having drawn comparisons to a prime Kevin Garnett offensively, and Ingram is an intriguing offensive talent who has the athleticism and skills of a shooting guard and the size of a center. Either one would be a great get come draft day, and Bender, the young center out of Israel, may have the most potential of anyone available.
But each option at the top besides Simmons comes with question marks. Labissiere, like most young big men, would probably take years to reach his maturation as a player. The same especially goes for Bender, who will follow in a long line of international draftees who get selected based on roughly three hours of game tape and a seance with the ghosts of GMs past. And Ingram may just never fill out enough to realize his destiny as a size/skill mismatch nightmare concocted in Brad Stevens’ laboratory.
These Celtics are ready for an injection of premier talent, and if they have the good luck to pick number one, Simmons is the fastest route to infusing this team with elite level playmaking, athleticism, and, after a little coaching, defense, and Mannix certainly agrees:
NBA scouts have been fawning over Simmons all summer, with several projecting him as a next generation of stretch-four; strong and versatile enough to defend the position and a matchup nightmare for anyone that tries to guard him.
Past Simmons, there are plenty of great prospects, but he is the only guy form his draft class who could step into an NBA game right now and not look out of place.
As for the Celtics other selections, the best they can hope for in terms of top 20 picks will most likely come via the Dallas Mavericks, who owe them a top-7 protected pick from the Rajon Rondo trade. Dallas has started off the season well, but they are one recurrence of Chandler Parson’s knee issues or a come-back-to-earth week of mediocrity out of Dwight Powell or Raymond Felton away from being a lottery team.
The most optimistic projection for that pick probably has it falling in the 10-15 range, and there aren’t many prospects in that span on Mannix’s list that would light up Danny AInge’s eyes. Amidst a point guard heavy late lottery, Furkan Korkmaz, an international shooting guard prospect, has a ton of offensive potential, especially as a shooter, and with a roster crunch looming (especially if the Celtics retain most of this year’s squad) is a great candidate to be a draft-and-stash prospect who continues to marinate overseas for a year or two.
Overall, the Celtics should be thrilled about a draft class that looks to be pretty deep at the top, as if they are screwed once again by the lottery most anyone in the top 5 looks to have the talent to be a high-level NBA contributor. More draft boards will come, and we’re probably only a few weeks away from the absurdly early first round of mock drafts to tide us over when the Celtics have an off day. But for now, the plan remains the same; root for only two teams, the Celtics, and whoever is playing the Nets.