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 see who we think should be the Celtics’ picks if they were to move into the middle of the first round.
#14 Kevin Knox
Sam Sheehan: We’ll start today with a guy who’s rising on boards across the league in Kevin Knox. He’s wowing teams in the mid to late lottery and has crept into the top ten on many big boards because he really looks the part. Knox could hypothetically defend well because he’s got the size and speed. I also think a lot of teams are sold on the idea that he could develop into a better rebounder. He did a lot of scoring for Kentucky, but the efficiency was’t quite there. I think what has teams intrigued is there is a clear path to having him develop into a big-time scoring threat. He could be a valuable forward if he develops properly. The big question is that ‘if”.
Alex Kungu: Knox isn’t Jayson Tatum, but I think the divide in his evaluation is similar. Scouts see and NBA body with an NBA Skillset that can be groomed into a 3 level scorer. His game feels a bit more mechanical rather than fluid which gives me Tobias Harris vibes rather than someone like Khris Middleton. With that being said, I think he’s an underrated athlete who has a chance to be a solid defender from the jump within a team concept. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams saw him as a high-floor guy
SS: Let’s just say that I’m uh... Skeptical of Knox. It feels like every year we see these talented forwards who go to Kentucky because they dominated at the high school level, but then their isn’t much development under Coach Cal. Trey Lyles is the easy comp because of the school thing, but I think you could also make some comps between the Morris brothers when they came out. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but we are still in the lottery here, and I’m not sure if Knox can defend the same way that they did coming out of Kansas. He’s a smooth forward and I’ve learned much about the importance of smoothness over the past year. That said, I just don’t see a real scenario where develops in a way that realizes that Tobias Harris upside. Like are we sure that he’s as athletic as people think? Knox feels like he could be the workout warrior.
AK: So, I’ll push back a little bit. I think Knox is a fluid enough athlete to be above average. I don’t think he pushed himself enough and I think some of that is attributable to Kentucky where Coach Cal is great at getting talent, but not at bringing it out. I think we’ll see a more fluent looking Knox with NBA spacing, the fact that he’s shooting up draft boards suggests that NBA teams are seeing the same thing.
SS: Does it count if the teams in question are the Bulls and Knicks? I see the upside, and the tools are there, but it freaks me out that the both the shooting and the defense are an “in theory” work in progress in addition to the rebounding being below average. If he succeeds, he certainly wouldn’t have been the first guy to do better outside of the Wildcat Blue. But for me, that’s a lot of question marks to invest a lottery pick in. This is probably a moot point, because it seems he won’t slide far enough to even be in the Celtics’ possible plans.
AK: Knox just feels like the latest slept on wing who’s skills are being a bit undervalued. As a front office i’d bet on a 6’9 wing with potential to be a number 2 or 3 option in the lottery, especially if I’m confident in his ability to stretch the floor. But I’ll be the first to admit that he has a lot to prove.
#15 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SS: We’ll go from Wildcat to Wildcat and talk about (in my opinion) Kentucky’s best player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. A massive point guard with a big bag of tricks, SGA does not mess around and finds ways to get himself into the teeth of defense. All of the comps I have seen mostly come back to the other “big point guards” in Shaun Livingston or Michael Carter-Williams. It’s ultimately going to be Shai’s defense and shooting that determines which he is. He lacks the burst that Livingston has, but is very skilled and crafty and I think that his crafty game will only work better in the added space of the NBA. He’s a very good off-ball defender, and while I don’t think the upside is really there, I could absolutely see him being a 6MOY, first guy off the bench on an elite team.
The MCW comps have everyone scared, but SGA is much, much better shooter. He didn’t shoot the 3 often (57 attempts), which probably betrays that it’s not as good as the percentage, but he did hit 40% of them which is almost 10% better than Carter-Williams in his two years at Syracuse. He also shot nearly 12% better from the field and a full 14% better from the stripe than MCW’s career averages, so I feel like it’s not totally a fair comparison to make. The Livingston one isn’t great either in my opinion, as Shai isn’t that explosive and will need to be more methodical in his attacking. That said, I am a fan of his.
AK: I’ll use a little outside information to explain my position on this one. I’ve talked to some scouts about SGA and one of the things that consistently gets back to me is that the kid works really hard and he’s a leader. I trust people like that to figure out. He has a really good pace to his game and his combination of height, wingspan, and patience, make me high on his ability to improve on some of the decisions he makes as a passer. His jumpshot is a little funky and looks like a set shot which makes me think he could have a bit of an adjustment year getting used to the NBA three-point line. Defensively, he has all the tools and will be great within a team concept from the jump even if he’ll occasionally run into the tough matchups. I could see him being a starter in this league, but until he proves he can be an effective shooter I also think “change of pace” 6th man has his most reasonable projection. But that’s not a kid I would bet against.
SS: I feel like the draft process has sort of ignited a ‘Collin Sexton vs. SGA’ holy war where the two will be measured against each other for years to come. I felt like a similar conflict emerge in 2014 with Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart going AFTER each other in the workouts. Sexton is likely going to be one who goes higher on draft night, but I’m putting my money on SGA having the better career. As far as NBA readiness goes, we’ve talked about PG’s needing time to develop, but I think SGA could make an impact early with his size and intelligence. He’s very good at reading the game and always has a feel for where he needs to be to help out. I think the Celtics could really use a guy like that to add to their mix of big wings. I also think it’s very possible that SGA slides out of the lottery and could be yet another trade up target, depending on how far he falls.
AK: SGA still has a way to go with decision-making and creating his own shot, but he already has such a nice foundation as an ambidextrous PnR player who has amazing ability to get the rim. An ability to punish teams for going under screens or collapsing in the paint when he penetrates could quickly turn him into the best PG in the draft. The intelligence is a really important part too, and it’s the least talked about trait when it comes to versatility. I can see him profiling well as a high-IQ defender that seamlessly defends most perimeter guys. Combine that with the ability to be a bully in the PnR, and that could make him an absolute monster. The fit with the Celtics is a little more dubious for me. I think the skill-set is awesome, but I run into the same problem with seeing where he can have a role that he can actually grow into. His issues are very much tied to getting experience. Is an inconsistent 14 MPG really going to help him?
SS: I think we are in a place where one of Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier probably won’t be on the team at the start of the 2019-2020 season. Between Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward, they will have plenty of ball handling, but I also think it’s one of those skills you can never really have enough of. He probably won’t initiate very often, but having a second guy who can reset on the fly against a mismatch (he will get them), would really help the Celtics’ second units. It also takes some pressure off the primary guys during the early 2nd and late 3rd quarters. I think Shai is smart enough to keep the ball humming in a Celtics read and react scheme, and that alone would help him develop and adjust to the speed of the NBA game. There are other guys I would prefer in this draft, so it’s still pretty unlikely, but I would think about packaging with the Clippers pick to move up and get him.
AK: That would be interesting. I struggle with the concept of needing to rely on a rookie to run an offense for team that will competing for a championship, but we also just got lead to the ECF by one so maybe I’m the crazy one. I like SGA, and if it came to moving up I’d assume someone like Rozier would be involved which would open up a role for him. I could probably be talked into it, but it’s a gamble for a non-shooter.
SS: There are guys we are going to get to later that I think would be better fits, but as KG said.... Well, you know.
#16 Lonnie Walker IV
SS: Next on our board we have Lonnie Walker IV; a young man who comes into the NBA with not only a ready-made nickname, but one that could be versatile (Red Label, Blue Label, etc). I’ll be up front about the fact that I’m not much of a Lonnie fan, as all I get out of his game is Dion Waiter comps. He’s got length and can definitely find a way to get a shot off, but I’m afraid he’s a bit of a relic to a previous league. I think he could have been very effective from 2000-2008, but in today’s NBA, I just don’t think being a contested-2 specialist is as valuable as it once was.
AK: 51% of Walker’s attempts were beyond the arc so I don’t buy that his game is outdated. He’s a great athlete with a nice stroke that could probably improve on his shot selection a bit. He has a chance to be a really good defender with some above average lateral quickness and NBA body that profiles as a versatile defender. That’s enough to make him a 3 and D guy from the beginning, if he can tighten up his handle and improve his finishing, I can see him profiling well as either an off-ball scorer who starts on a team that has other high-usage stars or comes off the bench as a 6th man scoring punch
SS: When a prospect has that many attempts and still can’t crack 35% from the college 3 point line, I’m concerned. This is exactly what got me in trouble last year with Jayson Tatum, but Tatum also underwent one of the most jarring ‘college to rookie’ playstyle shifts I’ve ever seen. Also, Lonnie Walker is not as good as Jayson Tatum. I’m skeptical of a guy having the offensive upside to be a bench microwave guy when he scored under 17 points per 40 minutes. This wasn’t a loaded Miami squad, and Bruce Brown was out for part of season. It’s also a big red flag to me that he doesn’t pass or rebound the ball particularly well, especially given his athleticism and length. That’s a lot of things to fix, and I think because Tatum made it look so easy, we can forget how hard it is for a guy to change how he’s spent his whole life playing.
AK: Eh, I disagree. If we’re grading Walker on “chances to become a star” then you have a point. The profile just doesn’t suggest that. However, if we’re discussing his ability to be a competent role player I think you may be selling him short a bit. From December-February (71% of his games), Walker shot 37.9% from three. His stroke his great, and he’s proven to be a guy capable of being a knockdown guy off the catch. There’s a lot of other things that trouble me about Walker’s game. His handle can be tighter, his decision-making as a ball-handler is suspect, and I’d like to see him become a better finisher. But I still think he profiles pretty cleanly as a ‘3 and D’ guy.
SS: Maybe. I’ll concede the shooting point (maybe I’m being tough on him because the shot selection drove me insane), but even so I really have a hard time seeing what how he adds value outside of shooting and scoring. I will say that he impressed me as someone chasing guys around screens, but I worry that he’s really still just guarding 2s at the next level. I worry he could struggle with interior play and the fact that he couldn’t be a plus rebounder with that length and athleticism at the college level concerns me. I still think he could be a decent role player, but I like a lot more of the wing prospects we will get to later (sneeze that sounds like ‘Josh Okokie’). Hypothetically, Walker could have a biggish role on this Celtics squad, with his scoring, length, and understanding of rotations, but the one dimensional aspect him just being a scorer/help defender worries me for a guy who projects as a role player.
AK: To your point, if you think someone is going to be a one dimensional scorer like Walker, he needs to be really good at it, and his shot selection did hold him back a bit. However, if all he does is improve his finishing, get better at moving off-ball, and becomes a smarter shooter the role is there. He could fit in well for a Celtics team that would be able to surround him with so much scoring that his job would come down to hitting wide open shots and being solid in certain situational assignments defensively.
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. We will be back on Monday, June 18th with picks #17-20.