The NBA draft lottery is less than ten days away and the Boston Celtics are going to be very well prepared for the draft no matter where they will be picking. The Celtics will be even better prepared even before the ping-pong balls are drawn as the NBA draft combine will take place in Chicago on May 15th and 16th just days before the drawings. Celtics’ play-by-play announce Mike Gorman Joined 98.5 The Sport’s Hub’s Toucher and Rich show recently and gave hints that Danny Ainge will possibly picking the best player available when it is his turn to pick, even if it is a position that’s not necessarily a huge need. The Celtics are projected to be drafting around the 4th and 8th pick ranges depending on luck of the draw. If they are lucky, they have a shot at landing a top 3 pick or even the #1 overall pick. I’ve compiled my own list based on the team’s needs heading into the draft to continue to build for the future (assuming Parker, Wiggins and Embiid are off the board).
If the Celtics are lucky enough to draft higher than the Orlando Magic, the best available player would be Dante Exum from Australia. Exum would be a great complimentary piece next to Rajon Rondo and can play both guard positions if needed. The Celtics will be in need of a guard with Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless entering free agency shortly after the draft and Exum could potentially fill one of the voids. Exum has an impressive skill set with great athleticism has drawn the attention of a lot of NBA scouts and is projected to be a top-5 pick in this year’s draft. Exum can provide the Celtics with scoring consistently and that has been an issue all season long for them. I personally like Exum because his athletic build is very similar to Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers and he went on to win rookie of the year. Dante Exum would be an ideal first pick for the Celtics if he is still available in the draft.
The Celtics will need a center before training camp starts this fall and this draft lacks true centers. Joel Embiid will be an obvious choice for any team in dire need of a center, but is may already be off the boards if the Celtics end up around the 4th or 8th slots. Not necessarily a bad thing however because one player that I’ve had my eye on is Noah Vonleh of Indiana. I like Vonleh’s rim protecting ability, the way he can create his own shot and how he gets himself in good position to snag rebounds left and right. He is a local boy being from Haverhill, Massachusetts and I’m not being a complete Mass homer by saying the Celtics should draft him because if this circumstance. Vonleh won the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award this past season and the way he played this season shows that he is NBA ready. Vonleh is listed as a power forward, but he stands at 6’10” with a 7’4″ wingspan and that could just be enough to develop him into a gifted center for the future. If Danny Ainge wants to find a center in the draft, he should keep Vonleh on his radar when it’s his turn to pick.
I’ve mentioned before in a previous story that I think a big steal in the draft for the Celtics will be T.J. Warren of N.C. State. The Celtics will be looking for find an additional wing scorer this summer and Warren will fit the bill for the Celtics. Warren has the ability to score at will and actually beat out Jabari Parker for ACC Player of the Year this year as well. Warren is expected to be a middle first round pick, where the Celtics will have an additional first round pick thanks to the Brooklyn Nets. Not exactly a lottery pick, but the Celtics have been able to find diamonds in the rough in the middle with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk in recent years. Warren could be just another diamond for the Celtics.
There is another guard in the draft that struck my interest. Danny Ainge attended the Elite 8 game between UConn and Michigan State in New York City back in March checking out some potential draft prospects. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is projected to be a middle round prospect or a top 10 at best. Harris could be another back up guard for the Celtics and should have no problems adapting to the style of play of Brad Stevens. His aggression, quickness and active hands is easily comparable to Avery Bradley and could be another nice complementary guard to Rajon Rondo. He is also a bulldog defender like Avery Bradley that could take on a nice role with this young and rebuilding Celtics team. One thing that makes Harris a unique prospect is that he has two years of college experience under his belt and that will be a positive commodity for his draft stock given that fact that both Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have played at least two years at college as well. Several NBA scouts predicted that Harris’ ceiling is similar to O.J. Mayo of the Dallas Mavericks and that’s a commendable comparison.
The anxiety of the NBA draft lottery is tinkering around in my head, but I like what’s available in the draft and Danny Ainge will be primed and prepared to whatever obstacle comes his way in the next two months leading up to the draft. I trust whatever selection the Celtics make, but I will be a very happy person if one of these players that I listed are one of the prospects drafted here in Boston.