Since the regular season is finally over, Boston Celtics fans can now turn their complete attention to the offseason. The NBA draft isn't until June 26th, but it's never too early to start preparing. After today's tiebreaker, the Celtics will have the fifth-best lottery odds and the 17th pick in the draft.
This year's talent pool is loaded with potential difference-makers, so the Celtics could potentially grab two of them if they choose to keep their picks. But don't underestimate Danny Ainge and his ability to move within the draft considering the amount of assets he has at his disposal.
My first mock draft is based on regular season records, though the May 20th NBA draft lottery will determine the final order.
1. Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
If Milwaukee builds around Andrew Wiggins, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Larry Sanders, they could someday have a lethal trio. Some may argue that the team should trade Larry Sanders (for his off-court issues) and select Joel Embiid, but I think they should go with a scoring threat like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker if they end up with a top three pick.
2. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, F, Duke
The 76ers have some of the best young talent in the league, but they need to add a go-to scorer to their core, and Jabari Parker could be that player. The 6-foot-8 small forward is arguably the most NBA-ready offensive player and could make an immediate impact next season. Though his defense is poor, he'd be surrounded by an athletic lineup to make up for his primary weakness.
3. Orlando Magic - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Orlando already has a talented 23-year-old center in Nikola Vucevic, so selecting Joel Embiid may not be the best choice, but he's probably the best player available. The 19-year-old 7-footer could potentially be an elite shot blocker and scorer. Embiid would give the Magic their next great big man to follow in the footsteps of Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.
4. Utah Jazz - Dante Exum, G, Australia
Pairing Dante Exum alongside Trey Burke could someday turn into a dominant backcourt for the Jazz. Exum is a combo-guard, but has a Kobe-like first step, so he could eventually turn into an elite scorer if he improves his jumper and adds muscle to his lanky frame.
5. Boston Celtics - Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
Aaron Gordon gets a lot of flack for his 42.2 free throw percentage, but he's a much better offensive player than he gets credit for. Gordon is smart and moves the ball well, which would fit well in Brad Stevens' motion offense, but he also brings an efficient three-point shot, at 35.5 percent this past season. Gordon doesn't turn 19-years-old until September, so he is one of the youngest players in the draft and has plenty of upside.
Defensively, Gordon is special. He uses his elite lateral quickness and long wingspan to defend multiple positions at a high level. But he's also one of the best off-ball defenders in the draft despite his youth, as he always seems to be in the right spot for rotations, close outs, and weak side help. Once Gordon reaches his prime, he could be a first-team All-NBA defender.
If the Celtics ended up landing the fifth pick (or worse), I fully expect them to try and trade out. There are quality players available at this spot, but none of them will help them win more games next season. If they stay, I think Aaron Gordon, Doug McDermott, or Noah Vonleh would be their best choice.
6. Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Julius Randle Problem
There have been plenty of stories published that sing the praises of Julius Randle's strengths as an NBA prospect, which is well deserved since he's a rebounding machine, has a killer instinct, and he's a very good ball-handler for his size. But there haven't been enough articles that focus on his glaring weakness, which is defense.
Julius Randle could immediately start for the Lakers next season since Pau Gasol will most likely bolt in free agency. If you've been reading my draft articles, you know I think this is too high for Randle, but they need to go with the best player available, and in their mind, it might be him. If I were the Lakers, I'd go with Smart or Vonleh in this spot, but if they do go with Randle, they're getting a player that will make an immediate impact as a rebounder. Randle must re-work his offense, but he could someday be a solid scorer on the wing and on the block.
7. Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
If it's true that the Kings were attempting to trade for Rajon Rondo, then it's a sign that they don't believe in Isaiah Thomas as the long-term answer at point guard. With that said, Marcus Smart is easily the best pick available and would provide them a stout defender, as well as a player with a killer mentality on offense.
8. Detroit Pistons - Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Spacing was an issue all season long for Detroit, so it's fair to assume that either Josh Smith or Greg Monroe will be traded. If that happens, then Doug McDermott could then slide right in as the third offensive option and flourish in a complimentary role. McDermott will struggle as an individual defender, but he's a great team defender, so the talent surrounding him will mitigate his poor lateral quickness.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
This is a classic "best player available" selection. Noah Vonleh doesn't deserve to slip this far, but he very well could. Vonleh is very raw, but could end up being the steal for his draft due to his rebounding and versatile scoring abilities.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via NO) - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Gary Harris is a pitbull defender, a threat in transition, and he can knockdown spot up jumpers. Just imagine how good a core of Michael Carter-Williams, Gary Harris, Jabari Parker, and Nerlens Noel, could be in the next few years for the 76ers.
11. Denver Nuggets - Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Nuggets are a borderline playoff team and Nik Stauskas could provide a boost because of his three-point shooting and pick-and-roll playmaking. However, it wouldn't surprise me if they went for a "draft and stash" player like Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela, or Dario Saric.
12. Orlando Magic (via NYK) - Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric might stay overseas, but he could be tempted to come to the United States if drafted by Orlando. Plenty of playing time should be available at their forward positions for the 19-year-old scoring machine. Saric must improve his three-point shooting, but the rest of his game is there for him to one day be an efficient all-around player.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves - P.J. Hairston, G/F, Texas Legends
If the Timberwolves want to have any hope of resigning their start power forward, Kevin Love, they'll need to make the playoffs. P.J. Hairston could help push them into the postseason since he's a talented scorer and had a terrific year in the D-League, averaging 21.8 points with a 54.3 eFG percentage. Hairston has some issues off-court (marijuana, speeding), so pre-draft interviews will be key in determining his reliability.
14. Phoenix Suns - Kyle Anderson, PG/F, UCLA
The versatile 6-foot-9 Kyle Anderson would likely play forward if drafted by the Suns. He has the shooting and playmaking ability to play as a point forward, but he is also an active rebounder and could slide over and play the four in the mold of Channing Frye. If I were them, I'd take a serious look at K.J. McDaniels, who could be an immediate upgrade over P.J. Tucker.
15. Atlanta Hawks - Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Atlanta has been the hub for International talents (drafted Lucas Nogueira and Dennis Schroeder last season) and I don't see how they could pass on Jusuf Nurkic at this spot. Nurkic is raw, but has the body and athleticism to someday be a Nikola Pekovic or even a DeMarcus Cousins at some point in his career. However, he has quite a long way to go, so take those comparisons with a grain of salt.
16. Chicago Bulls (via CHA) - James Young, G/F, Kentucky
James Young might not turn 19 until August, but it's clear that the Bulls are in need of a three-point shooter considering their acquisition of Jimmer Fredette. Young won't contribute right away, but has loads of upside as a classic scoring wing. And under Tom Thibodeau's guidance, Young might be able to learn how to play productive team defense.
17. Boston Celtics (via BKN) - Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Rajon Rondo is Boston's star point guard, but Tyler Ennis could be the long-term option if the captain is traded or leaves in free agency. Even if that doesn't happen, he's a huge upgrade as the backup point. Ennis is a classic distributor, with a 3.22 assist/turnover ratio this season. He's only 6-foot-2 but has terrific vision and creates for his teammates.
However, he also can shoot the three, at 35.3 percent this season. He's not afraid of "the moment" and has attempted a number of game-winning or tying shots for Syracuse. At this point, Ennis is easily the best player available and could warrant a "potential steal" label.
18. Phoenix Suns (via WSH) - Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Channing Frye is a free agent after next season and Adreian Payne could be the perfect replacement. Both players are similar since neither of them rebound the ball very well, but they're terrific perimeter scorers. But Payne has more upside since he can score inside and is often the recipient of alley oops.
19. Chicago Bulls - K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
I'm extremely high on K.J. McDaniels and think he'd be a steal for any team at this point. McDaniels is a sensational defender with the ability to contain four positions. His instincts are off the charts, which has led to many exciting weakside blocks and dunks throughout the year. McDaniels must improve his offensive efficiency, but the Bulls have one of the best player development track records in the NBA and could do wonders for him.
20. Toronto Raptors - Clint Capela, C/PF, Switzerland
Clint Capela is nowhere near ready for the NBA, but could make a huge impact in a few years. But since Toronto is ready to compete the Eastern Conference, they might be better off getting an NBA-ready player like T.J. Warren or Mitch McGary.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via DAL) - T.J. Warren, SF, N.C State
If this happens, Thunder fans should be excited about the amount of lanes that could open up for T.J. Warren, who has one of the finest in-between skill-sets in this year's draft. Warren has bad technique on his perimeter jumpers, but may end up being a steal if he fixes his stroke.
22. Memphis Grizzlies - Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
After seeing how successful Mike Miller has been off of Memphis' bench, it becomes obvious that they could use another sharp shooter as his heir apparent. Hezonja is a knockdown shooter, but also has the ability to drive to the rim with force. He's underdeveloped and right-hand dominant, but could potentially become a very productive NBA player.
23. Utah Jazz (via GS) - Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse
It's hard to find a spot for Jerami Grant considering all the talented wings in the draft. Since Grant is so raw, doesn't really have a true position, and isn't a very good perimeter threat, I have him slipping all the way down to Utah. He's actually a good fit, since they have multiple wings heading to free agency this summer.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via POR) - Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Serbia
The Bobcats should take the best available scoring guard at this point, and that's Bogdan Bogdanovic. Besides having an awesome name, Bogdanovic also has a sweet three-point stroke. He's a little sloppy with the dribble, but that won't matter when he'll be draining threes as an off-ball threat.
25. Houston Rockets - Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Rodney Hood's biggest weakness is his ability to create for himself and score from mid-range, but that's not a problem for the Houston Rockets, who attempted only 11.1 percent of their shots from mid-range this season. Hood's sweet three-point stroke could fit right in and make an immediate impact off the bench.
26. Miami Heat - Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Who knows what Miami will need this offseason? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh could all leave, and the Heat have plenty of other free agents too. It makes sense that they'd go with the player who has the highest upside at this point, and that's Zach LaVine. It wouldn't surprise me if LaVine goes higher than this, but he's so underdeveloped and will need to spend one or two seasons in the D-League.
27. Phoenix Suns (via IND) - Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early could be a tweener forward for the Suns. He's not much of a rebounder, but brings energy, defends well, and can knockdown jumpers. I think Phoenix will end up moving draft picks, including this one, especially since drafting another forward would be quite redundant, but this seems like a solid spot for Early anyway.
28. Los Angeles Clippers - Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
Doc Rivers and the Clippers might lose Glen Davis and Ryan Hollins, so I see them going for the best available big man. Mitch McGary suffered a back injury last season but fits their needs as an energy guy and rebounder.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
Don't be surprised when Reggie Jackson gets signed to a huge contract during free agency in 2015, so selecting his replacement is a great move. Shabazz Napier is undersized but knows how to score the ball and could spend his rookie year adjusting to the NBA, before sliding into a back-up role in 2015.
30. San Antonio Spurs - Elfrid Payton, PG, La-Lafayette
If any team can turn Elfrid Payton into a star, it's the Spurs. Payton is a pass-first point guard and has all the tools to someday be a terrific point guard, but he's raw, can't shoot jumpers or free throws, and his lanky body hinders his ability to score at the rim. However, Payton's court vision, passing skills, energy, athleticism, and defense could turn him into the steal of the draft.