Boston Celtics fans, be sure to watch tonight's NCAA Basketball National Championship Game between the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines. There are plenty of potential draft picks to keep an eye on that might be available when the Celtics pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
There will be more in-depth draft reports in the upcoming months, but for tonight, each player that'll be on the court for the National Championship will be previewed if there is a chance that the Boston Celtics select them with their first round draft pick. On to the players that will be in tonight's game...
Gorgui Dieng, Center, Louisville
Gorgui Dieng is an elite defensive player who has an NBA-ready body. Standing at 6'11", with a 7'6" wingspan, Dieng is ready to make the shift to the NBA. In 2009, he came to the United States from his native Senegal as a raw, lanky 187-pound teenager. Since then, he's put on another 50-pounds and has improved his fundamentals to the point where he'll be drafted anywhere between #10 and #25.
Dieng isn't a spectacular shot blocker, but when he is on the floor his wingspan is so long that he can bother the opposing team. While he didn't have his best performance against Wichita State, when he was on the floor his impact was felt and it changed the game down the stretch in favor of Louisville.
Gorgui's offensive development can be compared to that of Serge Ibaka. Ibaka came to the NBA as a player with virtually no jump shot but was a threat defensively from day one. As you'll see tonight, Dieng isn't nearly as explosive as Ibaka; he doesn't shoot out of a rocket for dunks and blocks, but on the offensive end their evolution is comparable.
Like Ibaka, Dieng has improved his jump shot to that point where he consistently drains between 10-16 foot jumpers. If he continues to extend his range as Ibaka did, he will become even more of a threat on the offensive end. On the post, he's raw but he has the ability to finish around the rim due to his rebounding ability.
For the Celtics, he would make a lot of sense because as everyone knows, when Kevin Garnett isn't on the floor the defense suffers drastically. Dieng is a player that would bring stability to the second unit and eventually the starting unit once Kevin Garnett retires. His rebounding and defensive abilities alone will likely allow him to have a long career in the NBA.
Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward, Michigan
Glenn Robinson III has got all the tools to become a star in the NBA. While inconsistency has plagued his freshman season with the Wolverines, he has shown flashes of what he is capable of doing.
"GR3" is a freak of nature, bringing elite athleticism to the basketball court. He's a high-flyer that would look nice running the floor with athletes like Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. He plays above the rim and would immediately make an impact with Boston on the fast break due to his ability to effectively finish at the rim.
Robinson shot 56.9 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from three, averaging 10.6 points per game this season. While his points per game might not jump off the page, he did prove to be efficient shooting the ball. His inconsistencies come from the fact he'd have a two-point game one night and then a 21-point game the next. A lot these inconsistencies might be pegged on the fact that he wasn't the #1 option on the team, being only a freshman, but it's a concern nonetheless.
Another concern is whether or not Glenn Robinson III is a two-guard or a small forward. At 6'6" and 210-pounds, he has the speed and athleticism to play either position, but at the two it's possible that smaller, quicker guards might expose him and at the three he could get beat by larger, stronger forwards.
But remember, he's only 19-years-old and has already shown the potential to be a star. Because of GR3's tools, he'll be pretty hard for teams to pass up. He's got a good jump shot and his three-point percentage is likely to improve even more. He can hit shots from all over the floor with smoothness that not a lot of players show at his age.
He also brings intangibles that not a lot of players have. Due to his athleticism and explosiveness, he was able to average 5.5 rebounds per game this season despite his height. Defensively he has been a mixed bag, making some sensational plays but other games where he struggles with his man-to-man defense. Because of his natural abilities, one can assume that with experience his defense will only improve.
Despite the concerns, Glenn Robinson III is the player with the most upside playing tonight. He's currently projected to go anywhere from top ten to around pick 20. GR3 might be a bit of a risk for a team to draft since you are picking him based purely on upside. He'll take a few years to develop which is why it might be wise for him to stay in college to increase his potential of being a high draft pick.
Mitch McGary, Center, Michigan
Mitch McGary has claimed that he will stay at Michigan for another year but that might be a harder decision for him to make than he thinks. His stock is rising fast due to his fantastic play in the NCAA Tournament. The 20-year-old is averaging 16 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game during Michigan's run.
The Wolverine's success comes in large part due to McGary's good all-around game and ability to play well against different types of opponents. At 6'10" and 255-pounds, he is a true banger down low and doesn't shy away from contact—he creates the contact. McGary has a nice mid-range jump shot that created major problems for Syracuse's vaunted zone defense last Saturday night.
While he only had ten points against ‘Cuse, he did have six assists due to the attention he drew when he got the ball near the free throw line. McGary was able to show off his ability passing the ball, which is impressive considering he is only a freshman.
McGary brings a high motor to the floor and seems to have a never give up type of attitude. He might remind you a bit of Jared Sullinger due to his scrappiness and tenaciousness on the boards. Both players create contact and finish extremely well after bringing down the rebound.
One concern about McGary is you have to wonder if he is just a flash in the pan. While he did have a solid regular season with Michigan, the only reason he is being talked about as a first round draft pick is due to the five game stretch that he has had during the tournament. But again, like Sullinger, it might be best for him to come out now when his stock is high. After Sullinger's freshman year he would've been a top-5 draft pick, so perhaps McGary should take advantage of his current draft status.
Mitch McGary is in quite a difficult spot though, if he were to stay in college he might be able to develop his game more to the point where he would warrant a top eight draft pick (as opposed to mid-teens), but it's also possible he could drop back down to being a mid-second round pick with another year in school. At the moment his stock seems to put him somewhere towards the end of the lottery to the end of the first round. If drafted by Boston, he would be quite a nice compliment to Jared Sullinger.
Matchups to Watch For
Gorgui Dieng vs. Mitch McGary: Scouts will get a chance to watch both of these first round level talents compete against each other tonight. Dieng will be the best big man that has McGary has faced in recent memory so it'll be interesting to see if Dieng's NBA-level length ruins McGary's rhythm. However, Dieng hasn't really a faced a player like McGary who can stretch the floor and bang down low as hard as he does. Both players are great rebounders at the college level so any battles in the paint will be something to keep an eye on.
Glenn Robinson III vs. Louisville's Defense: "GR3" has often been criticized for being inconsistent and indecisive in his decision-making ability. As a freshman, it's understandable, but if he's going to make the jump to the NBA, the decisions he makes tonight could do a lot for his stock. Louisville's coach, Rick Pitino, employs a defense that switches between man-to-man and zone variations. Glenn Robinson must choose to pick his spots and not force anything against Louisville tonight.
Trey Burke vs. Russ Smith: Burke is looking like a top ten pick and Smith is looking like second rounder, but at the college level these two players will be key to each team's success tonight. Point guard isn't a pressing need for the Boston Celtics, but if Burke's stock plummets, or Smith's stock rises, it's possible the C's might want to take a look at finding a true point guard to backup Rondo. Burke looks more like a true point guard in the Jameer Nelson or Kemba Walker type of mold that have big scoring nights and Smith is more of the Avery Bradley 2-guard type that specializes in defense
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Top Talent: Hardaway Jr. has struggled the last three games against teams with potential NBA-level talent; Kansas, Florida and Syracuse. He's been bothered by each defense and his shots haven't been falling. He has taken 40 shots, hitting only 11 of them, a dismal 27.5 percentage. Hardaway Jr. has shown the ability to be a solid NBA role player, worthy of being drafted at the end of the first round, but his draft status could plummet if he struggles tonight. The Celtics might take a look at him if they happen to pick late in the first, but it's hard to imagine they'd go with a true shooting guard considering the amount of guards they have on the roster.
What's to Come...
I will be writing plenty of draft previews in the coming months that are tailored towards the Boston Celtics' draft needs and how a potential player could fit on the roster.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @Kevin__OConnor and shoot me a message with some potential draft picks you'd like to see articles about in the upcoming months before the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27th!
But until then...we've got the rest of the season and hopefully a long playoff run ahead of us. Go Celtics and enjoy the NCAA title game tonight!