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 closing out the middle third of draft in a wing-heavy section.
#17 Troy Brown Jr.
Sam Sheehan: We’ll start today with Troy Brown Jr., an Oregon guard who profiles as an off guard, but has superb passing instincts and ability. Brown is a very heady player who understands the game, and catches opponents napping with cuts and smart off-ball movement. He’s strong and can finish through guys, but also has a lot of the skills I would look for in a SG. The issue is that the shooting is one big question mark. That could be a problem for... well, a shooting guard. He’s a capable dribbler and finds ways to get to the rim, but without elite athleticism, he’s likely to look something like Evan Turner at the next level if nothing changes. That actually might not be that bad of a value here, if that’s what you are looking for. If he could find a way to shoot the ball well, I’d be a lot higher on him.
Alex Kungu: I think you made the mistake of trying to put him in a box by labeling him as an SG. The great thing about Brown is he’s a poster child for versatility. At 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan will probably be able to defend 4 positions and be plugged in with a bunch of different lineups. He’s a super smart player that understands the nuances of defensive positioning, rotating, and anticipation. That bleeds over on the offensive end where he creates really well for his teammates by understanding where his reads are when he penetrates on a defense. He’s also a strong rebounder which usually translates and can be leveraged to maybe play him in smaller lineups.
With that being said, you hit it right on the head with the concerns about shooting, there’s just no sugar coating it. 29% from three is a bad look. Any team that drafts him will have to do so on the assumption that they think it’s something he can improve on. I don’t think he really has to ever become a good shooter, but he needs to become a decent situational shooter. He’ll probably never be a good pull-up shooter who can create for his own, but if he can get his FT% up into the 80’s and turn into a respectable catch and shoot guy from the corners that teams can’t help off on he’ll just add so much value everywhere else that he’ll be too hard to keep on the bench. He’s on my list of trade-up targets for the Celtics
SS: So here’s my concern, because I really think you nailed it with the explanations of his versatility and how that can be leveraged. I saw all those same things and was very high on DeAndre Bembry in the 2016 draft for the reasons that you laid out. He was another, ‘do everything’, long, versatile wing who possessed great passing instincts and struggled to shoot the ball. It’s a been tough for Bembry in the NBA thus far, albeit on a Hawks team that struggled this past year. I’m concerned that this might offer a bit of insight into what Brown’s future might be if he never develops that jumpshot.
That said, as you’ve pointed out earlier, attitude and work ethic go a long towards improvement and it’s not always a great idea to drawn ‘1 to 1’ comparison between guys and their most readily available comps. If he does figure out the jumper, he could be the steal of the draft. If he doesn’t however, I’m worried that hes someone who won’t be able to stay on the floor, because he’s not as lethal or athletic of a finisher as most of the other bad jumpshooters that have stuck in the league. Do you see his weird form as something that makes the jumpshot easier or harder to fix?
AK: I actually think his mechanics are mostly fine. He has a good release point which is usually my first concern, but if you want him as a spot-up shooter I think it’s fine. I like the mention of Denadre Bembry, but I think it’s important to remember that he’s only played 64 games in two seasons and has dealt with a lot of on the court stuff that has had an adverse effect on his development. I think with a guy like Brown, how you view the risk of his game is based on where you are as a team. If I’m a rebuilding team he’s probably not the guy I want, but if you’re a playoff team with a high-usage guys he’s a perfect chess piece to mix and as a part-time PG or a secondary ball-handler to take the pressure off your stars. Viewed in the context as “6th or 7th man” I think Brown Jr. will find a lot of fans post-lottery.
SS: So this is kind of the rub for a guy like Brown. If he’s expected to be the next starter on a mid level team like the Pacers or the Wolves, I think he’s gonna find things tough with those expectations. If he drops lower than that, (the end of the first round) things get a lot better for him, to your point. Part of the challenge with doing a Celtics big board is I’m tempted to just blanket “Brad Stevens will fix it” when looking at the weakness of some of these guys. I’d like to see who can get that developmental time on a contender like Avery Bradley had back in the day. At this point in the draft, I’d still want someone who’s either a little more solid on his shooting or has a bit more upside. If he dropped to where the Celtics could get him with their own pick, that would be a steal. Do you see him struggling with quickness at the next level? If he can’t mark guards, it takes a big bite out of his defensive versatility.
AK: No, his level of understanding when it comes to using his length and understanding positioning make me really confident in his defense being transferable, he’ll have trouble with bigger, physical guys (i.e Jaylen Brown/Jimmy Butler types), but he’s going to be really good at hounding smaller guys. To your point, I think his fit in Boston is less about “Brad will fix it” and more that the roster already built is so talented that all they really need from him is to do what he’s good at and he’ll have time to develop the jumpshot. Being a smart, versatile, perimeter guy who can play with anyone is such a great combination for a playoff team. If he sneaks by the Buck and Spurs at the end of the teens, I think there’s a chance he could be available to Boston. The concerns are real, but they’re just so much less concerning when you put him in a position where his expectations align to him just being good at what he does.
#18 Elie Okobo
SS: We will move along to the first non-Doncic Euro off the board in Elie Okobo. I’m going to be frank and tip my hand. I’m buying into the hype a bit. Okobo has been steadily climbing draft boards all season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move into the lottery before it’s all said and done. He’s an excellent shooter, and fits into that mold of a ‘score first’ point guard. He hasn’t quite shored up the passing yet, but he generally seems to have some good feel and is playing in a league that probably more competitive that most college basketball games. He has long arms, and is pretty skilled at getting the ball in when he’s around the rim because he’s also got some hops. A guy like him could really do some damage in today’s run and gun league.
I’m a big fan of his, but the concerns are primarily going to lie with how these neat stats of his translate to the NBA. Are you concerned about his ability to adjust at all?
AK: There’s always going to be some concern when it comes to playing a lower level of competition to the NBA. I think what is encouraging is that his strengths fit in perfectly with what NBA teams want out of their lead guards. He’s a Pick and Roll master who can score at 3-levels and has an electric pull-up game that will keep opposing teams defense. Learning how to be a floor general is going to be the next step for him and it’s why even the most rosy mocks for him have him pegged just out of the lottery. Personally, I think the fact that he’s such a pure scorer and will be able to dictate the game with his scoring will bleed into him making the transition to leveraging that into creating for his teammates. I’m also very much into the hype.
SS: I had Okobo at 20, only having seen limited tape on him, but the more I see of him, the more excited I get about him. He’s someone that really, really has some potential to be good, and if I were to reset my own picks, I’d probably put him alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Like I said, I’m getting carried away by the hype. As far as weaknesses go, he lacks that switchiness and defensive chops that some of the other players we have profiled on here have. He’s long, but the effort comes and goes.
Guys who are low-effort defenders but have the tools are such a coin flip. I was positive Ben Simmons was going to be a subpar defender at the NBA level because of how often he mailed it in and now I’m here with egg on my face.
It turns out he’s so good he was responsible for holding the best player on the Sixers to one point in a playoff game. Okobo could have a similar focus adjustment in once he gets to the NBA. Also, playing defense just isn’t as important for point guards. To be honest, aside from some sloppy passing and questions about the competition, I’m having trouble thinking of much downside to him. I need you to bring me back down to Earth.
AK: What makes it hard to see much downside in Okobo is that his flaws are things that can be ironed with experience. His shot selection can be suspect, he can miss teammates on reads sometimes, handle can be a bit tighter, and his turnovers were a bit too high, but that’s all stuff that can be ironed out with experience. Unlike some prospects where we have to use circumstantial evidence to guess whether they can develop a skill they currently don’t have, Okobo’s journey will be about refining the skills he does have.
SS: What do we think about his fit on the Celtics? PG across the board have suffered in this mock, primarily I believe because our staff sees a lot of ball handlers on the roster and not much place to let a PG take his lumps and develop? If the Celtics were actually nervous about Kyrie bolting the way the national media has hyped it (yawn), a case could be made that he’s a wise pick. Not being able to hold up as well in switches would probably hurt, but at the same time he’s one of the best shooters in the draft with other three level scoring talent to go with it. The answer is probably, the “Celtics would take him if they had a chance, but another team will take and value him way more”.
AK: I think Okobo’s fit is a little weird because Kyrie/Smart/Hayward/Rozier are all probably going to run the show at times. It’s not that Okobo couldn’t fit in with the C’s as much as the role you’d be giving him isn’t where he would be his best. If this was 2K, you’d live with it because he’s a hell of an insurance policy. But the team is trying to keep Irving happy and potentially passing on guys with better fits for a guy who would be the 4th pg on the roster might not be best move for Okobo’s upside or improving the team.
#19 Jacob Evans
SS: Next up is Jacob Evans, a classic “3&D” upperclassman who projects to be a rotation, low-usage wing. Evans can be a bit plodding at times, and that makes me a little nervous if he’s going to be a primary wing defender in the NBA. That said, he’s really heady as a defender and has clearly put in time from year to year on getting better. One of the best things about Evans is that’s a smart passer and he seems to be custom-made to be a plug and play wing in the Brad Stevens system. That said he’s not much of a creator and his athleticism deficit really limits his upside.
AK: I mostly agree. Evans profiles well as a 3 and D player and comes from a strong defensive culture in Cincy. Some of the stuff I don’t like about his game are things I don’t think he’ll do much of at the next-level (i.e. PnR ball-handling and isolation scoring). He has more of a wiry frame which suggests he’ll be a guy who handles more of finesse wings rather than the more physical guys. I think the point you made about his upside is kind of why I’ve cooled on him as well, he’s low ceiling and I don’t see him giving us anything Semi Ojeleye couldn’t.
SS: At 6’5” and 200 lbs and it’s clear if he wanted to guard forwards at the next level, he would need to work “Amazon warehouse length” shifts at the Ojeleye factory. He’s clearly tough, and he’s someone I kind of want to root for, even if a dispassionate assessment of his skills shows someone with a low ceiling. I think someone who is higher on Evans would point out that he’s unlikely to totally fail, He’s got touch around the rim and he’s a good three pointer shooter, so at the bare minimum you’re looking at a Tony Snell type of player. How well he shoots and survives switches against the meatier offensive players will dictate most of his upside. Speaking of that upside, what to you envision him to look like in a best-case scenario?
AK: Best-case scenario he needs up to about 215-220,is a 40% shooter who knows how to attack close outs and make the right reads, maybe even a bit of ball-handling in certain situations. Starter on a middling team, valuable reserve on bench. I think the likelihood you think he reaches that will probably determine how high/low you are on him.
SS: For me, Evans is a guy who is valuable to 26 teams in the NBA. With the Celtics currently constructed as they are, I’m not sure if they need a low ceiling guy who’s there to plug holes. The big upside to Evans would getting a rotation guy for four years on a below market contact for a playoff team that might be a bit cash strapped. For example, if the Cavaliers, the Warriors, or the Pelicans were to find a way to trade into this area, Evans would be a godsend for them. For teams like the Wizards, Bucks and Celtics, I think they want to gamble more on upside as there’s already have a pretty solid wing rotation. Am I off base there?
AK: No, I think you’re right on. Sometimes we get too caught up in the “draft is a crapshoot” talk which is true, but you still need to take your shots sometimes and Evans is someone who’s probably a lot more valuable as a second rounder.
#20 Melvin Frazier
SS: Last but not least, we’ll close today on Melvin Frazier, a guy who gets preference when I listen to my heart over my head. Frazier is an absolutely menace on defense, crowding and terrorizing guys at the point of attack and he always ready to create a turnover. He’s very energetic and bouncy, and his motor makes me tired just watching him. The problem with all that energy is that Frazier can get wild (in a bad way) and give those hard earned turnovers right back with bad passes, or attacks on the hoop. I would say that he’s sure to get some of that stuff coached out of him, but he’s almost 22 years old, and it’s surprising that this stuff is still a problem at this point. That said, it’s probably way preferable to have a guy who’s TOO active vs. not active enough.
AK: He’s such a dog and I love it. Frazier is one of those guys that I see being able to defend the 1-4 at a high-level. He has such a great understanding of how to use his lengthy body and he’s someone completely capable of shifting the energy of a game with a huge defensive stand. The offense has a much lower ceiling but it’s tailor for an NBA role. He’s great as catch and shoot guy, he’s an awesome athlete who can play above the rim, and the ability to be dangerous attacking the close out is very evident. I think with him, it’s going to be about reducing what he does from college, I think Tulane tried to make him too much of a ball-handler where his role in NBA fits perfectly with low usage defensive specialist.
SS: I’m going to say something that might be a little bit offensive to the readers of this blog and I”m a little scared to even say it, but I’m just going to go for it....
Are we sure he’s not the taller, less powerful, less skilled Marcus Smart?
Both guys change the game when they are in the game and have suspect shooting. From a ‘Celtics fit’ perspective that’s probably a bad thing, as Marcus Smart already gives Celtics’ Twitter arrhythmia as it is. Having two of those guys on the same team might cause a rash in New England fatalities. That said, it’s still up in the air if Smart is even back next year, so perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world to be looking toward a wing replacement. I’d also like to clarify that Frazier is very much a wing and Marcus Smart is a short, nimble passing PF, so these comps are not perfect. Yes, I meant PF not PG.
AK: Oooo that’s an interesting one. I think they’re in the same family tree and the impact they’ll have on the game is very similar. With that being said, Frazier seems like a great fit for the Celtics. Stevens plays guys that defend and I could see him competing with Ojeleye for those situational defender minutes. If his shot translates from the jump it’ll be hard not to play him.
SS: I’ve seen some Kent Bazemore comps around, and I have to say that I don’t hate those comps for him. Bazemore is a real scrapper who was overpaid, but prior to that was one of the better deals in the NBA. Getting a guy like that on rookie scale could be a great deal and could end up having some serious upside for the Celtics.
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.