What if the Boston Celtics lose the draft lottery and end up with the sixth or seventh pick? Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum would likely be off the board, so what if Danny Ainge can't find a trading partner to acquire an impact player? Some Celtics fans might think this is a doom and gloom scenario, but that isn't the case.
In fact, Boston would still be in a great position to select a player who could become a difference-maker for the franchise. Here are four players the Celtics could select as consolation prizes if they aren't lucky enough to have a top four pick. Come back to CelticsBlog on Friday for Part Two and a look at another four prospects.
Love him or hate him, there's a strong possibility that the Celtics pick Aaron Gordon. The freshman forward from Arizona has tons of potential, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Once he reaches his prime, he could very well defend three or four positions at a high level, and be the "star stopper" that many championship teams desire.
Gordon stands at 6-foot-9 with a wingspan near 7-feet, giving him fantastic size as a wing, but it's his athleticism, lateral quickness, and intelligence that makes him such an intriguing prospect. Gordon explodes off the floor, which has put him in good positioning to block or deter shots from the weakside. As a perimeter defender, Gordon fights through pick-and-rolls, but also does a sensational job of preventing penetration to the paint.
Most exceptionally, Aaron Gordon is a cerebral player. At only 18-years-old, Gordon's one of the youngest players in the draft, yet he's one of the most NBA-ready as a defender. At Arizona, Gordon rarely missed rotations and he always seemed to be in the right position to make a play. This will be very important during his rookie year when coaches must decide if they can trust him to be on the floor in crunch time.
Aaron Gordon is very skilled at putting the ball on the floor and creating for his teammates. Even though his assist numbers are low (75 on the year), Gordon does a great job at penetrating the lane, drawing the defense, and then swinging the ball out to the perimeter. On the post, Gordon is crafty at hitting teammates cutting to the rim, which is where 60 percent of his assists came from.
Gordon is extremely efficient in non-transition offense, shooting 71.5 percent at the rim and 36.4 percent from three. He must improve on his in-between game, but he was more productive in the half court (50.5 eFG%) than other prospects like Andrew Wiggins (45.7%), Julius Randle (47.8%), and Jabari Parker (49.8%).
Despite all the great facets of Aaron Gordon's game, the mainstream discussion about him tends to begin and end with his free throw shooting. Let's be clear: Gordon is terrible from the line, shooting only 42.2 percent. Gordon is a solid three-point shooter and has quality mechanics, so the problem has to be mental, especially with a rate so low. Once he's drafted, he'll have access to professional sports psychologists, which should increase his production.
Time and time again over the years, efficient shooters have managed to improve from the line. Players like Gerald Wallace, Chandler Parsons, and Blake Griffin, all went from subpar in college to efficient in the NBA. There is no reason why Aaron Gordon can't do the same, even if it takes a miracle like it did for Karl Malone in the early 1990s.
Doug McDermott isn't athletic, he's not a good individual defender, and he certainly won't dominate the NBA like he did the NCAA...okay, we get it. This is all true, but these statements discredit the number of things he's talented at. For one, McDermott is the most efficient scorer in the draft because he can shoot effectively from anywhere on the court. You can't say that about many players at any level, but you can about McDermott.
This skill is valuable because NBA defenses work to take away a player's strengths. McDermott had to add to his game every single season because defenses would try to remove what he was best at. McDermott's freshman and sophomore seasons were mostly spent on the post or behind the arc, so he added a mid-range game during his junior season. As a senior, McDermott continued to perfect that, all the while extending his three-point shooting to NBA range.
Is McDermott the quickest ball handler? No, that's for certain, but it's reasonable to assume that he will improve (just like he has every single season) and adapt to the speed of the NBA, making himself into a prolific scorer. Doug McDermott didn't score 3,150 points by taking his gifts for granted, and he'll continue to work on his craft in the NBA.
Not to mention that Doug McDermott will never have five defenders cluing in on him like he did at Creighton. In the NBA, he'll ideally be a second or third scoring option, which will open up opportunities as a trailer in transition, or as a slasher and spot-up shooter in the half court.
Everyone understands that McDermott isn't a very good individual defender, since he's too small to defend bigs and he's not quick enough to defend small forwards, but what isn't so obvious is his fantastic team defense. McDermott doesn't miss rotations and will always be in the right spot to make a play. For NBA coaches, sometimes this is more important, especially if he's playing on a team with a true rim protector.
Much of Doug McDermott's success in the pros will hinge on the team that drafts him. If he's expected to be a top scorer, he'll probably come up short, but if he's on a team that utilizes him as a complimentary threat, he will be a force for years to come. Maybe Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics will be lucky enough to have him.
Jusuf Nurkic is 19-years-old, raw, overweight, and plays only 16.4 minutes per game in the Adriatic League. As unattractive as these facts appear, it's exactly why Nurkic is such a promising prospect, since he has only been playing competitive basketball since 2009.
Nurkic has tons of room to grow as a big man and has the skills to someday reach his sky-high potential. Even at just 19, Nurkic managed to lead the Adriatic League with a 35.6 PER. In a best-case scenario, he could become a Nikola Pekovic or DeMarcus Cousins type of player, though it's far too early to set the bar that high. But one thing is for sure: Jusuf Nurkic has loads of talent.
At 6-foot-11 and 280-pounds, Nurkic has tremendously nimble feet, which allows him to get where he wants with the ball. Though he's underdeveloped, Nurkic has an intriguing post game, which is highlighted by a filthy spin move into a jump hook or layup. Nurkic also has very good touch from the free throw line, hitting 71.4 percent of his freebies this season. He has yet to translate that into a mid-range jumper, but the tools are there.
Nurkic also has an 86-inch wingspan, so he has the length and speed to someday be an efficient rim protector, especially in the pick-and-roll. Right now, he's extremely prone to foul, averaging 8.2 per 40 minutes this season; but that speaks to his highly aggressive play and inexperience. More often than not, Nurkic knows what to do since he is in proper positioning, but further coaching is necessary for him to hone in on his physical gifts and cut down on silly fouls. Once that happens, Jusuf Nurkic could be the steal of the draft.
|Marcus Smart||Oklahoma St.||So.||20||PG/SG||6-4||220||7||6||8|
Chances are that Marcus Smart will pan out to be a very good combo-guard in the NBA, but he's not a great fit for the Celtics as the roster stands. With Rajon Rondo fixed as the starting point guard and the great possibility that Avery Bradley is resigned, drafting Smart might not make much sense unless a transaction is made.
But drafting for team need near the top of the draft is never a wise thing to do, and if the Celtics believe he's the best player available, they should take him. With that said, Smart has all the tools to become one of the best two-way players from this year's draft class.
Smart plays defense like a rabid pitbull, with agility to jump passing lanes, lateral quickness to stay in front of ball handlers, and the aggressiveness to block shots and dive for loose balls. Even though Smart is only 6-foot-4, he will be able to defend both guard positions in the NBA.
But Smart's tweener status raises questions about his true position on his offense. He's more likely to fit as a point guard, since his perimeter jumper (30.7% from mid-range and 29.9% from three) leaves a lot to be desired as a shooting guard. But even then, Smart's decision-making must improve before he can distribute the ball efficiently.
Yet, in today's NBA, is that really a problem? So many point guards look to score first and pass second, which Smart is capable of. His go-getter attitude translates on the offensive end of the floor, as he gets to the rim at will and draws fouls at a high-rate (64.8 FTA/FGA). With such explosiveness, Marcus Smart could be a major threat on both ends of the floor if he develops a jump shot.