The Boston Celtics added to their collection of versatile swings by selecting SMU star Semi Ojeleye with the 37th pick in the NBA Draft. He joins Jayson Tatum in this Celtics rookie class after a draft day trade failed to materialize during the first round.
Pronounced Shimmy OH-jel-ay, he brings power, a 40.5” vertical off two feet and one of the best spot up games in the NCAA. Ranked 20th on the Draft Express top 100 and 31st in The Ringer draft guide, the 22-year-old can provide immediate energy as a three-and-D swing in the mold of Jae Crowder.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge was surprised to see Ojeleye fall to them all the way at 37.
“Yeah, we were very excited that he was still there for us. We’re big fans. He’s a great kid, has a great work ethic. Again, very high character.”
He is not only composed entirely of leadership material, but he has a skill set that is crucial to padding a playoff rotation. He ranked first in the NCAA in pick-and-pop spot up efficiency at 2.19 PPP per DraftExpress and consistently attacks fours off the bounce for emphatic above the rim finishes in traffic.
“He can shoot and we needed a guy like him,” Ainge said. “Sometimes when we didn’t have a guy like Jae Crowder, it got thin at those positions. And he gives us more depth, a 245-pound body that can make threes.”
Semi started at Duke, but transferred to SMU after a season and a half of minimal playing time. He became a star there, leading SMU to a 30-5 record last year before suffering an upset loss to USC in the first round on a late game-winning three. Semi played all but one minute with game-highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds.
He began the workout season this spring projected to be a second rounder, but flew up the mock drafts over the last few weeks. His physical dominance and mature age in a draft that had more freshman selected in the first round than any draft in total stood out.
In the first season of the two-way contract, it will be interesting to see if he is stuck with one of those deals, considering the Celtics have previously offered top of the market deals to second round picks Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson in the previous two years.
CelticsBlog asked Ainge if he has discussed the possibility of a two-way deal with his second round picks.
“We’re not sure yet. Haven’t started those negotiations. We’ve had a preliminary talks with guys as the draft was going on, but we’ll determine it in the next week or two.”
But the new tool will prove crucial to keeping players who could stick in the NBA but previously fled overseas to earn a solid contract. When CelticsBlog asked Ainge if he sees late second rounders being more willing to take a two-way deal with their team than test the market, he sees a win-win in the end.
“Most players would prefer an NBA contract as opposed to a two-way contract, but there’s only a certain amount of jobs in the NBA and so many players. Two-way contracts are great now, with better circumstances.”
Ainge credited the NBPA for negotiating the expanded rosters that allows the league to keep more competitive talent stateside.
“The Players Association did a fantastic job of spreading the wealth and TV money, and now guys can play in the D-League and make real money. A great opportunity. Obviously, guys want an NBA contract and always will, but guys can now get a two-way contract instead of playing in a foreign country.”