What if the Boston Celtics lose the NBA 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. On Wednesday, we looked at four players the Celtics could select as consolation prizes if they aren't lucky enough to have a top four pick; here are another four in the final part of the series:
|Gary Harris||Michigan St.||So.||19||SG||6-4||210||11||14||9|
If the Celtics lose Avery Bradley to restricted free agency, there will likely be a gaping hole at the shooting guard position. But Michigan State's Gary Harris could be a suitable replacement if this scenario occurs. Like Bradley, Harris is a fantastic defender, with active hands and tremendous lateral quickness.
Harris averaged 1.8 steals per game this season, but the mark he makes doesn't show up on the stats sheet. Time and time again, he would come up with difference-making hustle plays to help the team. The 6-foot-4 guard consistently locked down his opponents due to his ideal combination of strength and speed. Because of his grit and natural ability, there is no doubt that he will be able to defend both guard positions at the next level.
This tenacious defense would often create offense for the Spartans, which is where Harris excelled. But it will be more difficult for Harris to translate his skills in the half court, which will be crucial for his development. Although Harris is a very good spot up and pull-up shooter, he has a difficult time getting all the way to the rim with his dribble, with a 43.1 field goal percentage on shot attempts at the rim in the half court.
But Gary Harris is only 19-years-old and has plenty of time to develop as a player. Though he may not have the flashiest name in the draft, Harris has a high floor and ceiling, which means he's unlikely to bust. If the Celtics need to replace Avery Bradley, or even if they want to bolster their backcourt defense, Harris would be a fair selection.
Rebounding is one part of a player's game that is most likely to seamlessly translate from college to the pros, which bodes well for Julius Randle, who averaged 10.4 rebounds per game this season. At only 6-foot-9, Randle bullied his way on the boards, using his Hulk strength to rip down rebounds and create second-chance opportunities.
As fantastic of a rebounder Randle is, it's the only part of his game that will most definitely transfer to the next level. Randle had success scoring the ball inside in college, but often times he struggled against taller, NBA-sized players. Sometimes Randle's bulk wasn't enough to compensate for his short 83-inch wingspan, especially against LSU, Florida, and in the National Championship against Connecticut's terrific defense.
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.
But most concerning of all is Julius Randle's horrific defense. For a guy that has been dubbed "NBA ready," it's hard to fathom a pro coach giving him significant playing time when he is such a poor help, off-ball, and pick-and-roll defender. He got torn apart by both Wisconsin and UConn (his final two games), just as he did many times throughout the season. The lack of progression is concerning, and though there is a chance he does improve, not every player does -- and you never know who will or won't.
With a logjam at power forward, it's hard to see the Celtics selecting Julius Randle, since he doesn't have the potential to be a rim protector or the flexibility to play center. Despite that, they may look at Randle's raw talent and believe they can mold him into a David Lee type of player if he improves his mid-range jumper, if he becomes a competent defender, and if he passes more efficiently -- but that sure is a lot of ifs.
One of the most complete players in this year's draft will be Dario Saric, the 6-foot-10 do-it-all forward from Croatia. Playing for Cibona in the Adriatic League, Saric was named Most Valuable Player while averaging 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Saric added nearly 20-pounds of muscle over the offseason, which helped take the 20-year-old's game to the next level.
With a 22.8 PER, Saric has developed into a monster overseas. With a versatile and unique skillset on offense, Saric projects to be a Lamar Odom type of point forward. An excellent rebounder, Saric is a threat in transition due to his ability to motor the ball up the floor after rebounds. But it doesn't stop there, since he is fantastic passing off the dribble. Sometimes he tries to do too much (3.4 turnovers per game), but the mistakes will shrink as his gains experience.
As a scorer, Saric moves very well off the ball, creating space for himself to score from mid-range or at the rim. Though he has some difficulty finishing in the paint, he has improved significantly since last season. Saric isn't very athletic, but the weight he gained since last year has paid dividends for him. Saric's 32.1 three-point percentage doesn't leap off the page, but he actually has quite good form, so the perimeter jumper should be far more efficient for him in the coming years.
Without a true position on defense, Dario Saric may not immediately find minutes on the floor, but he has terrific instincts and is already a solid off-ball defender. As he continues to add muscle to his wide frame, he should someday be a competent team defender as a power forward, with the versatility to play multiple roles as a scorer and playmaker on offense.
One of the most intriguing players expected to go in the lottery is Noah Vonleh, an 18-year-old native of Massachusetts. At 6-foot-10 with an 87-inch wingspan, Vonleh has ideal size for the power forward position, with the flexibility to play some center, but his underdeveloped attributes will hold him back from making an immediate impact in the NBA.
Vonleh is an active rebounder, who boxes out and has the length to sky over opponents for rebounds. He averaged 13.6 boards per 40 minutes this season, which led this year's top prospects. Defensively, Vonleh lacks awareness (especially off-ball), but he's one of the youngest players in the class, so he has plenty of time to progress. It's crucial that he improves this facet of his game or it'll be difficult for him to find minutes.
Offensively, Vonleh was expected to be nonexistent as a freshman, but he took more significant strides than anyone could've anticipated. His decision-making has quite a long way to go (with only 18 assists to 64 turnovers), but the potential is there as a scorer. In spurts, Vonleh showcased an impressive face up game, with a noteworthy dribble for his size, and a smooth perimeter jumper.
Indiana coach Tom Crean should be blamed for some of the misusage of Vonleh on the offensive end of the floor. There were certain games when Vonleh was dominating opponents in the paint, but the ball wouldn't come his way. In some ways, this hurts Vonleh's stock since he would've put up much larger statistics had he been a focus of the offense like he should've been. Regardless, Noah Vonleh will be a lottery pick with the potential to be a fantastic two-way big man.