Don't sleep on the Celtics two other first round picks

In all likelihood, both Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will be off the board by pick #3 and Danny Ainge will have a decision to make among the handful of second-tier guys (Unless the Lakers fancy Dragan Bender). That debate will be covered ad nauseam until a name is called on draft day. What's being overlooked is that the Celtics also hold the sixteenth and twenty-third picks. The Brooklyn pick debate has really blinded us to what would normally be a very exciting draft, whether we kept both or struck a deal. Obviously, the slippery slope of player-production that is the first round of the NBA draft makes these picks less sexy than the three-spot, but Austin Ainge, director of player development, believes there's talent available in both spots:

The higher the draft pick, you just have a better chance. There’s going to be really good players available at 16. There’s going to be really good players available at 23. It’s just harder to identify in that range

CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely's latest mock has the C's taking Baylor forward Taurean Prince at 16 and Chinese prospect Zhou Qi at 23. Now, I don't necessarily agree with the exact picks Blakely predicts here, but I certainly see the direction he's going in. Prince is an experienced senior who projects into a 3-and-D kind of wing but is probably more suited as a second-rounder. But the maturity of a senior and drafting guys with commonly transferable skills definitely increases the odds of getting production from the middle of the first round.

Qi, a 7'2" Chinese string bean (218 lbs), looks to be a quintessential draft and stash prospect. He's probably not ready physically to contribute right away and could use a year or two overseas to bulk up and refine his game. If Ainge elects to keep all the first rounders, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see one of them develop elsewhere. Whether it's Qi, Croatian center Ante Zizic or Spanish forward Juan Hernangomez, among others, there are certainly some potentially viable international prospects available around those two picks.

Blakely also suggestion that ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon could be an option in the first round. Again, an experienced, defensive-minded senior with some scoring ability could be a solid plug-and-play role player immediately. I'd also throw Michigan State forward Denzel Valentine into the mix for the #16 pick. His shooting, playmaking and leadership all would fit nicely into the Celtics' roster if he were to slip past the late lottery.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

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