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 looking at three shooting guards with radically different profiles.
#21 Kevin Huerter
Sam Sheehan: We’ll kick off today with Maryland’s Kevin Huerter. I can’t think of another prospect who helped his case more at the combine than Huerter, when he leapt into the lower middle of most first-round mocks. The reason for this was his incredible shooting, as Heurter is extremely good at knocking down shots off of screens and pin-down actions. This might sound like a relatively arcane specialty, but offenses are increasingly organized around finding way to get clean three point looks, so I’m not terribly surprised that some organizations would see him a chance to galvanize that spacing on their own team. He’s also got good size to boot, measuring in a 6’7”. I”m concerned about his defense, and I think he could be a real liability on that end. He doesn’t have the quickness to contain many of the NBA’s guards and I’m skeptical that he’ll develop the frame to survive against forwards. I think Huerter projects pretty cleanly as a versatile shooter who can provide spacing in a lot of ways, but might not project to provide much valuable beyond that. However, truth be told, with how valuable spacing is in today’s NBA, that might be enough.
Alex Kungu: Early on in Brad Stevens coaching stint with the Celtics he talked about how when the team prepares for Kyle Korver they have to treat him like he’s a guy who averages 30ppg because you can’t leave him open at all. I think Huerter has that type of potential. His limitless range and fearlessness of letting it fly will force defenses to adjust to him whenever he’s on the floor. I still think there’s going to be an adjustment period for him as far as how he gets his shots. In Maryland he was a guy that put the ball on the floor and wanted to create a bit, while I imagine most NBA teams want him to be a guy who scores on more off-ball actions. The defensive stuff is a real concern, he isn’t very quick laterally, but I’ll hold onto a little faith that he can be passable because he’s tough and at the very least wants to compete. The fit for him on playoff teams makes sense, but there a concern about his ceiling.
SS: One thing that has always stood out to me is what a fraction of a difference there is between the league’s top sharpshooters and everybody else. Korver, Stephen Curry, JJ Redick, and Klay Thompson are all such incredible shooters, but they all probably went lower in the draft than they ever should have because it’s hard to figure out to what extent that dead-eye marksmanship will translate. If Huerter can be anything like Korver, Thompson, or Redick, he should probably go in the top half of the lottery. Thompson is a better defender than Huerter will probably ever be, but I don’t think it’s a mistake that Redick, Korver, and Thompson’s teams have all had playoff success, largely due to that shooting ability (particularly off screens and on the move). It’s clearly valuable, but even the tiniest drop in ability takes you from those guys to Doug McDermott and Steve Novak. To me, it makes Huerter kind of the ultimate gamble. He could be a key piece for a contender or RJ Hunter all over again. Honestly, that type of dice roll might behoove the Celtics. Do you think think that Redick/Korver ceiling is possible for him?
AK: I do, it’s easy to forget how much those guys had to work on themselves and their bodies to be as great as they’re. If you buy into Huerter’s mentality and work ethic then he’s worth the dice roll. Boston would be a good fit for him because they already have a tailor-made offense where he could be plugged into situations where he could excel. Assuming they run it all back, they could have a constant wave of defenders surrounding him no matter the matchup.
SS: The rumors are that Huerter got a promise from the Lakers at 25, and that would mean that he’s not available at 27, but if he did drop into 20s, I wonder if Danny Ainge would consider him worth a trade up. As we were saying, work ethic and commitment to improvement are what got those guys to the next level. If you trade up for Huerter, you’ve got be sure he’s that type of guy, and even then, it’s a bit of crapshoot if his shooting will translate at that highest level. If it does, he’d be an absolute steal, and actually pretty perfect for the Celtics. If he doesn’t though, the Celtics could tossing multiple assets out at once.
AK: Yeah, it all depends on who’s available at that range and where Boston has him on his board. I think with guys like that, a big part of what makes them rotation guys or second year washouts is situations. If anything, Boston provides that. It’s all just a matter of how worthwhile they think he is.
#22 Donte Divincenzo
SS: Next up we have Donte Divincenzo of Villanova. Divincenzo is most famous for his big performance in the college national title game, and he subsequently found his stock skyrocketing. Many think that Divincenzo could go in the first round. I am... skeptical. It feels like he’s the guy who had a big performance in a big moment and people are running with it. I have some doubts that he could ever become a plus individual defender with his lack of length or quickness. I also am concerned that his good finishing won’t translate to the next level, which could really affect his efficiency.
AK: Divincenzo is definitely getting a bit of college bump, but he also tore it up at the combine with his ability to handle the ball and shoot it which kept the hype train going. The defense is a bit of a concern, but I’m not sure it’s enough of a concern to take him out of the first round. He has this aloof fearlessness where it seems like no moment will ever be too big for him, which scouts will love. Also, because he played in a very modern Villanova offense, he’s one of the rare college guys that played a role somewhat similar to what he’ll be asked to play in the league. He knows how to move off-ball, he can navigate a PnR, he can hit NBA three’s, and he knows how to play off his teammates. I’d argue that the defensive limitations and general strength of this class are the only reasons he isn’t getting some late lottery buzz.
SS: Those are all fair points. He did do well at the combine and I was surprised to see how high he was on some of the measurable stuff. That said, I’m very concerned about him being one of the guys who’s already kind of using guile to get by on a college level. In order to succeed at an NBA level most guys need to have something else, whether it’s strength, athleticism, skill, or shooting. In Divincenzo’s case, I’m not sure what that extra pizzaz is? I guess the ball handling? I’m concerned he is not going to be good enough shooter to survive as a volume scorer at the next level. The free throw percentages scares me.
AK: Those concerns are probably what a few NBA teams are thinking and why he’s still seen as a guy way outside the lottery. I envision him being one of those invaluable guy rotation guys on a championship team that GM’s are praised for hitting on. I just honestly think his superpower is being a high IQ guy with a short memory. That doesn’t sound like much, but I think there’s just a lot of teams would love a ball-handling wing who shoots 40% from three and be plugged into multiple roles.
SS: What I’m concerned about is that it’s far from a sure thing that he’s a good 3 point shooter. He shot 37.8% over his college career, but then he’s also a 70.5% free throw shooter. Combine that he was older and was essentially a bench guy for his team, I’m get concerned that he won’t be able to make the leap very gracefully. If he’s not a good 3-point shooter, his value really takes a hit. I’ve seen his name attached to the Celtics in a lot of mocks, but I’d be kind of disappointed if the Celtics took him. I’m not sure how much value he provides to this team unless he can be a good spot-up shooter.
AK: All fair concerns and king of highlights how he’ll be graded in the draft. If you don’t buy his transferrability with his jumper and think he’ll be a liability defensively then you probably stay away. I think playoff teams should be more open to take on the risk because you just give him a bigger margin of error. Boston will allow him to play surrounded by stars and smart players he play off of. They don’t need him to do much but grow into a 7th/8th man. I wouldn’t be disappointed by this selection, but I think BOS probably has a few guys higher on their board.
#23 Khyri Thomas
SS: We’ll close out today with the oldest player we’ve profiled so far in Khyri Thomas. Thomas is super long guard who is an absolute terror on the defensive end of the floor. He’s also very strong for a point guard which gives him a lot of switch-ability in smaller lineups. He’s a custom build defender for today’s NBA guards, and I’ve seen the Avery Bradley comp thrown around a bit. Personally i think Thomas is a better passer and his strength gives him the option to operate out of the post if the other team has a defensive liability at guard. He’s a career 40.6% shooter over 323 attempts in his Creighton career and even though he has a suspect handle, he is still able to attack close outs and do the simple, important stuff. Part of the reason I like Thomas so much is he pretty much profiles as the perfect late first steal. An older guy who performed well in college and has a clear elite skill.
AK: I like Khyri Thomas. I think you hit on all the strengths, but the biggest question will come down to how you see him profiling as a ball-handler/finisher. I’m not as much of a believer of what he can do with the ball in his hands, and I don’t think I’m all the way in on his ability to defend 3-4’s. He gets some leeway when you consider his fit with the Celtics though because he’s someone who won’t have to really be pushed to do his weaknesses much. Are you comfortable with his ability to step in for Smart or Rozier if one or both aren’t back this year?
SS: I don’t think he’ll give you necessarily all the production that a Smart or a Rozier might. That said, he can step in and be ready to defend better than Rozier might (or at least be more switchable), but not be as versatile as Smart. He can still finish at the rim with either hand, something that both Smart and Rozier have struggled with. He likely wouldn’t be as good of a distributor and might struggle with creation as a pure point guard. I still think he’s strong enough to credibly hold up against most wings and he definitely has the speed to stay in front of SGs. I think he’s exactly what the Celtics need for their contending team moving forward. A defensively versatile guard that doesn’t need the ball to make an impact, can space the floor, and projects to be able to play right away. I could see someone preferring a player with more upside, as aside from improving his handle, he doesn’t project to improve much from where he is right now.
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.