CelticsBlog MailBag - NBA Draft Combine Edition Part 1

Michael Dodge

The NBA Draft Combine starts on Wednesday, so we're opening up a series of draft questions for the CelticsBlog Mailbag. Over the course of this week, I'm going to keep answering your questions, so if you'd like to submit some questions for the next edition: click here.

Q: I know talent is always first, but position needs are not irrelevant. What positions do you think the Celtics will target? - bleedgreen

A: Center will probably be Boston's top priority, but that's only if Joel Embiid is on the board. After that, I really think it'll be the best player available, which is probably a wing. Whether it's Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, or even Dario Saric or Aaron Gordon, all of them could fit. I am, however, not convinced that center should be the top need going into the draft. I think it'd be easier for the Celtics to find a rim-protecting center (i.e.: Omer Asik, Larry Sanders) via trade or free agency than it would be for them to find a go-to scorer. Now, I'd still take Embiid if he were available when they are on the clock.

Q: In your last Big Board, you ranked Dante Exum 4th while writing that he "deserves to be higher." If the Celtics pick second, and Embiid is off the board, would you consider taking Exum over Wiggins and Parker? -- loco_91

A: Yes, definitely. I think Dante Exum would be in the conversation as the top pick if he weren't such a mystery. But now that he's officially working out at the NBA Combine this week, he could see his stock rise. To be honest, the only reason I haven't put him at second or third on my board is because of the unknown factor. I haven't seen enough to confidently put him ahead of Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, though I've seen plenty to know the kid has awesome potential.

Q: Do you think the Celtics are interested in drafting up a few spots from their second first round pick in order to acquire a prospect that they really like, similar to last year with Kelly Olynyk? -- bcalam

A: I'd honestly be surprised if Danny Ainge wasn't looking for a move like that, though it'd also make sense for him to trade down with a team to add a second rounder. Fortunately, the Celtics have enough assets that they can really move within the draft any way they want to.

Q: How important is the combine when teams decide who to draft? And on a side note, do teams focus on who they like or try to look at everybody with an open mind? -- bballl

A: I'll defer to Danny Ainge for the first question:

Celtics don't have much to learn with limited exposure
"In Chicago you don't learn all that much, other than what they've been doing in their conditioning programs since the season ended."

Danny's right. Teams don't learn much these days since 5-on-5 was removed, and they only get to talk privately with players for 30 minutes. As Ainge went on to say, it's mostly about scheduling workouts. In that sense, they do look at every player with an open mind, of course.

Q: Why do multiple mock drafts keep assuming that we're taking Randle? Are Celts fans over-valuing KO and Sully when we say we don't need another power forward? -- green147 and RyanNH

A: I don't blame those sites for mocking Julius Randle to the Celtics. They value Randle highly, so they give the Celtics what they believe is the best player available since they think they'll take the BPA. Of course, factoring in team needs, it doesn't make a lot of sense, especially since Sullinger is going to make the move to power forward.

Q: Have there been any updates with Joel Embiid's back situation? It's been a few months now since he got injured and I haven't heard a word about it in the media. - K.A. Armstrong

A: On April 29th Joel Embiid tweeted that he was "back to 100%." Before this, his former coach Bill Self said that Embiid's lower back injury is nothing that would've required surgery. Of course, NBA medical doctors will be the true judges of that.

Q: How far has Saric moved up draft boards? -- Duncan1

A: Well, I had Dario Saric at #17 on April 8th. I'll probably reveal my fourth draft board at the end of this week, and he'll definitely be in the top ten. Where exactly? I don't know yet. Regardless, he has moved up quite a bit. He was someone I had my reservations about until March, but now I'm confident he'll be a pretty good NBA player. As for other sites, DraftExpress has had Saric between #8 and #13, and ESPN has had him at #12 almost the entire year.

Q: Dante Exum is in our range and I like his game. But every mock draft that says the Celtics will grab him also says that Rondo will be traded as a result. Do you think they could share the backcourt together or not? -- celticworldwide

A: Rondo and Exum can certainly coexist with each other. It might not be a seamless transition, since Exum still needs to improve his perimeter jumper, but they both play complimentary styles.

Q: Which prospect do you think will end up having the best career? -- BobbyBobinsion

A: In terms of career production, right now I'm leaning towards Joel Embiid. I think he may become a dominant defender and a very good offensive player. Not many guys in this draft will be able to influence the game the way he could.

Q: Would you trade Rondo for a top 6 pick and maybe the ability to dump Wallace's contract? -- Craziness@analltimehigh

A: I know I'm in the minority, but I don't think Gerald Wallace's contract is that awful. At the 2015 trade deadline, I think he'll suddenly become a valuable trade chip since he becomes a free agent in 2016. If a team wants to shed a free agent to be, they might be willing to take on a guy worth $10 million that only has one year left on the contract. With that said, I'd only deal Rondo for a top 6 pick if the deal was right. The Celtics would have to get more than just the pick for me to approve though, whether it was a player or more picks.

Q: What do you think of drafting Marcus Smart? I think that his shooting as his biggest weakness is way too overblown. I believe a Rondo-Smart backcourt would be a big trouble for opposing teams. Isn't Smart the best prospect that the C's should draft? - ball is green

A: Marcus Smart's shot mechanics aren't too pretty, but I agree that it's a problem that can be solved. However, I don't like the Rondo-Smart backcourt at all. Even if Smart improves as a shooter, I doubt he'll ever turn into a knockdown guy. Avery Bradley is already showing signs that he can be, and there are plenty of other prospects that have a better chance than Smart does. Of course, Smart brings a lot of other intangibles, which is why I think he's best suited for the point guard position, not the two.

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