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CelticsBlog MailBag: NBA Draft and March Madness Edition Answers Part 2

The past two days of March Madness have been thrilling, with five overtimes, eight upsets, and even more closely contested games. Some NBA prospects have even seen their seasons end already, including Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood from Duke, Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State, and T.J. Warren from N.C. State.

To help get fans excited for this year's draft, I asked CelticsBlog readers to submit their March Madness related questions. Yesterday's edition featured Aaron Gordon and Doug McDermott, but today many people wanted to know about Adreian Payne, potential centers, trades, and underrated prospects:

Q: Which underrated players should we watch today? -- JerryNelly

A: Louisville's power forward Montrezl Harrell is finally rising on many draft pundit's big boards. He's one of the hardest working players in college basketball and will be a perfect energy role player in the NBA. Harrell needs to develop his offense, but his defense will make him money in the pros. Gary Harris is tenacious defensively, which is why Michigan State is one of the favorites to win the championship. He has exceptional lateral quickness and works as a "rim protector" due to his ability to keep ball-handlers away from the rim. Harris' offense is improving, though he is far more productive in transition than he is in the half court.

Q: After Adrian Payne exploded for 41 points, do you think Danny should look into drafting him as our starting center next year?? -- Mattthecelticsfan

A: I don't think Adreian Payne is productive enough of a rebounder to be a starting center in the NBA, and judging from some of Brad Stevens' recent comments, I don't think he does either. Stevens said that his "ideal" center is one that can protect the rim defensively -- in other words, a traditional defensive-orientated type. Payne is the opposite of that, a scoring threat, and should be a high-end role player at power forward. Could he fit on the Celtics? Sure, but I don't know if there is a need at that log jammed position.

Q: Other than Joel Embiid, are there any other centers with potential? -- APC

A: Yes. I like to say Jusuf Nurkic is like Kendrick Perkins with speed and agility. Nurkic is a bruiser and won't block many shots, but he has potential as a rim protector due to his speed and ability to defend the pick and roll. Willie Cauley-Stein is another popular name, though I haven't decided if I love him, like him, or hate him just yet. Most of his issues are cerebral, which means it's impossible to predict if he'll ever get past them. Like most young centers, he gets too excited for block opportunities and leaves his feet to draw fouls, but he is extremely skilled on the defensive end and there's no denying his potential. Put it this way, one play he'll swoop over to make an amazing block, but the next possession he'll be looking the other way as the other team is laying the ball up. Who is the real Willie Cauley-Stein? Another center to keep an eye on is Clint Capela. Everything I just said about Cauley-Stein can be applied to Capela, who is an equally explosive athlete. I'm beginning to view them as near equals, but I need to see more of Capela.

Q: We've heard about the top 10 prospects ad nauseam for nearly a year now. Let's talk about the mid to late round pick for the Celtics. Who do you see the Celtics making a play for and how do you rate this second tier of prospects within the context of the Celtics situation? -- Fred Roberts

A: P.J. Hairston is a player constantly rising on my board. I've watched a lot of his D-League games and I think he has NBA scorer written all over him. He's not the most athletic guy, but he'd be a perfect fit at shooting guard for the Celtics. He can shoot the three off the dribble, off of screens, and when spotting up. He's not the most athletic player, but he's creative with his dribble and can get to the rim. If he were still at North Carolina, I think draft pundits would put him in the conversation as a top ten pick, but since he's stuck in the NBADL, most sites have him ranked in the 20s. Don't be surprised at all if his stock rises closer to draft time.

Q: Syracuse plays tonight, which players should I watch for? -- Kyle

A: Keep a close eye on both point guard Tyler Ennis and small forward Jerami Grant. Ennis is a traditional pass-first point guard, but he has a knack for shooting the three, at 37.5 percent this year. He's terrific at getting his teammates into their sweet spots with accurate passes. Unfortunately, his play has slipped as of late, which is a prominent reason why they've lost five out of their last eight games. Grant is a raw sophomore forward but he has exceptional potential on the defensive end of the floor. With a long 7-foot-3 wingspan, Grant can block shots and jump passing lanes for steals, but Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone doesn't allow him to flourish like he can. Like many 20-year-olds, Grant must expand his range outside of the paint. According to, Grant is shooting only 36.3 percent from mid-range, which is a marginal improvement from last season, and he has only attempted five three-pointers.

Q: Do you think the Celtics would trade Rajon Rondo for a lottery draft pick or trade or a pick for a star player? -- Superr Mario and WinSomeStuSome

A: I don't expect the Celtics to deal Rajon Rondo unless a completely ridiculous offer comes their way, which is highly unlikely. I think Rondo is proving that he and Brad Stevens can co-exist, and the results will be very potent next season with better players are on the roster. As for trading a draft pick, yes, I think Danny Ainge will look to make a huge move this offseason. Like Wyc Grousbeck said, there could be some fireworks.

Q: Do you see any chance of Ainge putting our 2 picks together in a trade for the first or second pick? -- dream_shake

A: I don't see any of those teams fortunate enough to be in the top two doing that.

Q: I noticed in your previous articles that most of your attention went to freshman players. How about this year's seniors? Has anyone caught your eye? -- H-daddy

A: I plan on doing a full article about upperclassmen that have NBA potential, but here are a few seniors: Doug McDermott, of course. Adreian Payne, I think he's a surefire bet to be a solid role player in the NBA, maybe better. Deonte Burton is basically a clone of Will Bynum. Seriously, a clone.

Q: What do you think the chances are of the Celtics slipping back into the fourth worst record in the league (and the better chances at a top-3 pick that go with it)? -- Bender B. Rodriguez

A: Not very good. Check out the remaining schedules for each team in realistic contention for that draft slot. In my opinion, the Celtics have the easiest schedule by far. Green means very winnable, yellow is maybe winnable, red is doubtful:


Q: Do you think that either Noah Vonleh or Clint Capela can help us defensively at the 5 spot assuming we do not acquire Joel Embiid? -- jonnyor

A: I don't think either of them are ready to defend at a high level in the NBA. Noah Vonleh has great potential, but he must improve his awareness on that end of the floor. The length and body is there, and certainly the rebounding ability, but his intellect must catch up with his physical skills. Clint Capela definitely could someday, but I think he's a bit too raw right now to say that he will for sure.

Q: Who is more likely to be with the Celtics next season, their lottery pick or a superstar? -- Jdavidowitz and Braedenks

A: Their lottery pick, by far, in my opinion. Obviously Ainge will be open to trades, especially if the pick is outside of the top 4, but it takes another team with a star player looking to trade into that spot, too. There are no guarantees a guy like Kevin Love gets moved, no matter how much people around the league think he might be.

Q: Assuming we fail to grab a top 3 draft selection and the Celtics fall to 6th or 7th pick (worst-case scenario), who will the Celtics grab? -- ball is green

A: If Boston slips to the 6th or 7th pick, I can see them taking a long, hard look at Aaron Gordon. He's a long, 6-foot-9 combo-forward, who plays some of the best defense in the country at only 18-years-old. Realistically, I could see them trading down from that spot, because there might be a team wanting to move up slightly. There might be a player they know they could draft on the backend of the lottery, while picking up a draft pick for next season.

Q: Seeing that Gorgui Dieng had a 20-20 game tonight, do you think he could turn out better than Olynyk in 5 years? Could he turn out to be an Asik or Sanders give some time? -- Not Ed Schultz

A: Yes. I had Gorgui Dieng ranked 14th last year on my big board and I don't think he'll be moving down, only up. What he has shown me in the past three games is much more than I could've expected from him this year, and I thought he's been solid whenever he got the opportunity. Kelly Olynyk could be a very good player, but Gorgui Dieng has exceptional potential defensively, which Olynyk doesn't. You have to look at both ends of the floor. However, Olynyk is one of the greatest risers on my "re-rank" board.

Q: When we get to our 2nd pick and McDermott, Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren are still available, who would you take? -- Dmick34

A: Doug McDermott. I like Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren a lot, but Rondo is fixed at point guard, and Warren can't shoot well. That's McDermott's strength and I think Stevens would know how to maximize his abilities.

Q: I was looking for Jabari in green since earlier this season. What do you think about Jabari's defensive game? And will Duke's early loss in tournament affect Jabari's pick number? -- Akai

A: I think Jabari Parker's defense is a huge wart on his overall game. He's not very good off-ball, by looking too much at the ball, which allows backdoor cuts, and he's not a good man-to-man defender either. At the small forward position, which starting players will he be able to defend in the NBA? Not many. He's solid at weakside blocks, but that's about it. I don't think Duke losing hurts his draft stock at all, he's still a top 3 or 4 pick for all of his offensive talent.

Q: What 3 players in this draft do you NOT want the Celtics to pick at all cost? -- craziness@analltimehigh

A: Honestly, there isn't one right now. I don't really like Dario Saric that much, but I also haven't seen enough film of him as I have other players. For all the knocks on Kyle Anderson for being "slow," I think the same can be said about Saric. But since he's an International prospect, there is that "mystery" factor about him. As for the other two, I guess I would lean towards players that just aren't a fit based on Boston's needs. That would mean someone like Tyler Ennis or Elfrid Payton.

Q: If Jusuf and Gordon are both available? Who you taking? -- El Celtico

A: Aaron Gordon. I think he could be the steal of the draft if he somehow slips all the way down to the 7th or 8th pick. His defense is extraordinary (ignore the stats) and his offense could come with time. The main concern is his free throw percentage, and that's about it. Jusuf Nurkic is a nice big man with great potential, but I much prefer Gordon.

Q: I would be happy if our two picks turned out to be MSU guys, Harris and Payne, but it may require moving Sully or Kelly O in the process. What do you think? -- Footey

A: I like Adreian Payne a lot, but I don't think he's a fit considering the guys in front of him. Both Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger probably have higher upside, though Payne really took his game to another level this season by adding the three-pointer. As for Gary Harris, he's one of my favorite players in the draft, but I don't think he makes a lot of sense unless the team gets rid of Avery Bradley. If that were the case, then he makes perfect sense.

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