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The way too early 2019 Celtics draft guide (part 1)

Boston could have as many as four picks in the first round this year, here’s how they should navigate it.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the teams Championship aspirations, the Celtics still have some dividends left from their basket of draft picks which could lead to as many as FOUR first round draft picks. Despite the teams struggle with depth as it is, it’s important to remember that with big time tax payments on the horizon and player like Morris, Rozier, Theis, Yabusele, and Baynes all hitting market in a year or two, being able to find cheap, cost-controlled talent is important for long-term success and you don’t need to look much further than the East-leading Toronto Raptors who have built one of the deepest benches in the league on the backs of players like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, and Fred VanVleet.

If the draft started today, the Celtics would have Picks 6, 14, 24, and 26. ESPN released its latest mock draft and with it had the Celtics selecting Indiana’s Romeo Langford with the 6thpick (via SAC), Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura with the 14thpick (via MEM), Iowa’s Talen Horton-Tucker with the 24thpick (via LAC), and Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard with the 26thpick. Obviously, despite the need to hit on draft talent, brining in four rookies is A LOT and chances are that if this situation played out in reality the team would either look for a trade partner to push some of these picks down the line or look for some draft and stash prospects they can have other leagues develop while they compete. But before we get into the individual prospects themselves, it’s important to get a more holistic approach to what the Celtics mindset would be when picking a prospect this June.

Celtics Draft Philosophy questions

Right now, the Celtics are already over the cap by about 4 million and though they’ll have until the Moratorium to get under that number, it will only be temporary after they re-sign Irving and deal with Horford’s contract situation. That’s not even including Marcus Morris Sr. who has suddenly became a key piece in the Celtics rotation and may have risen his value high enough that Boston would be willing to compete for his services this summer. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but basically the team has a lot of tax payments on the way and how much will be determined on not just what they pay their free agents, but also the price of their draft selections. Rookie scale contracts have gone up substantially and depending on how high the Kings pick ends up, the Celtics could be paying as high as $6,088,000 for a rookie and that’s not including the other selections that could have the Celtics paying close to (a taxed) 10 million dollars in rookie salaries during the first year for players who may not even be able to crack the rotation. So beyond the normal play time issues, the potential financial hit will make the Celtics think twice if they are in a position to make multiple first round picks.

The other inquiry is the teams draft philosophy with a roster filled with young talent. There’s a common debate when it comes to draft philosophy that asks whether a team should draft for fit or need. I think that’s a bit misguided because the two are not exclusive. In most cases, for a prospect to reach their best outcome requires a situation that is conducive to his growth. For example, let’s look at Sixers guard Landry Shamet. Shamet was seen by most as a late first to early second round talent that would need time to develop because of his small frame which raised some concerns about his defensive and finishing ability. Fast-forward 20 games into the season and Shamet is shooting 39.6% from three on 4.8 attempts and has become a key cog in the Sixers rotation. Contrast that to Jerome Robinson of the Clippers who despite the Clippers taking a swing on late in the lottery pick has been unable to find a consistent role in the Clippers clogged up backcourt rotation. Sixers drafted a player they knew fit into what they needed from complimentary pieces and its gotten the best out of him. That’s not to say that Shamet is guaranteed to have a better career than Robinson, but it’s an example about how the situation can bring out the worst and the best out of a prospect. With that in mind, Boston will need to think about where they need help and factor that into how that influences the upside of a prospect.

Another thing the Celtics will have to think about is analyzing the first vs. the second contract players. Said another way, the team will need to decide how much they’ll value projects vs. more ready made prospects. This kind of ties into the fit vs. best prospect question but frames it in a different way to that takes timelines into account.

Overall, the Celtics will need to balance getting a prospect who can address an immediate need that also has a high upside. Now, let’s get into some avenues the team could explore with its selections.

The Al Horford Replacement

Al Horford is 32 and though his game will most likely age gracefully due to his reliance on IQ and less on athleticism, things happen and it would be great for the Celtics to use one of those high selections to proactively start looking for someone to groom. Not surprisingly, there is nobody in the draft who can do everything that Horford can do, but there are some prospects who can bring in some of those qualities. Here are a few:

Jontay Porter (Missouri)

You won’t hear this name very often since he tore his ACL before the season but prior to that Porter was on the bubble as a lottery guy. His IQ showcased well on both ends where he was able to be a force in the post defensively and gave some glimpses as a guy who could survive on the perimeter and offensively he showed an ability to shoot off the move and create for others out of the post. The issue with Porter is that he came into last year’s combine extremely out of shape and with questions about his overall athleticism looming into this year, an ACL injury does not put him on track to answer for his biggest criticism.

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga)

Hachimura isn’t much of a secret anymore. The Japanese native has gotten tons of NBA love recently as he’s showcased an ability to rebound well, grab and go, attack the rim, and defend across the perimeter which at 6’8, 234ibs with good reach is going to attract a lot of NBA eyes. He’s still raw as a shooter, his technique defensively is raw and sometimes he allows his ball hawking ability to get in the way of playing solid weak side defense. He’ll be 21 by the time he gets drafted which makes him a bit old for a rookie, but as an international prospect who hasn’t been playing the game for that long it’s not as much of an indictment on him as it is for more domestic products. With all that being said, his progression this year will most likely dictate how high or low he is on the lottery spectrum.

Sekou Doumbouya (Limoges)

Doumbouya is better in theory than reality at this moment but the 18-year old international prospect is just oozing with potential. At 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan Doumbouya has shown elite athleticism for his size and has already shown grab and go potential with some flashes as a face up scorer. Defensively, he has the lateral quickness and anticipation to in theory be a 1-5 defender who can protect the rim. However, Doumbouya has an inconsistent jumpshot though the mechanics are good, his ball-handling is still super loose, and he can rely too much on his athletic gifts defensively which leads to bad lapses of losing his man. He has the foundation to become a scary 6’8 Forward in the Pascal Siakam mold, but as of now he’s still very much a project and could make for a nice draft and stash option.

In part 2 of the draft guide I’ll look at options for knockdown shooting and sparkplugs.

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