Eye on the Draft: Two players Celtics should target in second round

Danny Ainge has an arsenal of draft picks (three in the first round, five in the second) but it would be foolish to assume that he will use all of them; there simply aren’t enough roster spots.

No. 3 (from Brooklyn)
No. 16 (from Dallas)
No. 23 (own pick)

No. 31 (from Philadelphia)
No. 35 (from Minnesota)
No. 45 (from Dallas)
No. 51 (from Miami)
No. 58 (from Cleveland)

With the No. 3 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Ainge and the Celtics have a lot of options moving forward. Whether those options include trading the pick for a, dare I say it, Jimmy Butler or draft a Buddy Hield or Dragan Bender, it’s important to remember that there are seven other picks at Boston’s disposable and can be used in many different ways.

In a perfect world, Ainge will be able to flip his first round picks for a superstar and make Celtics fans think it's 2007 all over again. Unfortunately, life isn’t fair as a Celtics fan.

Whoever said that the Irish were lucky?

Here, I will highlight two realistic second round options for the Celtics to select because if they draft five players in the second round, I will join Bill Simmons on his crime spree.

Thon Maker

The Celtics need an athletic big man who can go above the rim, run the court and be a force inside: enter Thon Maker.

Maker’s draft stock has risen after his impressive performance in the combine but make one thing perfectly clear. He is not a lottery pick by any stretch of the imagination. That isn’t to say he won’t be a good player because I do believe that he will be but right now, he is as raw as meat in a butcher’s window.

ESPN draft expert Chad Ford predicted that Maker would fall to the Celtics in the first round with the No. 23. (click on link if you have ESPN Insider)
Here’s what Ford had to say about Maker back in April:
“Maker's surprise decision to enter the draft caught everyone off guard. If the NBA agrees with him that he's eligible -- still a big if -- Maker will be the biggest question mark in the draft. He has the size, length, motor and mobility of a lottery pick. He also has an emerging 3-point shot that's attractive. But he is painfully thin and very, very raw.”

Late 20’s maybe, but No. 23? It’s unlikely that Ainge takes him at 23 when he can get him in the second round. With draft-and-stash options such as Zhou Qi and Ante Zicic available late in the first round, it makes little sense to spend that pick on an unproven player like Maker.

Maker has shown flashes of deep 3-point range and has the look of a decent, spot-up shooter. But that’s the problem with Maker. He only flashes his talent, showing no real consistency when he’s on the floor.
But with the 31st and even the 35th picks in the draft in July, the Celtics have the flexibility to take on a high-ceiling player who is as raw as Maker. They don't need Maker to be an impact immediately and with a coach like Brad Stevens, the Celtics could turn Maker into a dominant force for years to come, if they play their cards right.

Malachi Richardson

Malachi Richardson is a fast-rising prospect.

While there are a lot of rumblings about where Richardson will end up, it would be a shock if he was taken before the start of the second round.

Richardson has impressive physical attributes (7-foot wingspan, 6-foot-6-inch frame) and can put the ball down on the floor, something the Celtics needed more of in the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks.

I don’t see Richardson as anything more than just a band aid for the two or three position in the rotation for Boston until they can land a proven player in free agency or via trade, but he would provide a massive upgrade over the likes of RJ Hunter and James Young.

Having said that, Richardson is the kind of swingman that Stevens and his coaching staff need. His length can disrupt the opposition while on offense and his athleticism is desperately needed coming off the bench.
Richardson’s production during games, however, is a bit erratic.

He averaged 13.4 points per game last season at Syracuse and shot 35.3 percent from deep. On the flip side, Richardson only converted 72 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe and shot a subpar 36.9 percent from the field.

He had a great NCAA Tournament, but is that enough for NBA scouts and GM’s to draft him early? According to Jonathan Givony of draftexpress.com and "The Vertical" on Yahoo Sports when asked about Richardson last month on the The Herd with Colin Cowherd, it is not.
"I had a lot of people on Twitter tweeting me about Malachi Richardson because he had that incredible second-half for Syracuse, and really, almost single-handily beat Virginia. People are saying "Ok, where in the (NBA Draft) lottery is Malachi Richardson going to go?' I don't really respond to people on Twitter but I kind of laughed at myself because Malachi Richardson is shooting 38% from the field. He's a 20-year-old freshman who got hot at the right time. That's great for Syracuse, great for their fans and great for the NCAA Tournament. But I don't think that really changes things about his NBA outlook."

I agree with Givony. He’s a second-rounder with potential, but nothing more at this point in time.

(Photo: Gregory Payan, AP)

Follow David McCracken on Twitter@crackemc