The NCAA tournament reveals true talent; especially NBA talent. Boston's own James Young solidified his spot in the draft due to his strong tournament performance. This year, the bracket consists of a handful of young teams. Many of which have draft prospects that the Celtics should keep their eye on.
Stanley Johnson, Freshman, Arizona
To give you a perspective on Stanley Johnson's talent, he is the leading scorer on the fifth best team in the country...and yeah....he is a freshman. Arizona is a two-seed in the West bracket (a bracket that consists of teams like Wisconsin, UNC, and Baylor), and they are labeled to be the team that can take down the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. He is averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Johnson is a SG/SF type player standing at 6-7 and he's still growing. He can score from behind the arc, he can create his own shot, and he can create for others. On defense, he is notorious for being lockdown. Johnson can guard up to three positions in college, thanks to his intriguing size. However, that will surely change in the pros. Johnson projects to be a solid two way player in the NBA, one that can score on one end and guard the other team's best wing player.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Junior, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein has displayed an advanced skill-set in his third year at Kentucky. He has been one of the best defenders in the NCAA, able to guard opponents all over the floor. His height, length, and instincts allow him to effectively and consistently protect the rim, and his athleticism and quickness allow him to switch onto speedy guards out of the pick and roll when necessary. His offense is very limited, without a great deal of growth over his college career. The majority of his buckets are putbacks or finishes at the rim. Additionally, his defensive rebounding numbers have been suboptimal, but that is an area of his game that can be definitively improved, given his present attributes. Cauley-Stein projects as a defensive anchor in the mold of Tyson Chandler. Regardless of whether he reaches the level of the current Mavericks Center, his floor is as an effective rim-protector, who can run the floor and finish at the rim.
Justise Winslow, Freshman, Duke
Justise Winslow is a similar player to Stanley Johnson. He too is a freshman, 6-7, and an excellent two way player. At Duke, Winslow has been the player that gives it his all 100 percent of the time, especially on defense. That tenacity ultimately translates to steals, and Winslow had six of them in a game against Wake Forest. He averages 12.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds. The most intriguing side to Justise (besides defense) is his perimeter scoring and knowledge for the game. He averages 39.6 percent on his three point shots, second on his team, and adds spacing to Duke's offense. Where Winslow does need work on is his free throw shooting. He averages 61 percent from the stripe, which is easily correctable. If he does get his percentage up, I can see Winslow thriving on drawing fouls.
Myles Turner, Freshman, Texas
Myles Turner boasts an incredibly high ceiling as a combination of rim protection and long range shooting potential. Turner is currently recording 2.7 blocks per game, in an average of only 22.5 minutes. His length and timing lead to an abundance of rejections on a consistent basis. He is shooting 46% from the floor this year, and 27.9% from three, and has shown a willingness to fire away from long range, even when cold. While these numbers are hardly astounding, they do demonstrate that Turner could eventually become a serviceable stretch-4 or stretch-5. Ultimately, that's where the gangly big man's appeal comes from - his potential. With his lack of athleticism and his inconsistent deep shot, Turner looks to be a 2 or 3 year project, but one that could eventually yield impressive results.
Devin Booker, Freshman, Kentucky
Booker is the second leading scorer on the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. The freshman has been as valuable as anyone to Kentucky's pursuit of perfection. He is averaging 10.5 points per game and shooting the ball at an impressive clip, 42% from the three point line. Booker is 6-6 so he is a decent size to play shooting guard His NBA career depends on one thing: can he make shots? He has proven that he can shoot, but can he get his shot off against an NBA sized player? Booker is just 18 years old and is unproven in many aspects of his game. His tournament performance will decide his stock.
Kelly Oubre, Freshman, Kansas
Kelly Oubre is a small forward playing for the Kansas Jayhawks, who flashes high-level athleticism and scoring instinct. He is averaging 9.3 points and 5 rebounds on the season, on only 20.9 minutes per game. He projects as an offensive-minded 3 at the next level, who can put the ball on the floor or fire away from deep (he's shooting 36% from deep for the year). However, he needs to improve his consistency. During the second half of the season, he had games when he scored more than 20 points, and games where he scored 0. If he can find a way to be successful night in and night out, and if he can use his athleticism to play solid defense, he will definitely be able to carve out a role in the NBA as a complimentary scorer. I would project his ceiling as a smaller Rudy Gay/Jeff Green type of player.
Bobby Portis, Sophomore, Arkansas
Bobby Portis is the current SEC Player of the Year and the reason the Arkansas Razorbacks are a fifth seed in the tournament. Portis is 6-11 averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. The big man is shooting 46 percent from behind the arc and happens to make most of his shots when he has space. On defense, Portis has the right fundamentals and can be a powerhouse at times. He's got all the tools to be an impactful NBA player: the size, the talent, the tenacity, the fundamentals. Portis did struggle against Kentucky in the SEC Championship, but he will get another shot to prove he can play with the best. If Arkansas gets out of the first round, they will likely play UNC and then Wisconsin.
Kevin Looney, Freshman, UCLA
Kevon Looney is a 3/4 tweener currently putting up averages of 11.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals, and .9 blocks in 31 minutes per game. He presents a versatile skill set that makes him a possible mismatch machine at the next level. His 6'9" size and rebounding instincts combine with his 45.8% 3-point shooting to offer an enticing package at either forward position, and his defensive counting numbers reinforce that notion at the less glamorous end of the floor. The problem attached to Looney is that he hasn't displayed much of an offensive post game, and his inconsistent scoring in the PAC-12 tournament is certainly a mark against him as well. While he may not be able to immediately contribute significantly to an NBA team, he may be a solid and versatile two-way contributor a couple of years down the line, in the mold of Lamar Odom.
Each of these prospects can help the Celtics take another step forward in their development and improvement. Their skill sets and potential will fill various needs within the roster, plugging holes, and making Boston stronger. Stay tuned, as we bring you analysis of their performances in each round of the big dance, and determine how well they are playing, and how well they would fit with next year's Celtics team. Let the 2015 Celtics Prospect Tourney Watch begin!