We polled CelticsBlog staffers to give their opinions on what they think the Celtics’ personal big board might look like, asking everyone to pretend they are Danny Ainge. Everyone
logged out of their Janos burner accounts gave their best impressions and made their picks. We compiled the results into one single big board, which we will be updating each day between now and the draft. Picks #1-3 can be found here. Alex Kungu and I (Sam Sheehan) will be discussing the picks, and what we might think the implications and thinking might be with each selection, including some additional thoughts from other CelticsBlog staffers.
Today, we will cover picks 4-7.
#4 Marvin Bagley
Sam Sheehan: Kicking off our second installment of the CelticsBlog Staff Big Board, we have Duke big man Marvin Bagley III. This is a little higher than I had him personally, but his high placement on others’ boards isn’t something that surprises me either. He’s an outrageous athlete, and it’s almost scary to see someone as big as Bagley move as fast as he does. In our section on Mo Bamba yesterday, we talked about the role of switching in today’s NBA and a big’s ability to contain. Those concerns aren’t there with Marvin, as he’s got that incredible quickness and could potentially be an elite switch guy at the next level. His incredibly high motor makes him a nightmare on the boards, and we’ve seen how guys like Tristan Thompson can change a playoff series. To me, the question for Bagley is pretty similar to the big question for Ayton. Can he figure out how to play good help defense at a NBA level?
Alex Kungu: I’m a lot more skeptical of Bagley on both ends of the court. Offensively, there’s no denying that his motor and athleticism will make him a double-double threat, he’s an elite offensive rebound with a quick second leap. But he also has no ability to finish going right, is a poor FT shooter (62.7%), isn’t comfortable shooting outside of 15-feet, and, though I think he has some dribbling ability, his feel for the game is suspect. He hasn’t shown a consistent ability to leverage that potential to get to the rim to open looks for his teammates.
On the defensive end, he’s an absolute train wreck. Yes, in a ‘low shot clock’ situation he can survive against perimeter guys for a few dribbles, but outside of that I don’t see where he provides value. He reacts super slow to pick and roll actions, has a poor understanding of spacing and angles and gives up penetration way too easily for someone with his tools. There’s also the question of his rim protection. Most have projected him as 5, but his limited feel on the defensive end make him a poor rim protector and, unlike on the offensive end, he has an inconsistent motor when it comes to defense. I see the foundation to be a dominating player, but i’m not sure I see the superstar appeal.
SS: I find myself nodding with a lot of what you are saying, but one also doesn’t have to strain their eyes that hard to see a place where Bagley improves some of this stuff. Even a slight improvement to some of these skills would really complement that overwhelming, elite athleticism he has. I think the dividing line with Bagley has to do with where you think the league will be. If you think the NBA is trending toward only having one big on the floor, it’s harder to see a fit for him. On the other, in a two big system, he would pair tremendously with a slower stretch big such as Kelly Olynyk, and could be a monstrous weakside shot blocker. Much like in our Ayton preview, I think this boils down to what kind of development you think the coaches and Bagley himself can push towards, because the tools are there. How would you see him fitting in with this Celtics roster?
AK: I think you hit it right on the head regarding the need for coaching and fit when it comes to projecting Bagley’s upside. On a team like Boston, I’d echo the same notes I had on Bamba in that how a player handles failure and disappointment is just as big of the analysis. This is especially true for the Celtics who don’t have many developmental minutes to spare. The mentorship of guys like Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford would be great for a player like Bagley and the C’s have so much around him that it would really help Bagley focus on the details of the game on both ends. But he’d also have to be okay with a lot of low minute nights where players like Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes are getting more minutes than him. If his motor when it comes to attacking the boards is translatable to his resiliency, he could be a strong fit in Boston.
SS: I have a harder time reading where exactly Bagley is going to slot into this draft just because he is such a wild card with his raw athleticism and fluidity. I could see him going as high as #2, but I could also see him dropping as low as #7. I think, were the latter to happen, trading up for Bagley is a much more realistic proposition than some of these other players we’ve been talking about, just because he is more of a gamble from a developmental standpoint. You brought up the Magic previously as a possible partner and target, and I think the same kind of Rozier-and-picks package fits here, should Orlando not be a fan of who’s left on the board. Do you see it being more difficult than that?
AK: This sounds weird because of how critical I’ve been on Bagley but I would go out if Orlando was looking to deal. I’d give up Rozier/Morris/#27/SAC pk for #6 (along with a salary like Shelvin Mack to match while $, but there’s also a Stevens connection). For all of Bagley’s flaws, I see the foundational stuff to where he can be a great player IF he’s in the perfect situation. Bagley on a bad team might just become an empty calorie double-double with impact numbers similar to Enes Kanter. In Boston, he can immediately be in a situation where attention to detail matters and he’ll quickly understand that he needs to buy in when he sees guys like Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, etc. doing the same. His feel is still a bit concerning, but I think a team that can allow him to learn slowly would be the best for him. Also, a few years from now he could just be the piece that could swing an Anthony Davis deal.
#5 Jaren Jackson Jr.
SS: Up next we have Jaren Jackson Jr. clocking in at the #5 spot. This is lower than many mocks have him and you and I both slotted him in at the #2, however, other staffers had him closer to this range. For the sake of equality, I’ll play the role of contrarian and go over the question marks. He’s got a thin frame (236 lbs.) and it’s easy to see him getting bullied at the next level. He’s got an odd shot that might not totally work at the next level and he struggled with boxing out at the college level. He can also get carried away chasing pump fakes, and when combined with his lack of strength, it’s easy to see him getting overwhelmed at the NBA level. What is it about JJJ that might have some NBA GM’s overlooking this stuff?
AK: People have put a premium on floor spacing and versatility and JJJ has been the poster child for that. He has such a breathtaking fluidity on the defensive end highlighted by his ability to switch all over the perimeter, his solid use of length, and his ability to protect the rim. Offensively he’s shown an ability to put the ball on the floor a little bit and get by slower defenders while also being able to be a strong spot-up shooter. The questions about his size and offensive rawness are all legitimate concerns, but at 18 and with his current skillset, it makes sense why a team would bank on him figuring it out with age and experience.
SS: He wowed during the measurable portions of the combine and there’s a growing feeling in the league reporting that Jackson might end up being a top target for some of these teams near the top of the draft. He measured out with the third largest wingspan in the draft, but, at under 6’10”, he is also shorter than other top, lanky bigs like Kristaps Porzingis. For the Celtics, do you see him as a project like Bagley or more of a plug-and-play guy?
AK: His limited offensive ability coupled with his small frame, below average rebounding, and foul-happy tendencies make him look like a project more than a plug-and-play. The foundation skills he has on both ends make me confident he’ll eventually be a good starter for a long period of time. The ingredients are there, he’s just another player that needs the right cook.
SS: Perhaps for a Celtics team that is currently in a championship window and is low on roster spots he’s not a perfect fit as that sort of a project big. It’s been a running theme as we try to splice out which of these top prospects has the best chance to reach their potential, but situation really does dictate just how these guy develop and how high their potential is. It’s hard for me to think of a better mentor for Jackson than Al Horford, who can tutor the young big (both verbally and through example) on exactly what it takes to be an effective big in today’s league. All this said, I think it’s pretty unrealistic that the Celtics end up with Jackson, as the NBA rumor mill seems to think that he’s a top target for many teams.
AK: Out of all the bigs going at the top of the lottery I’m most confident in JJJ’s floor more than anyone. The biggest question for teams taking a swing on him is whether he profiles more as a long-term rotation piece or a legitimate star.
#6 Wendell Carter Jr.
SS: The second Duke big, Wendell Carter came on strong at the end of the year and he has asserted himself in the conversation with these other dominant bigs at the top of the draft. In a lot of ways, Carter is sort of the inverse of Bagley, lacking the truly elite athleticism, but possessing a lot of the skill and polish. The way I see it, that generally gives a player a pretty high floor. I had Carter ahead of Ayton and Bagley on my own board simply because I think that he projects as a guy who is going to be a very solid defender. I’d say that Carter doesn’t have the ceiling of some of these other bigs, but we’ve seen how effective someone as steadily good as Al Horford can be in today’s league. I really think Carter could be a multi-time All-Star as a ceiling for him and, given his diverse skill set, I think that’s a winning (if not unflashy) pick.
AK: I feel like Bagley sticks out to “eye test” crowd more because he’s going to put up the box score numbers, but Carter bring more immediate team value that was completely overshadowed at Duke. I’ve seen and disagreed with a lot of the talk about Carter’s defensive versatility. He’s not as athletically gifted as Bagley, but he moves really well laterally and has great anticipation. The problem at Duke was the Bagley had such bad awareness defensively that Duke had to switch to zone to keep him on the floor and that limited the amount of tape we have of showing how much of a complete defender Carter is.
Offensively, Carter profiles well as an Al Horford-type who can score in the post, out of the pick and pop, and spotting up from three. I’d love to see how he can operate as decision-maker in the mid-post. The Horford comparisons make sense in certain aspects, but one of Horford’s best strengths is his passing ability. Freed from sharing the court with another big and with more spacing, I’d love to see how he moves the ball. Summer League has its warts, but that’s something we’ll be able to see very early on.
SS: That’s interesting, I always liked what I saw from his passing, and I could see him making even more strides in the open floors of the NBA. The fact that any time he squares up from deep, fans could yell ‘Tha Carter III’ makes him tantalizing enough prospect for me, and any in-game weaknesses would be offset by how fun that is. In all seriousness, think the fact that he rebounds so well is just another tally in his column and I just see him as a big that is tailor-made to play in today’s game. I feel like I’m taking a crazy pill when I see how low some people have him. Do you see a way that Carter could fail, specifically on this current Celtics squad?
AK: No. He’s just so smart and would not only be surrounded by great players, but be playing a role that the team is thin at so opportunity will be attainable. It would take an unforeseeable event for him to just fail.
SS: As far as attainability goes, Carter is a guy who could conceivably be on the board in the late lottery. If I’m the Celtics, and I could get him for one of these Rozier or Morris + picks packages, I’d take a serious look at it, considering how well someone like Carter would fit alongside the rest of the young core. I think Carter is one of those bigs who doesn’t need the ball to contribute, and if you think (as I do) that Jayson Tatum is the cornerstone of this young team, getting another running mate that won’t be as usage-heavy as Tatum projects to be would be invaluable. In a way, he might be the tidiest fit, draft-wise, for what the Celtics need.
#7 Michael Porter Jr.
SS: With our final prospect of the day, we will talk about probably the most boom-or-bust prospect in this class in Michael Porter Jr. He missed nearly all of his season with Missouri after undergoing back surgery, but rushed to return to the court and had some subpar outings before the season ended. Considered a top pick coming into the year, executives might not know what to make of Porter, perhaps split by his shaky play after returning from injury. He’s someone who is going to be relying heavily on his workouts and medical examinations to prove that he’s still an elite prospect. I’ll start with this: do you think that Michael Porter could be someone the Celtics target if he slides, given what that slide likely means with regard to his health?
AK: This is a bit tricky, but I’ll lean yes. Though I’m skeptical of the fit considering the depth at wing. At 6’11, Porter has some serious front court potential and could theoretically play all over the floor once he builds up some muscle mass. The biggest problem with Porter Jr. up to this point is there’s just not a lot of tape out on him. He was at one point the consensus #1 pick with some faint similarities to KD as a huge wing with some guard abilities to dribble and score. There’s been a few concerns about his ball-handling and his overall feel on either ends. But the tools and foundation to be a perfect modern wing are present.
SS: One of the things that stands out to me when I watch tape of him is how technically excellent his shot is for someone his size. As an enormous wing that’s deadly in transition, the sloppy comparison would probably be Ben Simmons. In actuality, Porter was much more of a true scoring wing in high school. He probably lacks the handle to be a primary type of ball handler, but he also looks to be able to get his shot off from anywhere, and has lot of potential on the defensive end. The problem is, as you said, there’s not much college tape on him due to how early his injury happened, and it’s tough to see how that high school potential is holding up. On an even more basic level, it’s hard to know how much his back affected him during his brief return to college ball (probably quite a bit) and what that means for his career going forward. He’s the guy who will get a GM fired for taking him or other GMs fired for not taking him. All this said I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “Danny Ainge is making calls” tweets if Porter drops below #6.
AK: A big part of that though is the injuries like you mentioned. Porter has reportedly been very selective with who he gives his medical information too and without it I’m not sure the Celtics can truly pitch to ownership that they should swing for him. But assuming all of that stuff does work out and they’re in position to get him, how do you think he fits on the roster? How do you create a role for him?
SS: That’s a good question and I’m not sure I have an answer. Similar to how I felt about a fully-realized Luka Doncic on the Celtics, I think I’m just too enamored with the fantasy to really think about the reality. On the one hand, it’s just not feasible to think that a healthy Porter could develop on a team that needs to find shots for Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. On the other, I’m thinking about the small lineups the Celtics could put on the floor when Horford rests with Porter at the 5 and drooling. Offensively, not even the most disciplined defenses would stand a chance against that lineup. It just seems so trivial to leave a possible All-Star floating out there because of fit, but you’ve also got to get these guys on the floor. Would you consider moving the Kings pick if he were available at 7?
AK: Even assuming the team got his medical information I’m still not sure I’d make that type of investment. Generally speaking, it’s not smart to turn away talent because of present fit, but when it comes to Porter, the fit isn’t great and it’s not very clear if his talent outweighs that. But if we know anything about Ainge and co. it’s how much they value versatile, switchy players and Porter Jr. fits that profile.
Check in through Draft Night, as we will continue to update the board and reveal our best picks heading into next Thursday’s NBA Draft on June 21st, 2018.