The Celtics are scheduled to pick at numbers 6 and 17 overall in this year’s draft. Chances are they’ll have essentially no shot at landing Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, or even Australia’s Dante Exum. But that’s O.K., because team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has always been one to keep his options open. So far this summer, Ainge has brought in a total of 44 prospects for pre-draft workouts – ranging from top tier to "who’s that?" talent levels. Of course, only a handful of them will be worth looking at with the sixth pick but, come mid-round, it’s anybody’s guess as to where Ainge will go with the selection.
With that said, here’s a look at some of the most notable prospects that had the opportunity to show Ainge and the Celtics what they’re made of.
Noah Vonleh - Indiana, PF
Although he won’t turn 19 until late August, Noah Vonleh has exactly the kind of skill set that teams look for in today’s version of the power forward. He flashed a promising low post game in his one year at Indiana, showing the ability to score with either hand when given the opportunity. Vonleh also shot 48.5 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14, which proves that he has the potential to become an effective floor spacer at the next level. Add in the fact that he has a 7’5 wingspan that he uses to block shots and control the boards with and you’ve got an all-around great player in the making.
Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State, PG
Marcus Smart is arguably the most NBA-ready prospect in the 2014 class from both a physical and mental standpoint. At 6’3, 227 pounds, Smart can use his size and strength to bully his way to the bucket for either two points or a quick kick out to an open shooter. Defensively, he’s a menace, having averaged three steals per game in both his freshman and sophomore years at Oklahoma State. While some may point to "the shove" as a lack of discipline, others attribute it to his extremely competitive nature. Smart is a natural leader at the point guard position but he’ll have to improve his perimeter game if he wants to reach his full potential.
Aaron Gordon - Arizona, PF
Aaron Gordon is even younger than Vonleh, as he won’t turn 19 until the middle of September, but that just means he has a whole lot of room to grow. Right now, Gordon relies on his natural athletic ability to score on one end while locking down his man on the other. However, despite his surprising 50 and 36 percent shooting clips from the field and long distance, respectively, the former Wildcat must work diligently on fixing his shooting form. He only managed to convert on 42 percent of his free throw attempts last season and that just isn’t anywhere near good enough. Gordon will still be reasonably successful during his rookie year but it won’t be until he polishes his offensive game when he really shows us what kind of player he can be at the next level.
Julius Randle - Kentucky, PF
Julius Randle is a brute on the low block, using his incredible strength to move defenders whenever he pleases. But if he wants to thrive in the NBA he’s going to have to add some range on his jumper. Last year he shot just 16.7 percent from behind the three-point line – granted he only took 18 shots from that range – and for someone of his height, he won’t always be able to rely on his ability to bully defenders. Randle also isn’t going to "wow" you defensively. His 6’9 height and 7’0 wingspan aren’t exactly measurements that you’d normally associate with an elite rim protector. Look for Randle to play in a secondary scorer’s role in the Association while being hidden on the other end.
Doug McDermott - Creighton, SF
Doug McDermott is an elite scorer with a jumper that he can make good on from almost anywhere on the floor. He shot over 40 percent from long distance in all four years at Creighton all while developing a solid back-to-the-basket game where he’s mastering fadeaways and turn arounds. McDermott won’t help you out much defensively as he lacks the foot speed to keep up with quicker players. That said, though, McDermott is a lot more athletic than people think. If "Dougie McBuckets" can get to the point where he’s serviceable on the defensive end and he continues to add to his offensive repertoire then he should enjoy a long career in the NBA.
Zach LaVine - UCLA, PG/SG
Zach LaVine is an interesting prospect to say the least. He didn't get much playing time as a freshman at UCLA but when he did manage to find the floor he showed us a glimpse of his elite athleticism and knock down three-point jumper. His freak of nature hops were later confirmed when he recorded a 41.5" vertical at the NBA Draft Combine. He then bested that while working out for the Los Angeles Lakers, possibly jumping an unheard of 46 inches high on his max vert. LaVine isn't going to be a big hit right out of the gate but whatever team ends up drafting him will definitely be glad they snagged him a couple years from now. Keep him on your radar.
Shabazz Napier - UConn, PG
There are a handful of players listed on the table below that will probably get drafted before Shabazz Napier. But considering that Napier is from Roxbury, MA - making him a fun option for the Celtics - his situation is very similar to Vonleh's. The biggest knock on Napier right now is his age. He played all four years at UConn so he won't grab the same attention that an 18-19 year old prospect with his type of skill set normally would. However, Napier is ready to step in and play now. He's an excellent leader as a floor general and he can take over a game and score in bunches if you need him to. It's doubtful that he goes any higher than 17 or 18 overall as most experts expect him to be selected in the mid to late twenties.
Nik Stauskas - Michigan, SG
Prior to this past season, Nik Stauskas was largely thought of as just a knockdown shooter. However, he came back to Michigan for his sophomore year and proved to a lot of folks that he's a capable distributor with sneaky athleticism. The Canadian sniper was able to maintain his 44 percent clip from beyond the arc in his second year all while leading the Wolverines in assists per game. Unfortunately, the team selecting Stauskas isn't going to be looking for him to take over as a facilitator. Instead, he'll be asked to knock down jumpers off the catch and shoot or coming off screens, at least until he improves his ability to get to and finish at the rim. Defensively, he'll most likely struggle. He doesn't have the type of foot speed needed to keep up with NBA caliber competition at his position just yet.
P.J. Hairston - Texas Legends, SG
If there's one thing P.J. Hairston is capable of, it's providing his team with instant offense. He averaged over 21 points per game in the D-League this past year and there's no reason why his game can't translate well over to the big leagues. He also has potential defensively due to his strength, length, and hard nosed style of play. He may have had his fair share of troubles in the past but it seems like most organizations aren't too concerned about it.
Elfrid Payton - Louisiana-Lafayette, PG
Don't sleep on Elfrid Payton. He had a terrific year in 2013-14 averaging roughly 20 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists per game. He isn't the most effective shooter around the perimeter but he has shown promise. As he gets more reps in and works with professional coaching he should have no problem strengthening that aspect of his game. Payton is also a great defender (I guess it comes with the last name). He took home the Lefty Driesell award this past year for being named the country's Defensive Player of the Year. As of now, his ceiling appears to be reasonably high, one you would associate with a mid to late lottery pick. If he can improve his jumper while tuning up the rest of his game then he could end up being a huge steal in this year's draft.
|Keith Appling||Michigan State|
|Dave Dudzinski||Holy Cross|
|Cleanthony Early||Wichita State|
|Tim Frazier||Penn State|
|Gary Harris||Michigan State|
|Jermaine Marshall||Arizona State|
|Daniel Miller||Georgia Tech|
|Eric Moreland||Oregon State|
|Adreian Payne||Michigan State|
|Kendrick Perry||Youngstown State|
|Victor Rudd||South Florida|
|Tyler Stone||Southeast Missouri|
|Akeem Williams||UMass Lowell|
|Chaz Williams||UMass Amherst|
|T.J. Warren||NC State|
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