When we entered the 2020 SB Nation Mock Draft, we knew there were rules we’d have to play by. The ‘no trading picks’ directive limited options the Boston Celtics might consider to consolidate our three selections (14th, 26th and 30th). Our goal was to find one guy who was best player available, one international prospect to prevent the roster size from growing and one floor-spacer who can play right away.
Things didn’t go according to that script, but our deviation from the plan was for two talent-grabs in the best way possible. Obi Toppin slid to 14th, and we picked him up to grab best player available and address the need for a stretch-5. Tyrell Terry from Stanford was somehow still available at 26th, and with him we found our point guard of the future.
The rest of the mock draft landscape shook out in a way where no international prospects we were eyeing remained on the board. Our goal of avoiding a roster crunch was to prevent the need for a trade of a current player, where we’d lose leverage on the market and take a minimal return. Once we draft three guys to keep immediately, the rest of the league knows we’ll need to make some sort of move.
If the right players and talent were available at all three selections where the sacrifice would be worthwhile, we’d happily take three newcomers. That’s why we’re delighted to pick Isaiah Joe with the 30th pick, the right fit with this roster and an overall talent we believe will be one of the best in this draft class.
Joe’s two years at Arkansas were polar opposites. As a freshman, he shot 41.4 percent from 3 on an absurd eight attempts a night. The crazy volume earned him SEC All-Freshman honors and the idea as one of the best shooters heading into the draft. Joe chose to return for his sophomore season, where his value took a bit of a hit.
There’s good reason for it, though: Joe’s 3-point volume was the most robust of any player in college basketball major conference history. With the Razorbacks undermanned from a playmaking perspective, Joe chucked up 10.6 treys a night, and his efficiency decreased as a result. The numbers (34.2 percent from deep) don’t worry me all that much. As his volume self-corrects to a sustainable position, his efficiency will climb. Plus, the simple fact he gained a green-light like that from former NBA head coach Eric Musselman speaks loudly about his capability as a shooter.
Joe is pretty good off the bounce, too. He can hit step-backs, one-dribble pull-ups and has the deep range needed to command attention far behind the 3-point line. The area of his game most overlooked is his defense. For his career, he averaged 1.5 steals per game and uses his lanky wingspan to his advantage (a Google search will indicate he has a 6’10” wingspan, though no official measurements have been found to verify that claim).
For a young player, Joe is surprisingly polished as a help defender. He’s really solid defensively and knows how to help from the weak-side in emergency situations. For a Celtics team that is title-bound, the reliability of a youngster to be in the right spots can help Joe get on the floor early in his career.
Of course, he still has areas he must improve. Most of that comes with adding weight to his wiry frame. Right now, NBA physicality could be a struggle, especially on the defensive end. His impact once he puts on some muscle will be really high, but it’s difficult to expect an immediate impact from such a skinny guy.
Beyond the physical changes he’ll need, Joe is a little underwhelming from a statistical standpoint in how he scores off screens. More consistency and reps there will help, but I don’t have the expectation Joe will come in and become the next Klay Thompson. He needs to get a little better with footwork and quick releases on the move before that lofty comparison holds any type of merit.
In looking at this mock draft group as a whole, Toppin, Terry and Joe are all lethal shooters for their position. The idea was simple: we’re taking risky defensive prospects with the idea that the collective strength of Tatum, Brown, Smart and Brad Stevens’ brain will be enough to keep our output at that end high.
Offensively, we got burned by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and saw first-hand the value of shooters running freelance around the floor. If one of Terry or Joe materialize into a similar threat, the offense takes a dramatic step forward. With a stretch-5 in the 22-year-old Toppin, the Celtics get someone ready to play a role right away. All three guys have definitive boom upside on offense.
We’re going all-in on offense and flanking the wing core with the shooting they’ll need to maximize their scoring. We feel really confident in the three individuals and overall talent we added through this mock.