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.
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 checking out guys we think would be good value for the Celtics in the late lottery.
#11 Trae Young
Sam Sheehan: We’ll kick thing off today with the selection that will undoubtedly be the one that gets me hollered at in the comments: Trae Young at 11. A reminder that this board is Celtics-specific and that had an impact on where some people had him. That said, Young was easily the most divisive prospect on our board, as some staffers had him as high as #5 and #7 while other (such as us) had him outside the lottery. I see what is about him that others find enchanting. Young could be a bigger, better shooting Isaiah Thomas which is particularly tantalizing for Celtics fans. I’m a little skeptical he will be strong enough to finish in close, utilizing those body-warding shots Thomas specialized in. That said, his upside is a true three-level scorer with great passing. He could be an engine for a whole offense if things pan out the right way for him. However, when your easiest comparison is a generational outlier like Steph Curry...well, I’m nervous.
Alex Kungu: Yeah, the problem with guys that have Trae Young’s size is they profile from anywhere from Shabazz Napier and Seth Curry to Damian Lillard and Isaiah Thomas. I find myself in a limbo where I’m pretty confident he’ll be an NBA player because his shot-making and passing ability will make him valuable, but I’m still not all the way sold on his All-Star upside. Most people throw superlatives to his skillset and write off most of his flaws for having bad teammates, but it’s also that roster construction that allowed him to high-usage gunner and inflate his numbers. For all his great numbers in the first half of the season we have just as much data that suggests he still has a long way to go in knowing when to shoot, when to pass, and how to handle things like aggressive on-ball defense and traps. That’s not even saying anything about his defense.
If you take him in the lottery you have to believe, across the board, that he is going to be an absolute star because with his size limitations, it’s not worth a lottery pick if you see his upside as anything less.
SS: Part of how low I have him has to do with many of the concerns we touched on with Collin Sexton. The league is so deep at point guard right now that I’m not sure it makes much sense to gamble on these risky guys with your draft picks rather than to plug those PG holes in free agency. If you snag a decent vet, you’re probably getting better production than a rookie going through these first two years of growing pains. That means you get two seasons of good play before these guys are restricted free agents and you have to pay to keep them. It’s not an investment that makes much sense for a contending team like the Celtics who went through a similar progression with Terry Rozier but he went #16.
Young has more upside than Sexton, but he’s also got a lower floor. The saving grace is that almost no matter what, if you can shoot, you can find some kind of NBA role. Young is a prospect who’s NBA future is probably more directly tied to where he lands than some of the other players on this board. If he goes to a smart team that can figure out way to protect him on the defensive end and put him in a role that he can grow into without putting a ton of pressure on him, he’ll probably be okay. Were he to go to somewhere like Orlando, though, I think his growing pains are probably going to be amplified. I’m not sure how Young would fit onto a Celtics squad that requires everyone who’s not Kyrie Irving to be a plus defender. There’s a place where you take him and see what Brad Stevens can do with that upsides (check out Isaiah Thomas) but I’m not sure it’s a good fit, given how much Young will need the ball.
AK: Yeah, a team like Orlando who really needs a PG seems like they have some interest. In theory, they have players like Jonathan Simmons, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Issac, and Bismack Biyombo that they could surround him with. If they buy that he’s a star then there’s probably nothing stopping them from picking him. For the Celtics, they wouldn’t want Young, but are probably hoping that Orlando has some reservations that could allow them to maybe sneak in and sway them with a package centered around Terry Rozier. It’s probably a long-shot based on how ownership usually overvalues top-10 picks, but it could be worth a shot. Assuming that the Celtics would want Young, how far back would he have to drop before the Celtics maybe started thinking he was worth the gamble? Let’s assume Orlando passes on him.
SS: I personally had him at 18, which is particularly brutal, but that’s not necessarily a reflection of Young’s abilities; it’s more how I estimate the Celtics view him and his fit on this Celtics team. Boston figures to be a regular fixture deep into the postseason for the next half decade. I’m not sure you can afford, in a playoff basketball scenario where opponents put their thumb on the bruise and press, to have Young and his clear weaknesses out there. Terry Rozier is a very good defensive guard and was hunted so badly that the Cetlics needed to build a scram scheme for him in the Eastern Conference Finals. I can’t see Young’s high usage offense outweighing that. On top of all of this, he could be much more valuable to other teams whose goals aren’t quite as high, such as the Knicks.
AK: Speaking of goals, he is a player that figures to put a lot of butts in seats with the Steph Curry comps. I think because of what we just watched in the postseason, it’s really easy to think in terms of “could he survive being switched onto Dario Saric or LeBron James” but in reality a bad team who doesn’t figure to be in the playoffs for awhile may not put that as high on the list when it comes to addressing those struggles. But as you said, the Celtics aren’t that team and they have their franchise guard already. Moving up to select Young could send the wrong message to the entire back court.
#12 Robert Williams
SS: Next we will be taking a look at Robert Wiliams from Texas A&M. Widely considered to be the top “tier 2” big in the draft, Williams projects as the prototypical rim-running center. The concerns with him is that he doesn’t do too much beyond that, as he was an abysmal free throw shooter and doesn’t have many other skills besides some decent passing. That said, seeing how valuable players like Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan have made an impact in today’s NBA, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a guy with the requisite leaping, rebounding, and shot blocking ability of Williams, who played out of a position at the PF spot in college. I’m a big fan of Williams, and I think he’s be an excellent fit for the Celtics, even if his jumpshot never develops. The questions for me are more about his personality and improving things like his screening and boxing out.
AK: Williams is the most likely target of the “Celtics should trade up for him” group. His game kind of gives me vibes of a young Amir Johnson. He’s athletic and can get up and down the court like a gazelle. He’s alsa quick twitch guy who can protect the rim, but unlike a Johnson, Williams has serious potential as a two-way rebounder.
On the flip side, there’s still a lot of technical things he has to work on. He doesn’t do a great job putting bodies on guys for his rebounds which can come back to bite him on the defensive rebound attempts, and he has a motor that comes and goes which is a bit concerning if you’re a team that’s in the midst of a prolonged tank job.
Overall, I think he’s great for Boston because one of the luxuries of being a contender is that a player like Williams really doesn’t need to do much but improve on who he is. He can provide great value for Boston since they’ll already have scorers across the board. We saw this with the way the Warriors were able to use Jordan Bell throughout the year without really relying on him to make any substantial leaps. How do you picture him in green if the Celtics were able to draft him? What does that mean for Aron Baynes?
SS: I think you could conceivably have Williams on the roster and keep Baynes as well. Theis has likely already far outplayed the cost of his currenty contract and will enter restricted free agency after this year. Were the Celtics to draft Williams, they could give him a “red shirt year” to learn and work on some of his weaknesses as the fourth big. If things look good, you’ve got a ready made guy to step into a bigger role when Theis leaves, and a cost controlled big moving forward.
Williams is the first one of these possible draftees I could see as a real possibility for the Celtics to acquire. Up to this point, we’ve had to explain our way through guys sliding and teams possibly screwing up and making trades that they probably wouldn’t. In Williams’ case, I think there’s a real chance he could fall out of the lottery and as low as 20, especially given how bigs are valued in the NBA. If he falls to a degree where the price point is too good, I think the Celtics will seriously consider moving up for him. Probably the biggest barrier to that are the Clippers and Wizards, who pick in Williams’ range and could both use a quality big man. Should he get past them, however, I really think the Celtics stand a legitimate shot of trading up for him. Are you concerned about trading up for a big that doesn’t stretch the floor and might struggle with setting screens?
AK: The plan you laid about being regarding having a red shirt year where he probably shuttles from G-League to pros and has a year long plan to work on some of the technical aspects of his role limits my concerns a bit. This is probably where interview process comes up big. If I’m convinced Williams is someone who can continue to work hard to improve himself even when the minutes aren’t coming, I’d be more than happy to pull the trigger. It is concerning that he largely had the same weakness from Year 1 to 2 in Texas A&M. Was it merely that the college game didn’t put him in the right position or was it an indicator that he doesn’t have much upside? That’s what the C’s will need to find the answer to.
#13 Zhaire Smith
SS: Our last prospect of the day is one that I’m really excited about, Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith. An outrageous athlete, Smith is a monster rebounder and has the tools to become one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft. A shorter 2 guard, Smith measures out at a little bit under 6’3” without shoes, but also possesses great length, with a wingspan approaching 6’10”. Weighing in at under 200 lbs, Smith would probably need to bulk up to guard forwards in the post, but has such outrageous verticality that he could function as a second weak side shot blocker were he assigned to cover the corner on switches. Smith feels like a true Danny Ainge pick, and if he were to hold onto his high shooting percentages from college to the NBA, he could be the steal of the draft.
A friend asked me who I think this year’s ‘Donovan Mitchell’ could be, and I said that I think it’s Smith. He doesn’t have the ball-handling or total scoring ability that Mitchell has, but with his physical tools, athleticism, and defensive projections, I could absolutely see Smith developing into a slightly smaller Jaylen Brown. I don’t think that I could be higher on the kid.
AK: Smith is the perfect player that slots right into a playoff team. He’s a super smart defender that knows how to stay disciplined with a team concept but also has the tools to be left alone on an island. He’s a strong rebounder for his size and someone that a team could play across the board from 1-3 if they need more versatility in their lineup. Under the assumption that he’s surrounded by other high-usage playmakers, I think his offensive game is a really good fit for most teams. I don’t quite see the Donovan Mitchell comps because I think Mitchell was just on a different tier offensively. Smith came into Texas Tech as a guy slotted in to be a role guy and he mostly played off other players without having much control of his offense. With that being said, he’s a very good cutter who puts pressure on teams who draw their eyes away. If he can become a solid 3-point shooter on a 2-4 attempts a game he profiles very well as a rich man’s Tony Allen. His ability to become a ball-handler and creator will dictate whether he’ll be able to become a starter.
SS: I meant the Mitchell comp as more of a credit to what his rookie zeitgeist will be. Like he could be the late-lottery mid-first round guy who ends up getting ROY votes and could have a chance to make some All-Star teams later on down the road. He’s already a credible dribbler as far as attacking close-outs goes, and I see him as a higher ceiling, but slightly riskier Mikal Bridges. His shooting, while technically better, is much less solid and he would need to prove that his percentages were for real in order develop much like Jaylen Brown. Brown had more responsibility on his college team, and was more powerful as a finisher, but I really think Smith has similar limitless upside and could function well as a 5th starter/second wing while he develops into his athleticism. If he improves some of these skills, he’s got a real shot to be an All-Star. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a heady passer and surprisingly good screener whom I could see functioning as a lower usage glue guy and role player on a good team. He might be a little small for a SG and not skilled enough to be a PG, but his defensive chops don’t take much off the table and I think he’s a relatively safe bet while also having more upside than pretty much anyone left on the board. This is probably why I had him 8th on my Celtics board; an ability to contribute right away while also having some upside that he can grow into.
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.