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NBA Draft mailbag: much ado about Grant Williams

You asked about Thursday’s NBA Draft, and we have the answers (mostly about Grant Williams).

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Iowa vs Tennessee Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s mailbag time, folks. Last week, I asked you to send in your questions regarding tomorrow’s NBA Draft. Now, I have your answers.

Let’s jump straight into it.

CelticsBlog’s Benevolent Overlord Jeff Clark

Seems like this draft is heavy on role players and rotation guys. Outside the top 3, who are the guys that have the highest upside potential (if everything breaks right)? Preferably focused on guys that could slip to 20/22.


Shouldn’t we use at least one of them on unicorn, Bol Bol? I know, too skinny, can’t defend, bad foot, lousy attitude. But if none of those things existed, he would not be available at 14/20/22, right? Doesn’t Danny want to be sure he doesn’t miss out on the next potential Giannis?

I’m combining these two questions together, because they go hand-in-hand for me. I think Footey is correct: in a vacuum, Bol Bol’s sheer offensive skillset would have him knocking on the door of the top five in this draft. He’s just a freakishly skilled offensive player for his size, like a more fleet-footed Kristaps Porzingis.

Still, those concerns are substantial ones, the foot injury most of all. Frankly, I could live with everything else if I just knew he was going to stay healthy, but right now, we don’t have much reason for optimism yet. With that in mind, #20 is the exact point where the potential reward outweighs the risk with Bol for me. If he’s going to be there at #22, even better.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Also, this does feel like a pick that would be in Danny Ainge’s wheelhouse. It’s philosophically very similar to what he did with Jared Sullinger in 2012: grab a guy in the late first round who has serious injury concerns but the talent of a player taken 15 picks higher. You’d hope it works out better than the Sullinger gamble did, though, naturally.

In terms of upside available at picks 20 or 22, the honorable mention here is probably Grant Williams.


If Robert Williams were in this draft with a full year of being a center at aTm, where do you believe he’d be selected?

Ooh, this is an interesting one.

Well, the Timelord was projected as a lottery pick last year, but fell to the Celtics due to concerns about his commitment and work ethic. Even if those concerns remained the same after another season with the Aggies, I’d have to think he would land in the lottery in this draft. If we get to bend the fabric of time a little bit to give us the benefit of seeing what he did in this present timeline with Boston, you could probably argue he should be a little higher. Top ten, possibly? Top seven?


Also, assuming we are unable to trade up for a Darius Garland or Coby White, are there any ball-handling guards in the Celtics draft range who could be groomed as a potential starting guard in the next year or two? ... Could Nickeil Alexander-Walker (he’s listed as a SG in most mocks but played some PG in college) or even Jalen Lecque have starter potential down the line?

As a Virginia Tech alumnus, I have to admit: I’m deeply and unashamedly biased. But I think you hit this one right on the head. I really like Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s potential fit in Boston. He’s not going to be a star, but I think he’s a pretty safe bet to be a good player; he’s a versatile scorer with a nice jumper, a passable facilitator and a very good perimeter defender with nice size. With Kyrie Irving likely gone with the wind and Terry Rozier perhaps following suit, the Celtics will need to add a guard in some capacity.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Virginia Tech vs Duke Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Alexander-Walker probably won’t be elite at any one thing, but after struggling through Terry Rozier’s wild ride last season, he’d be a refreshing dose of sanity as a reserve guard. I’d be extremely happy to land him with one of the picks in the 20’s.


Am I crazy to think Brandon Clarke is an imposter as a big, and may not necessarily be a very good wing? You got to wonder how he succeeds in a world where scoring rules

Honestly, yes, I do think that’s crazy. Sure, Clarke’s size and measurements are underwhelming, but he makes up for it in spades by being one of the most freakish athletes in this draft. I believe he’s absolutely going to be a quality NBA big, especially on the defensive end, due to his speed, leaping ability and elite basketball IQ. Offensively, he might be more of a complementary piece, but even if his three-point shot doesn’t develop (and I suspect it will, considering his improvements in the mid-range and at the free throw line), there will be a role for him.

For a deeper dive into Clarke as a prospect, check out Max’s excellent breakdown in the final installment of his Big Board here on CelticsBlog.


Who is best candidate to emerge as a solid NBA starter right away, and surprise us all where he was picked?

I’m going to be Extremely Online here and say Grant Williams. He’s just really good at basketball. NBA teams seem less than enthused with him in the grand scheme of this draft, for reasons I don’t quite understand, but it seems likely that he gets picked in the late first round.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Colgate Raiders vs Tennessee Volunteers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Whoever picks him is getting a bargain, though. Williams was one of the most outstanding players in college basketball last season. He’s perhaps a little short for a front court player at 6-foot-7, but he’s strong enough that it won’t matter in the paint, and quick enough to hold his own off switches. He’s also one of the smartest players in this class, with great positioning on both ends of the court and elite passing for a front court player. There’s reason to believe he should grow as a shooter from range, as well. In other words, there’s pretty much no situation in which Williams wouldn’t have some kind of use.

Williams may not get the opportunity to start right off the bat, but I believe he’s going to be ready to contribute very, very quickly.


Will Clint Capela be a Celtic on draft day?

I’m going to say no. Capela’s a nice player, and very good at the focal points of his game — rim-running, rebounding and protecting the paint — but his archetype of center just isn’t really in vogue in the NBA anymore. He’s just not altogether very versatile and doesn’t defend well in space, which makes him a target for opposing offenses. Look at how the Warriors flustered him in each of the last two postseasons.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Capela puts up the kind of counting stats that casual fans will always love, but he’s just not nearly as valuable as a player like Al Horford. I think the Celtics will continue to prioritize versatility in their frontcourt and probably stay away from this one.


We don’t want or need 3 rookies this year. So I guess my question is how do we consolidate the picks for a better pick or an actual player? What are the targets for such a thing?

There are reports out there that the Celtics have an interest in trading up to the fourth overall pick to grab Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland. I’m just not sure how much they’re going to be willing to trade to accomplish it; pairing a couple of their current first rounders might get them into the top ten, but the top five is always going to be more expensive. Is Garland worth trading all three picks for? I’m not convinced. If the Celtics make a deal, I have a feeling it’ll be trading out rather than trading up. This year’s lottery is just too shaky to feel very confident moving up, and there are a lot of players who fall into their current range that are arguably better value.

Additionally, I have to say I’m a little skeptical of the “three rookies” reports. Perhaps it was a consideration from before it looked like Irving was likely to leave town, but with him basically out the door and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, I think there’s now little downside to keeping all three picks. The Celtics could come out of this draft with a combo like Clarke, Alexander-Walker and Williams, all three of whom would be ready to contribute right off the bat.

CJ Jameson

Which Tennessee player do you like more for us? Schofield or Grant Williams

As you may have gathered from my repeated, breathless praise, I think Williams is really, really good. Like, “top ten talent in this draft” kind of good. One-to-one, there’s not much of a comparison to be made.

However, I picked this question because I do think Schofield is worth mentioning. We’ve been talking about the three first-rounders quite a bit, but let’s not forget that the Celtics do still have a second-rounder in this draft, pick 51. If they end up keeping all three first-rounders, this pick probably doesn’t matter, but in the event of a trade, it could yield a player they keep.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Tennessee Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

If they do keep pick 51, why not Schofield? He’s not a particularly special player, but this is the second round. He has a definable skill (he can shoot), he’s tough as nails, he’s a great locker room presence and he has the best name in all of basketball. That’s not bad, especially not if he takes a two-way contract.


Who are the best Euro player options, specifically the inside-out bigs, that are realistically available at #14?

My friend, allow me to introduce you to Goga Bitadze, the enormous Georgian big man who has been rising on quite a few draft boards in recent months. I’m quite a big fan of Bitadze, especially as an insurance plan to (and heir apparent for) Aron Baynes, who will turn 33 this December and managed only 51 games due to a myriad of injuries.

Bitadze’s skillset is well-tailored for today’s NBA. He’s a massive, prolific shot-blocker who won’t be a complete liability in pick-and-roll defense, and he’s an incredibly skilled offensive player with a great jumper and respectable passing vision. He’s no Nikola Jokic, but something like Brook Lopez or Jusuf Nurkic could be an attainable outcome for him. If another team gets wise and snags Clarke before the Celtics have their chance, Bitadze could be a nice add at pick 14.

Thanks for your questions, everyone! If you’re looking for more (frankly quite superior) draft content, be sure to check out Max’s excellent Big Board series here on CelticsBlog.

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