There's a game in Toronto tonight, but many scouts and executives from the Boston Celtics organization won't be watching. That's because there are a number of potential Celtics playing in their Sweet 16 games and the team is preparing for the NBA draft on June 26th.
Boston owns Brooklyn's first round pick, which will be slotted somewhere around selections 17, 18, or 19. Tonight's matchups will feature a number of players that could be available there or even towards the backend of the lottery if the Celtics choose to use one of their many future draft picks in a trade to move up.
Let's take a brief look at them and how they could fit in with Boston's rebuilding plans:
The big question heading into the offseason revolves around the status of Avery Bradley. He's set to be a restricted free agent and it remains to be seen if the team would be willing to pay him the type of money he could net on the market. Fortunately, the Celtics will have plenty of options in this year's draft if they choose to select a replacement.
Gary Harris: Bradley 2.0?
The player most like Bradley in this year's draft is Michigan State's Gary Harris. Harris is a pitbull on defense, as he has consistently shut down opponents throughout the season. His lateral quickness is extraordinary, but at 6-foot-4, he is slightly undersized for the two-guard position. However, any of his size deficiencies are made up for by his hustle, grit, and strength.
Harris also has an effective perimeter jumper, at 41.9% from mid-range and 35.% from three, though he must continue to work to find consistency. Like Bradley, Harris' lack of size hurts his ability to finish at the rim. He shoots only 42.1% on shots at the rim in the half court, which will only get worse as he faces the behemoths of the NBA.
Since Bradley isn't necessary a perfect fit for Brad Stevens' offense considering his underdeveloped three-point shooting ability, Harris might not be either. Plus, Stevens likes to switch on defense, and Harris wouldn't be able to defend many small forwards in the pros.
Nik Stauskas: A perfect fit?
Throughout the season, Brad Stevens has hinted at the need for a three-point shooter, and Nik Stauskas could come right in and fill that void. The sophomore sharpshooter from Michigan is 45.1% from downtown this season and can score in a myriad of different ways. He's equally effective coming off the dribble or when spotting up, which bodes well for his potential in the NBA.
Stauskas' issues come on the defensive end. Even though he's fairly athletic, at 6-foot-6 and 205-pounds, he hasn't shown off those skills on defense. With only 20 steals on the year, scouts wonder if he'd be a liability defending some of the many great, speedy shooting guards in today's league.
These warts raise questions about Nik Stauskas' ceiling. He could see a career path similar to another three-point shooter like J.J. Redick, who couldn't defend, but learned how to never miss a rotation and how to always be in the right position to make a play. Sometimes these intangible can only show through during pre-draft workouts and interviews, which will be an important period of time for Stauskas.
James Young: Want to take a risk?
Perhaps the player with the most upside from this handful of guards is James Young, the highly ranked recruit who was supposed to come to Kentucky and shoot the lights out. Except, anything but that has happened. Young has been plagued by consistency problems throughout the year, though he still shot a respectable 34.2% from three.
Young has the greatest upside because of his natural athleticism and his ability to take defenders off the dribble and get to the basket. At 6-foot-7, with a wingspan near 7-feet, Young has ideal size for the wing. Once he reaches his prime, he could conceivably defend two or three positions, which is valuable commodity to have in the NBA.
With a creative dribble, Young could someday be a playmaker, and not just a shooting-specialist. Young is one of the younger players in this draft (he's not 19 until August), and is already proving to be highly efficient with his 51.3 eFG% in the half court. In order to hit it big, sometimes you have to take a risk, and James Young could be that player for Boston.
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have made it obvious (maybe too obvious) that they need to make a move for a rim protector this offseason. After failing to trade for Houston's Omer Asik, the Celtics have dragged their feet through the second half of the season, allowing opponents to score in the paint at a high rate. Could they find what they're looking for if they don't get Joel Embiid at the top of the draft?
Adreian Payne: Where's the D?
The C's currently have a logjam of talent at the power forward position, so would they even consider drafting Adreian Payne? He's known for his offensive abilities, not his defense, and he isn't even that productive of a rebounder despite standing at 6-foot-10. Does he make any sense? Probably not, unless the team has plans to trade Jared Sullinger and/or Kelly Olynyk.
Payne is a terrific offensive player. At 23-years-old, he has an efficient repertoire of post moves, but his ability to hit the outside jumper is what has scouts drooling. Payne shot 43.8% from three this season, as he has continued to improve each season of his collegiate career. He has the skill to spot up or to take a closing defender off the dribble for a pull-up from 18-feet.
But do the Celtics really need that right now? The answer is no. Even if they decide to trade Sullinger or Olynyk, it'd likely be as a part of blockbuster trade package for a player (like Kevin Love) who would start ahead of Payne anyway
Montrezl Harrell: Can he play center?
Montrezl Harrell is shooting up the draft boards out of nowhere. ESPN's Chad Ford his him at 11, which says a lot about what NBA scouts think about him right now. Harrell is ferocious and has the gnarliest attitude in college. Seriously, it'll be hard for him to resist blocking shots if the NBA Cares program has him volunteer at a children's basketball camp.
But that's a heavy compliment because the sophomore from Louisville is that much of a monster on the defensive end. The blocks aren't there, at only 1.9 per 40 minutes, but the effort is. Harrell flies around the court, defends the pick-and-roll extremely well, boxes out for rebounds, and outmuscles nearly every player. Even though he's undersized, he makes up for it with an enormous 7-foot-3 wingspan, which leads to many steals and deflections.
But are the Celtics really looking for a player like that, or do they need a true rim protector? Even though Harrell plays like a center, he doesn't have ideal size. At that point of the draft, there might be a better option.
Scouts and writers have flip-flopped on Willie Cauley-Stein all season long. It's hard to get a read on a player that got benched because he gets into foul trouble so easily, yet still manages to showcase his outstanding athletic tools and shot blocking abilities.
The sophomore center averages a sensational 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes this season, and can seemingly lockdown the paint when he's engaged in the game. But his rawness leads to bad fouls when he leaps at shot fakes or allows ball handlers a lane to the rim. On the flip side, Cauley-Stein's incredible combination of lateral quickness and length means he has potential as an elite pick-and-roll defender.
If the Celtics are serious about being relevant next season, Cauley-Stein could be far too raw considering their needs. Even though Cauley-Stein's natural athleticism will prevent him from being as awful as Fab Melo, the organization might want to avoid another potential draft disaster with a project center.