A. Sherrod Blakely mock draft has Celtics taking Dragan Bender

CSNNEs A. Sherrod Blakely posted his first official pre-lottery mock draft Monday. Unlike some of the other mock drafts out now, ESPN for example, Blakely has the C's taking Croatian 18-year-old Dragan Bender. Predictably, Blakely had Ben Simmons going first to Philadelphia and Brandon Ingram headed to the Lakers second overall.

Most mock drafts I've seen have shifted away from the Bender idea and favored Kentucky Guard Jamal Murray with the third pick. Bender has struggled to earn significant playing time this season as Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Basketball SuperLeague but, according to scouts, has shown great potential through his athleticism and feel for the game as a 7'1" center with above-average athleticism and a floor-stretching shooting stroke.

Regardless, I would not be entirely comfortable taking a guy like Bender with the third overall pick. For as many positives you hear about him, there are just as many cliches flying around that you could be getting "a Dirk or a Darko" with this guy. There are guys in the top of the draft, like Murray, who will be able to contribute right away even if they don't have the upside some NBA scouts see in Bender: The keyword here is some.

Here's a breakdown of Blakely's lottery:

1. 76ers -  Ben Simmons, F, LSU
2. Lakers -  Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
3. Celtics -  Dragan Bender, F/C, Croatia
4. Suns - Jaylen Brown, G/F, California
5. Timberwolves - Kris Dunn, G, Providence
6. Pelicans - Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
7. Nuggets - Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
8. Kings - Henry Ellenson, PF/C, Marquette
9. Raptors - Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
10. Bucks - Skal Labissier, F/C, Kentucky
11. Magic - Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, France
12. Jazz - Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, Gonzaga
13. Suns - Furkan Korkmaz, G, Turkey
14. Bulls - Wade Baldwin IV, G, Vanderbilt

It's strange to see Murray dip all the way down to 6, especially with two guards going ahead of him to Phoenix and Minnesota, as both teams are pretty secure at the guard/wing spot. I would expect the Celtics to take Murray ahead of Bender if both were available. Bender comes with some questions regarding his shot consistency and physicality and certainly some required development time, while Murray seems to be one of, if not the most, complete guards in the draft. He can also score by creating his own shot and has enough size to compliment Isaiah Thomas in a potentially high-scoring backcourt.

Another scenario, if the Celtics aren't in love with Murray, Bender or anyone else at the 3 spot is to package it and flip it for one of the names you keep hearing (DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler etc). But I feel like I can speak for everyone here by saying let's keep our fingers crossed that we land at 1 or 2 so this decision is all but made for us.

Blakely has the Celtics taking the bouncy Washington forward Marquese Chriss at 16. The athleticism and potential for Chriss are clearly there but his effort and consistency have been called into question all year. Also, UNLV sophomore center Stephen Zimmerman is slotted to the Celtics at pick 23.

Photo Credit: CSNNE

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