In our previous section, we went through some players that could begin to be groomed into Al Horford’s role. In this installment we’ll look at some perimeter option that could help bolster a Celtics offense that has left much to be desired.
The Celtics usually prioritize versatility, toughness, and defensive upside when drafting players and they haven’t had much luck when they haven’t (pouring one out for R.J Hunter and James Young), but with the amount of versatile wing pieces that exist in this draft, the Celtics could use the opportunity to cash in one that can play off his teammates in a way that a player like Rozier hasn’t. Here are some options the Celtics could look at.
Cameron Reddish (Duke)
Reddish’s stock is a little volatile in the sense that some scouts believe he’s the most talented player in the draft while others have him at the border of the top 5 or lower. Duke’s ecosystem doesn’t do him much favors using him as more of a floor spacer and not allowing him to showcase some of his playmaking ability as a lead ball-handler that made him such an intriguing prospect at 6’8. Reddish has a way of gliding on the court and not being sped up by the environment around him. He’s not a super athlete with great burst or an electric first step, but he’s able to use hesitations, and heightened spatial awareness to get to the rim (though finishing ahas been a bit of an issue).
On the flip side, he’s a very raw prospect on the defensive end where he falls prey to ball watching and hasn’t shown a consistent effort of getting down in a stance and keeping guys in front of him. That problem will most likely follow him to the next-level and will take the right coach and motivation to get him to use that 6’11 frame into creating havoc. From the Celtics perspective, Reddish could be a project worth taking on, his offensive potential could flourish in Boston’s free-flowing offense that would enable him to showcase some of his ability as a playmaker and shooting while the team would be the best equipped to help him make strides on the defensive end.
Nickiel Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech)
Alexander-Walker is starting to get a lot of NBA love as stat-stuffing big guard. Through his first five games, the 6’6 prospect is averaging 19.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals on 60.9 percent shooting from 2 and 40 percent from 3. Alexander-Walker’s biggest jump has been his increased on-ball activity where he’s shown legitimate playmaking ability out of the PnR and a fluid pull-up jumper that paints a player who may be able to create for himself. His ability to play at his own pace and his wiry frame will draw some comparisons to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but while Gilgeous-Alexander is more of pass-first oriented guard, Alexander-Walker’s primary goal is to find his own offense and at times that leads to tunnel vision when attacking the basket. He’s currently shooting 40% from three on 5 attempts and is shooting 92.3% from the FT line which is historically an indication of a players shooting upside.
On the defensive end, Alexander-Walker has shown a willingness to sit down and a stance and guard his position. Despite his smaller frame, his 6’9 wingspan gives him the potential to guard either backcourt position and smaller 3 and D wings. He’ll come into the league at 21 which is old for a prospect so the overall upside question will linger, but if you’re a team like Boston, it might not be a huge negative to get a versatile player who might only top out as a starter-level or high-end reserve prospect. The question will be making sure that he’s open to and able to play and be effective on or off-ball and that he’s just as comfortable shooting off the catch as he is off the dribble.
De’Andre Hunter (Virginia)
Hunter has done the rare thing of actually raising his stock by going back to school. The 6’8 wing is fresh off a ACC player of the week award after winning MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament where he averaged 19.3ppg, 7.7rpg, and 3.3apg. With an added offensive role, Hunter has risen his TS% from 58.4% to 68.8% and has boosted his AST% from 11.8 to 18.8. Hunter has started to make some ceiling-raising strides in Virginia by showing an awareness to find cutters from the post and shooters when he penetrates which was something that wasn’t a part of his game this time last year. Virginia even uses him as a screener for ball-handlers where he can leverage his catch and shoot ability or improving dribble penetration skills to keep defenses honest.
Defensively, he’s really good at getting skinny on screens, moving his feet laterally and uses his length well to shut off passing lanes. Truth be told, he’s probably going to be a lottery pick barring any major dips and is the type of player that has the ready-made skills that can help a playoff team now with the type of all-around upside that make him seem worthy of a big investment.
Another way the Celtics could go about filling the potential void of Rozier and maybe Morris is using a later round pick to grab a sparkplug scorer off the bench. *NOTE* this primarily an excuse to talk about my two favorite prospects in the draft.
Ky Bowman (Boston College)
Just about everyone in New England knows about Bowman so I’ll try not too go on too long about him, but the man is literally a walking bucket. In three seasons, Bowman has increased his scoring total every year and is now averaging 20.2ppg, 7.3rpg, 3.2apg and is shooting 36.8% from three on 6.3 attempts. Bowman is a strong athlete with a quick first step and ability to rise and finish in traffic. His size will put him at a bit of a disadvantage against bigger, stronger wings but he’s surprisingly active on the defensive end though he can get himself out of position chasing steals. Outside of size, the biggest knocks on Bowman are his size, defensive versatility, and ability to create for his teammates. If you’re a team that’s looking to find your point guard of the future, those concerns combined with his age (21) might give you pause, but if you’re a team like the Celtics with the intentions of drafting him and allowing him to play to his strengths, you could find yourself with the Allonzo Trier of the draft.
Carsen Edwards (Purdue)
Edwards is in the same mold as Bowman when it comes to projecting NBA roles. Bowman projects a little better because he applies his functional athleticism on the defensive end better but Edwards is every bit as much as scorer if not better than Bowman. The Purdue junior is currently averaging 25.3ppg including 41% from three on 10 attempts, but like Bowman, he’ll come into the draft as an older prospect (21). The question for both Bowman and Edwards are whether they can harness their elite ability to put the ball in the basket on smaller usage or does their talent only come through when they’re the focal point of the offense. You’ll hear a lot about things that both Edwards and Bowman can’t do, but any team that makes an investment in them should be doing so based on how they can utilize their talents rather than how they can mold them into other players.
The best case scenarios
We’ve already gone long enough and discussed a lot of interesting prospects, but in the event the Celtics get a top 2-3 pick here’s the short list of players that I’d consider home runs.
Zion Williamson (Duke)
Nassir Little (UNC)
Tools and foundation to become a modern two-way star at the wing position are there, has been underutilized at UNC thus far.
R.J Barrett (Duke)
There’s questions about his jumpshot, ability to make those around him better, and off-ball awareness on defensive end. However, he plays with a high motor and has such a strong group surrounding him that betting against him figuring it out would be foolish.