Tuesday night was a bit disappointing for the Boston Celtics, as GM Danny Ainge was hoping to land either the first or second pick in the NBA Draft Lottery with Brooklyn’s first-rounder that was acquired three years ago. Instead, they landed exactly where they were projected at No. 3.
To basically sum up the talent in this year’s draft, there’s Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and then there’s everybody else. Sure, plenty of talent is available, but the general consensus is the draft is top heavy in the first two spots. This leaves the Celtics in a bit of a conundrum.
Due to their hoarding of draft picks over the years, Boston has eight selections in this year’s draft. You read that correctly, eight! You can field an entire team on those picks alone, so it’s safe to say they’ll probably make a few trades prior to the end of the draft. But should that third selection be considered?
Let’s look at what the C’s need first.
With their deep, guard-heavy roster that includes Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, Boston is really just a superstar away from becoming an Eastern Conference contender. What they lack is a legitimate big man and consistent shooting from deep (Bradley was the only guard that shot above 36 percent from three this season).
If the Celtics decide to go the big man route, seven-footer Dragan Bender from Croatia is the obvious choice. He’s a big body that runs well, is a great passer, can shoot from deep and has a lot of upside defensively. But in a trey-dominant league, is a forward/center that shoots occasionally really going to make much of a difference for a team that can’t make shots from deep? Perhaps they could find a big man via trade, free agency or somewhere later in the draft.
The guard route might be a better choice, as long as he can shoot. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield shot better from three in his final year in college than Stephen Curry did, so it’s possible he could be exactly what the C’s are looking for. But Hield is a rare four-year college prospect and his skill set is limited (not the strongest or quickest, and he’s turnover prone).
Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray is probably the next best shooter in the draft, but he’s a versatile guard capable of attacking the hoop as well, which could leave a lot of NBA defenses off balance and create openings elsewhere.
If the C’s decide to keep their pick and go with a guard, it likely comes down to Hield or Murray, both decent defenders with a lot in common offensively. Many are floating around the idea of drafting Providence’s Kris Dunn, who might be the third-best talent in the draft. But the last thing Boston needs is another ball-handling point guard with a questionable jump shot.
If Boston trades the No. 3 pick, anything could happen, but don’t expect it unless they get a real star in return. The C’s will definitely look into Jimmy Butler to add that much-needed superstar, or perhaps a trade for DeMarcus Cousins (which has been talked about for years) will finally come to fruition.
The Celtics will likely keep most of their picks if they can’t find a decent trade, but they’ve never had this many assets available before. That might be the better option if Ainge believes he can make a splash in free agency with someone like Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside. The dream is, of course, acquiring Kevin Durant, which certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.