Heading into last night’s draft, so much could have happened. Armed with three first round picks and the still looming decision on Gordon Hayward’s future in Boston, Danny Ainge and the Celtics could have maneuvered around the first round, aggressively striking deals and making substantial changes to the roster. Atlantic Division rivals did. Daryl Morey completely altered the makeup of the 76ers by shipping out Al Horford and Josh Richardson for Danny Green and Seth Curry. The Brooklyn Nets traded for veteran Landry Shamet in lieu of adding youth to a win-now team.
Instead, Ainge selected Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith with the 14th pick and Payton Pritchard out of Oregon at #26. Both are regarded as good shooters, particularly Nesmith who was considered the best shooter in the draft.
“Absolute sniper. A guy who’s going to make life easier for the creators of the offense like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker,” Nesmith said about his game and what he can bring to the Celtics. “A guy that’s always going to be there, work hard, and earn his stripes. Do it on both sides of the floor. I want to be great. I want to be the best player I can be, so that includes defense. I’m going to give my all and the best effort I have to that side of the floor and with my size, length, and athleticism, be able to guard multiple positions.”
The Celtics weren’t exactly a bad shooting team last season. They were 13th in the league in 3FG% at 36.4% and 12th in makes at 12.6 threes per game. Nesmith comes to Boston hitting a whopping 52.2% from behind the arc on 8.2 attempts per game at Vandy.
In a way, Pritchard is the more polished product coming out of college. After four years in Eugene, the 6’2” point guard was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a 1st team Consensus All-American. He shot 41.5% from deep and averaged 21 points and 6 assists in his senior season.
“I can really shoot it, dribble, pass. But I think the biggest thing I bring to the Celtics is a competitive nature,” Pritchard said after rising in the draft.
That’s music to Brad Stevens’ ears. The Celtics struggled with second unit scoring last season and adding some scoring punch off the bench was crucial this offseason. “I think you’re always looking for shooting,” Stevens said last night. “You’re always looking for guys that can put the ball in the basket.”
Despite an abbreviated training camp, Stevens sees both “gym rats” competing for playing time. For now and before free agency, both draftees join a crowded bench of rookies, sophomores, and three-year players that could have considerable roles when the season starts in just under five weeks. “We feel very good about the two picks in the first round and look forward to getting those guys here because they don’t get the benefit of a summer league and some nice preseason two-on-two before the season kicks off to get themselves ready. It’s going to be full steam ahead here soon.”
Congrats on getting drafted, fellas. Now let’s go to work.