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 and Picks #4-7 are right 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’re going to be closing out the top ten with Picks #8-10.
#8 Mikal Bridges
Sam Sheehan: We’ll start today with Mikal Bridges, the apex upperclassmen of this draft and a guy who seems custom built to be the fifth starter on a good team. Bridges is a guy who has few real weaknesses besides his age, and he figures to be able to step into an NBA role right away. This is why he’s most often linked to the two playoff teams at the top of the draft in Cleveland (Nets pick) and Philadelphia (Lakers Pick). Tim Tebow fans will be happy to know that Bridges is coming off an NCAA championship, so there’s ample opportunity to say “this kid is a winner” or “he understands what it takes to win.”
Bridges attended the combine, but didn’t get measured, which means that his rumored 7’2” wingspan remains a legend for now, but he’s clearly a very long wing. Bridges isn’t a great creator, but he can attack close outs well, can make the right play, and shoot the hell out of the ball with 51.4 FG%/43.5 3P%/85.1 FT% shooting splits on a big 23.1% USG for the top team in college basketball. Most seem to think that Bridges will succeed at the next level, the question is how high can you justify taking a player whose ceiling might be Trevor Ariza?
Alex Kungu: You hit it right on the head when it comes to the upside. Bridges is the ’Honey Nut Cheerios’ of this draft; you know exactly what you’re getting. Nothing more, nothing less. He was one of the few players blessed with playing in Villanova’s offense that was oozing with spacing so we actually got a look at how he profiles in the NBA. I love that he’s a shooter that can shoot in any type of situation whether it’s on the move or spotting up. He’s maintenance so he can fit on just about any roster. His length profiles him well as a perimeter defender though his slim frame could make it a problem against small ball 4’s. What he loses in upside, he gains in tangible transferability of a prime NBA role. Having that type of switchy spacer with a high IQ on a rookie deal is probably worth the lottery pick investment. What say you?
SS: Halfway through May, I said his floor was Joe Harris, his likely outcome was Ariza, and his upside was Khris Middleton. That’s excellent value in the 8-10 pick range of the draft, and he makes a lot of sense for teams that plan to be making playoff pushes next year. Because we did these boards specific to the Celtics and their needs, I personally had him at #10. That’s because I think it’s going to be harder for Mikal to find time in the next couple of years, and he doesn’t have the outrageous upside guys like Porter and Doncic do. You can’t really ever have too many wings, but the Celtics are one of the only teams in the NBA that are threatening to do just that. He’s just such a godsend for teams like the Sixers or a Cleveland team that returns LeBron, so I can’t see a way the Celtics come away with him in the draft, given those valuations.
AK: Yeah, he’s in a weird limbo where he’s maybe not as valuable to the Celtics due to the depth and he’s super valuable for the teams that would be in position to draft him based on what you said above. In a lottery filled with high upside players with questionable flaws, Bridges feels like safest pick of the litter outside of JJJ.
SS: I’d agree with that. I also think that the talk of a “low ceiling” is a bit much. Khris Middleton is a great player! You crushed it on Draft Night if you come home with that guy at the 8th or 9th pick. Given I don’t think Bridges ever gets to that level, but he projects as a guy who is going to be a good starter for good teams in the league for a long time. It’s not flashy, but it’s there. Given his age, where he expects to fall in the draft, and the Celtics’ personnel though, I don’t see much of a path for him to get to the Celtics.
#9 Miles Bridges
SS: Next we have Miles Bridges, a Michigan State forward who is one of the most interesting prospect in the draft in my opinion. Bridges is a skilled forward who has the tools perfectly made to play switching defenses and as a lifeline in weak side scrams. He’s an outstanding finisher, particularly driving close-outs. While the passing isn’t quite there as far as making reads on the drive, it’s a good sign that the thing he probably does best is a clearly translatable skill for a forward. He’s got a strong frame and can battle on switches although his length isn’t great. He was a good shooter at Michigan State off of the catch, but probably won’t be a guy you run pin-downs for at the next level.
What I like most about Miles is he’s sort of an offensive balm. Much like how Marcus Smart and Andre Iguodala help on the defensive end, Miles has a lot of tools to get quality looks for himself on units that might be struggling to put the ball in the hoop. He’s a Moreyball offensive player, but also doesn’t project to need high usage. On team like the Celtics that got hurt by this in second units, I think he’s an excellent fit.
AK: I like Miles Bridges game. I love that he has a grown man’s body which makes me confident he can withstand an 82-game season from the jump. I don’t think he has an electric first step, but he’s pretty good moving off-ball and turned himself into a good lob target. I’m a little higher on his shot and think he can shoot on spotting up or on the move, I see him as a guy who could actually be a pin down guy. Another underrated part about his game is he’s a very good rebounder for his position and that usually translates to the next-level. It bodes well for his ability to survive playing the small-ball 4.
SS: The negatives for Miles are that the defensive effort came and went, but (similar to Mikal), he was also the lead man on very good team, and I agree with the experts who think he might be able to lock in at more of regular rotational role. He’s 20-years-old, making him the elder to many of the other players we’ve previously discussed, but I really think there’s a lot to like here in terms of his ability to to fit in today’s league. With some of the other players we’ve discussed, I’ve had trouble seeing where they fit into the league, but I could see two or three paths for Miles. He could be the rich man’s (slightly smaller) version of Marcus Morris. His upside is even higher than that, and I’m absolutely in love with his versatility, especially on this Celtics team. For some context, I had him #7 which was higher than anyone else in our selection process, but by the same token, few had him much lower than this. There’s just a lot to like here.
What do you think of the criticism that he’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” guy and that that could catch up to him at the NBA-Level?
AK: He’s instantly going to be a great rebounder. His jump in FT% (68.5 to 85.3) is an indicator that his shooting is real and probably a little better than the percentages suggest. Add that on to his off-ball ability as a cutter and I think even if you want to say he’s a “master of none” player he does enough of the things you want well for what he profiles as that it might not even matter.
SS: As far the fit on the Celtics, I think he’d be a great fit, but the Celtics would probably run into the same problems that we’ve discussed with many of the other wing prospects. I do think that if his rebounding would allow him to play a bit bigger than he is, and if he could credibly play as a small-ball four, he could really help a lot of teams, the Celtics included, and could be an heir to the Marcus Morris minutes. Miles seems to have more of a draft range than some of these other prospects we’ve discussed, and it’s possible that he’s a trade up target if he slides out of the lottery. Outside of that though, I think his lack of an apparent high ceiling might limit what Ainge would give up for him.
AK: For sure, it’s unfortunate too because with the creators Boston has, Bridges would be the perfect complimentary piece with his off-ball movement and shooting ability. Similar to the other Bridges, he may just end up being too valuable for anyone in position to draft him to give up the potential of such a versatile wing on a rookie contract.
#10 Collin Sexton
SS: To close the first third of our big board we have Collin Sexton, an Alabama PG prospect who possesses elite confidence and could potentially be one of the great PG defenders in the league. I’ll say up front that I’m the lowest on Sexton of anyone from the staff that was polled. I think a lot of the criticism that someone could have angled at De’Aaron Fox last draft can be reapplied here. Sexton drew fouls in droves and he’s got good handles and good ability to get to the rim. However, he’s a wild passer and his shooting percentages were not great. That said, his shot selection was all over the place and his FT% projects him to be a better shooter than that.
However, it’s absolutely brutal in today’s NBA to be a PG who can’t shoot great, is wild passing the ball, and can only guard a maximum of 2 positions (and I’m being charitable there). We saw with Avery Bradley that PG defensive specialists don’t do much in today’s league, and Marcus Smart’s (admittedly historically bad) shooting greatly impacts his value, as we are going to see during this restricted free agency for him. The league is just so deep at PG, even with the possible upside, I just don’t think he’s a guy you want to be taking this early.
AK: I’m such a huge believer in Collin Sexton because I truly believe that the passion he brings in the game raises the energy of those around him. He truly wants to rip your head off and it comes off and it seeps into his game in good and bad ways. The good, he’s a tenacious on-ball defender that with his combination of length and lateral quickness should be able to contribute on that end right away. He’s a strong finisher who can finish with both hands and isn’t afraid to go at the chest of bigs, and though his shooting percentage from three isn’t great he’s shown ability to hit the shot and there’s a world where he develops it at an average level.
On the flip side, a lot of his negatives come from his ambition as a shooter and lack of balance as a floor general. He forces too many shots and didn’t trust his teammates enough. So the question becomes whether you think he can harness some of the rough edges around his game and based on his age (19) and commitment as a gym rat I’m willing to bet he can develop in that area.
SS; To add to your point, point guards also develop very slowly outside of the truly elite guys. Guys like Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker took a little bit of time to get their feet underneath them, and generally the first two years are gonna be trouble for a point guard no matter what. What I am concerned with, when it comes to Colin is, “what’s the chance this guy can be in the rotation for a championship team?” I think almost every other guy we’ve discussed to this point has an answer that you don’t have to squint too hard at. With Sexton, I’m less sure, barring a lot of massive improvements. Against the better, stronger, and smarter bigs and defenses of the NBA, I worry that he might struggle to get to the rim like he did in school. The fact that the shot selection was less Steph Curry and more “guy replying ‘hey’ to an Instagram that Emily Ratajkowski posted.” There’s a fine line between confidence and JR Smith, and I’m worried that when things get tough, Sexton might stay wild with that shooting. If it’s not improved, it could get tough out there for him.
AK: I think that depends on why you believe the shot selection was what it was. Watching Alabama, I felt that there was a burden on him to be a scorer and at just about every level he has been asked to put the ball in the bucket for his team. I’m not as concerned about his ability to get to the rim because he’s a really good athlete and his strong ability to draw fouls is something I think can translate to the next level. Point guards do develop slowly though, and I think he’s someone who needs to do a better job of letting plays develop and being more patient. As of today, he’s a streaky shooter with iffy shot selection and limited creation ability for others. It’s all a matter of how much you believe in his foundation to improve on this area.
SS: I will say, the swagger that he brings reminds me a lot of my observed deity in Marcus Smart, and it does seem like a bad bet to bet against those guys. Parts of the Celtic media sphere seem to think Kyrie Irving is a hazard to leave his role as alpha dog on the Eastern Conference Favorite to bolt to New York where he will have a chance to play under James Dolan and envelopes that Joakim Noah’s checks are mailed out in. I’m not someone who is concerned with that, but if you are I could see thinking that Sexton would be a fit. Also if you think Terry Rozier and/or Marcus Smart won’t be on the team soon, grooming an heir apparent ball handler in Sexton would seem to be a good idea. That said, I just think he’ll go way too high and out of Danny’s price range for this to have much of a shot at happening.
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.