We are creeping up on one of the most important drafts for the Boston Celtics in recent memory. Possessing the number 3 overall pick, as well as two other 1st rounders and 5 second rounders, Danny Ainge can’t afford to strike out tonight.
The Celtics under Ainge have had a good, albeit small, record with top 10 picks. In 2006, he made a bold, but unsuccessful move, trading #7 pick Randy Foye to the Portland Trailblazers for a package centered around Sebastian Telfair. Foye was then swapped for future all star Brandon Roy by Portland. Telfair never reached his potential, although he was later used in the Kevin Garnett trade by Ainge. A year later, Ainge struck gold, sending #5 pick Jeff Green to Seattle in exchange for Ray Allen. Finally, two years ago, he selected Marcus Smart at #6.
This history, along with endless rumors this past week, tell us that Ainge is doing everything in his power to trade the pick. Before we explore possible trade scenarios, let’s talk about the prospects.
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence — 6’4”, 204 lb.
As far as I’m concerned, Dunn is the only player that the Celtics should consider at the third pick assuming there is no trade (Also that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are off the board). Dunn has all star talent with a fairly high floor. He has proven himself as an elite college player on a team with considerably less talent than other top prospects. He is an elite athlete and strong defender, who also can run an offense like a true point. His scoring can come and go, and his shot needs work, but is far from broken. He shot 37% from 3 this season. To put that in context, Marcus Smart shot 26% at Oklahoma State. I think that most teams agree that he is the third best prospect in this draft. Plus with better offensive players around him, his game will open up. If he was a freshman rather than a senior I think he would be considered for the top pick. While point guard isn’t a top priority for the C’s, I believe at this point you draft the best player and sort out the mess after. A trade would most likely follow this pick, whether it be Dunn leaving, Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley. Teams like Philly, Minnesota and Chicago have all showed interest in Dunn so a trade for him is definitely possible.
And come on, he’s from Providence of course I want to draft him.
Dragan Bender, PF, Bosnia — 7’1”, 225 lb.
Personally not a huge fan of Bender. He has very little footage coming into the draft and had barely any production while playing professionally in Europe. He’s a jump shooting big man, which scares me a little. The last thing we need is another 7 footer who plays like a guard. Still, may people think this is the correct pick, especially with the success of Kristaps Porzingis. He is only 18, and could certainly prove me wrong.
Jaylen Brown, SF, California — 6’7”, 223 lb.
Brown is an incredible athlete, and has potential to be a two way player. He has struggled shooting the ball (under 30% from 3), but has shown glimpses of a jumper. He is good at getting to the hoop due to his size and strength, but in college his shot selection wasn’t always great. His defense was uneven in college but that probably had a lot to do with effort, and if that improved he has the tools to be very good on that end. Brown to me feels like drafting an athlete rather than a basketball player. He certainly has potential, but theres a little bit of bust written on him. It has been reported that if the Celtics keep the pick it is between Brown and Kris Dunn so look out for him tonight.
Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma — 6’5”, 212 lb.
Buddy was awesome in college and it is hard not to love him. The buzz around his work ethic is huge, and he is known as a great leader. He improved every year in college and was the best player in the country this year. His shooting ability is clearly a need for the Celtics but I’m not sure where he would fit in to the roster. There is certainly concern that his game simply wouldn’t translate and that his ultimate role will by that of a Randy Foye and at best J.J. Reddick type player. I like Buddy a lot, and if the Celtics were to trade down I would go for him, but not at 3.
Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky — 6’5”, 201 lb.
Murray has a pretty similar game to Hield, although with possibly more point guard skills like passing and dribbling. He projects to be a worse defender due to his lack of athleticism. I think Murray vs. Hield is a classic case of overrating youth. Although Murray had a better season as a freshman than Buddy did at that age does not mean that he will follow the same path of improvement. If it came down to the two, I would choose Buddy.
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington — 6’10”, 230 lb.
The last player getting serious consideration here, Chriss is an unbelievable athlete who is trying to translate that to the game of basketball. He hasn’t been playing organized ball for all that long and he has shown great potential. His offensive flashes are that of an elite power forward, but I would hate to use the third pick on such a huge risk.
As I said before, Dunn is really the only one I would draft at 3, due to his talent, and just pure value. Don’t reach for somebody that isn’t as good because they fit your team better. Either draft the best player available or trade back and select someone else. If this were the case I would probably go for Hield. Although the Celtics really don’t need a guard, I’m not really in love with the bigs in this part of the draft. I wouldn’t really hate any of the other picks, I just see them as a high risk with not really the highest reward. If not Hield, Jaylen Brown would be my next choice.
Those are the prospects at 3, but I still believe that Ainge is looking for a trade. I think the most likely scenario is that we trade back in the top ten, and acquire a useful role player in return. Here are some examples:
Trade #3 to Minnesota in exchange for #5 and Gorgui Dieng
Here the Timberwolves would get Kris Dunn to add to there great young core and the Celtics would add a nice, young center who could help our front court. At pick number 5 we could then select one of the remaining prospects.
Trade #3 to New Orleans in exchange for #6 and a player
Depending on who the Pelicans want to give up, we could add one of either Ryan Anderson, Quincy Pondexter or Eric Gordon. This would help the Celtics with shooting, which they drastically need.
I don’t see the Suns (#4) or Nuggets (#7) trading for the pick because point guard isn’t a need for them, and the Kings (#8) are so unpredictable that I’m not going to include them.
There has been speculation about a trade for bigger players such as:
Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago
Very doubtful, but maybe now that the Bulls dealt Derrick Rose they will be looking for a point guard. The rumors included Avery Bradley in the deal, which seems like a lot to me, but I guess you have to take a risk at some point. Still, I wouldn’t count on Butler coming to Boston.
Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah
Also doubtful. Although hayward reportedly wants out of Utah and was coached by Brad Stevens in college, his team just traded for George Hill, a move that a team looking to rebuild doesn’t make.
Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Milwaukee
I really want this to happen, but it doesn’t look like the Bucks are willing to part with Parker. The Celtics have been trying, so you never know but again, not very likely.
Now for trades that may actually happen:
Kris Middleton, SG/SF, Milwaukee
Middleton is someone else on Milwaukee that the Celtics have targeted. So far it seems like they’ve had no luck, but I’d say that Middleton is still one of the more likely targets. There was one report that the Bucks would trade Middleton if it meant that they could dump Greg Monroe. I’m not sure how reliable that is but I think it would be a win for the Celtics. Middleton would give them a good shooter who is versatile and a plus on defense.
Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, C’s, Philadelphia
It seems like Philly’s bigs are the clear easiest target for Boston. The 76ers have openly voiced their love for Dunn and would likely be willing to give one up for the 3rd pick. I hope that they will get desperate towards the draft and agree to trade one of the bigs as well as Robert Covington to give Boston another shooter. I’m not in love with either player. Okafor is a superior offensive player and would give the Celtics a post scorer, but his defense and maturity are questionable. Noel is the classic athletic shot blocker. The hope would be that he could turn into a Deandre Jordan level defensive presence while remaining efficient on offense. I think of the two I would prefer Noel, but might take Dunn over either.
If it were up to me, I would probably try to pull off a trade for Middleton and other players or picks from Milwaukee or just keep the pick and draft Dunn. It’s a tough situation for Ainge and the Celtics but hopefully he can pull something off.