Draft season is upon us, ladies and gentlemen. It’s that time where hot takes, exhaustive rankings, unfounded rumors and jumping to conclusions off little information is the daily routine.
For Boston Celtics fans, it also marks the first NBA Draft in 18 years where Danny Ainge isn’t seated at the head of the table. Brad Stevens slides down a few seats, tasked now with constructing a roster built to win around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Stevens knows the cupboard isn’t bare and there’s a clear playoff team here, which is why he moved out of the first round to offload Kemba Walker and make aggressive moves this summer.
That doesn’t mean the Celtics will stay out of the first round, though. Other moves or deals could be on the horizon. Which players stand out as potential fits to trade back in for? What positions do they need? Between now and the NBA Draft on July 29th, we’ll bring you answers to all those questions. We recently set the table for this discussion by previewing some of the Celtics’ most glaring needs this summer.
When discussing needs, a team with Tatum and Brown on it will likely never be barren for wings. Young guys like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford provide some depth at the position too, and the return of Evan Fournier would give the team three starting-caliber players at the spot.
In the modern NBA, wings are a position of great scarcity. You can never have too many of them either, as a roster that’s built heavily on wings routinely is seen as a versatile group defensively. If the Celtics do decide to move back into the first round, doing so for a wing may seem futile at first, but there’s a master plan at work to build this roster as uniquely as possible around Tatum and Brown. Adding more wings to the lineup would certainly do so.
Chris Duarte - 6’6” wing, Oregon
The win-now, shooting-heavy Duarte is 24 years old before he’s even played a professional basketball game. Former teammates with Payton Pritchard at Oregon, Duarte is indeed older than Jayson Tatum. If trading into the first-round or early second to snag a 24-year-old, you have to be pretty certain that he’s impactful on the floor.
Well, Duarte certainly didn’t leave much room for doubt from a statistical standpoint. In two years at Oregon, he shot 38% from deep on over five attempts per game, and this season was over 60% from inside the arc. He scored over 20 points per 40 minutes, made shots in every way imaginable and positioned himself to be a sure-fire bet as a shooting specialist in the NBA.
For Celtics fans, there might be some redundancy here with Nesmith and (potentially) Fournier. The idea isn’t to draft someone different from those two, but to ensure there is always shooting on the floor next to Tatum and Brown. Because he’s 24, there are plenty of teams in the later parts of the first-round who could talk themselves out of picking Duarte ahead of a younger, high upside prospect. If he falls into the second round, he instantly becomes a gettable trade-up target.
Corey Kispert - 6’7” wing, Gonzaga
Similar to Duarte, Corey Kispert out of Gonzaga was a multi-year college shooting specialist who is seen as something of a safe bet. Two years younger and with higher percentages from deep, Kispert stands alone as the shooting specialist with a chance of cracking the lottery. Had the Celtics still been on the clock at 16, he would have been a perfect target. Now he’s likely too expensive to trade up for.
To talk about what Kispert does well is to examine the impact a guy like Joe Harris or Doug McDermott can have on a team’s offense. Kispert is a great movement shooter whose gravity creates opportunity for others. While Nesmith is fantastic at drilling shots off actions, Kispert is such a threat and a smart mover that his presence helps leverage guys like Robert Williams to get open at the rim.
Could Nesmith turn into the same type of player by the time he’s played as much as Kispert? Absolutely, and that’s likely why Kispert isn’t worth the trade-up value. But he’s a known commodity who can get molten-hot in a hurry. Expect to see him playing a role somewhere in the NBA very early in his career.
Quentin Grimes - 6’5” wing, Houston
Grimes had an up-and-down college career, cratering out at Kansas before finding refuge in Houston. Under Kelvin Sampson, Grimes embraced his role as a shot-maker from the perimeter, excellent isolation defender and solid tertiary playmaker for others. It’s an easily translatable role to the NBA. After an impressive NBA combine performance, there are quite a few fans of Grimes out there.
Likely not quite a first-round pick, Grimes is gettable in the early-to-mid second round. That would make him the ideal prospect for Celtics fans to get to know: projectable role, gettable with the team’s current assets and able to make a solid impact from day one.
Grimes’ jumper is very consistent and he’s shown flashes of being able to shoot on the move. At 6’5”, he’s much smaller than most wings who guard the 3 full-time. Within the Celtics’ switching scheme, that’s not a major issue. He’s strong and has the length to contest jumpers on the perimeter.
Not a great self-creator or polished handler, Grimes is a good rebounder for his position, an unheralded trait that is desperately needed if the C’s are committing to playing three wings at all times. Grimes was the best player on a Houston team that made the Final Four. He’s a winner at heart. I’d really like his fit in Boston.