Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge was in New York City on Sunday to watch the Elite 8 game featuring UConn and Michigan State. He wasn’t there for thrills or to see if his bracket was one of the rare ones still intact. It was an exciting game with UConn being the winner over Michigan State 60-54 and advancing to the Final Four. With two top-20 picks in the first round in this summer’s draft, the Boston Celtics will have a lot of flexibility to work with from now until draft day. Ainge has kept a close eye on several potential prospects that could fill the voids that the Celtics need to address before the start of next season.
Danny Ainge is looking for a lot of instant offense type of players and UConn’s Shabazz Napier would be an ideal choice. Napier had an explosive 2nd half against Michigan State with 17 points on 3-5 shooting after a stagnant 1st half. The Celtics have had a lot of guards coming in and out of town over the last few years including Eddie House, Leandro Barbosa, Nate Robinson and Jordan Crawford just being rentals. Shabazz Napier is in his senior season at UConn and brings a lot of experience in big games during his college career. It is still a toss-up whether we will see Avery Bradley or Jerryd Bayless in green next season, but Napier would be a good replacement if the Celtics aren’t able to keep both players next season. On a side note, Napier is the 2nd Massachusetts native going into the NBA draft being from Roxbury. Noah Vonleh of Indiana was the 1st Massachusetts native being from Haverhill.
On the other side, Michigan State’s Gary Harris was another player that Ainge may have his eyes set on. Harris has a lot of upside and could be a potential upgrade at the shooting guard position. Harris, like Avery Bradley, is a tenacious defender and a good role player offensively. His excellent quickness, active hands and aggression could be a player the Celtics could really use on their roster. He really showed off his offensive potential going 4-9 on his 3-point shots and that is an area of improvement that the Celtics need in order to become an offensive threat in the NBA. According to NBADraft.net, Gary Harris’ game is similar to O.J. Mayo of the Dallas Mavericks and could slip late in the lottery with the 9th overall pick. If the Celtics are intending to drafting Harris, they will possibly have to trade up into the lottery to nab him before another team does.
The last player that the Danny Ainge may be watching would be Amida Brimah of UConn. Brimah’s box score was full of zero’s, except for his 3 personal fouls. He was only able to log 9 minutes in the Elite 8 game, but that’s not going to steer Ainge away from Brimah’s potential and what he can bring to the Celtics. The Celtics are going to look for a true center in the NBA draft and Brimah could be one of many options for them. Brimah was 3rd in the nation with 5.9 blocks per game this season and can be just the right rim protector the Celtics need. He’s a true 7-footer with a 7’6″ wingspan, making him a potential NBA player based on his size alone. Brimah’s draft stock isn’t favorable as he could go undrafted this summer, but could land in Boston as an undrafted rookie and it worked out well for Phil Pressey this past season.
It was a very exciting Elite 8 game between these two talented schools with some players with a lot of potential making onto an NBA roster. Danny Ainge was still at work at Madison Square Garden watching this game and his next trip to New York will likely be the trip that determines who ends up wearing a Celtics uniform next season.