Saturday, July 28, 2012

Celtics Reloaded Pt. II : Rookies Impact

The 2012 Boston Celtics Draft Class. How will this pan out?
In recent years, Boston Celtics’ rookies making an impact on the floor in their first season has been very rare, to say the least. You would have to go back to the dismal 06-07 NBA season to find draft picks getting time and producing on a regular basis.  That season Rajon Rondo, who wasn’t even drafted by the Celtics but acquired in a trade (Thanks, Phoenix), had an impact towards the middle of the season, over taking the starting role from Sebastian Telfair.
(Side Note: While writing this I threw up in my mouth a little. Remembering the dark days, where we actually put faith in SEBASTIAN FREAKING TELFAIR to start at point. Not only does it make you appreciate Rondo a million times more but also appreciate Paul Pierce’s dedication to the Celtics Fans and  Franchise to stick it out with SEBASTIAN FREAKING TELFAIR as the starting point. Danny, please remember this next time you are thinking about dumping Pierce for a draft pick and Kris Kardash… Humphries. Thanks.)
After the ‘Big Three Era’ began the following season the Celtics have experienced success, leading to late round draft picks. However, the Celtics and Danny Ainge seem to have struck out over the past years. The list of the names of players they drafted is comical to look at now:  J.R. Giddens(BUST) and Semih Erden in 2008; Lester Hudson(Who?) in ‘09, and Luke Harangody (Thanks, Tommy) in 2010. Now, Ainge did hit on Avery Bradley in that same 2010 draft, however during  his rookie year he really had zero impact on the Celtics, but you definitely have to put him in the win column. So that’s hitting on 1 of 5 draft picks in that three year span.
Sullinger needs to force his low post game
when he gets his chance with the C's.
Last year’s draft, the Celtics apparently scouted well and drafted an absolute steal in the form of Marshon Brooks with the 25th pick. But siding with typical Boston Celtics Draft luck , they decided to trade Brooks, who was ready to contribute right away, to take on the developmental challenge of morphing JuJuan Johnson into a NBA power forward. That year they also drafted E’twaun Moore, who also made a very minimal impact on the Celtics in his rookie year.
Some blame it on the shortened season, lack of training camp, or just missing on both picks, but there was plenty of opportunity for Johnson to make an difference last year. With the injuries the Celtics had and the problems they had in the front court, paved the way for Johnson to play, and play a lot. He just couldn’t get it together and ended the year on the end of the bench in street clothes, and then in the off season both members of the Purdue Duo were traded away in the recently for Courtney Lee.  That’s now 1 for 7, Danny. Yes, we are keeping count.
That brings us to this year’s draft. The Celtics held two first round picks. This was the first time since 2004 they had more than one first rounder. Ainge had Jared Sullinger, a potential top ten pick in a few early Mock Drafts, fall into their lap at the 21st pick overall.  Red flags galore were piling up when Sullinger’s name was brought up in draft circles. His back issues being the most glaring, but sided with an “undersized and not athletic” tag, his stock dropped faster than expected.
Sullinger was a projected top ten pick for a reason. He was an absolute beast in the Big Ten the past two years, while playing for Ohio State. An All-American twice, in his two years there , the now 20 year old was able to score at will against college competition.  
With the 22nd pick the Celtics picked up Fab Melo, who was known more for his off court troubles than producing while at Syracuse. However, he is a legit seven-footer who can defend. He is the definition of raw, as he’s only been playing basketball for 5 years. Also in the second round the Celts drafted Kris Joseph, a swingman from Syracuse, who scored the basketball when he needed to for the Orange.
The draft process always comes with a lot of unknowns, but the biggest question is; Are they ready to make an impact right away?
Sullinger has not only the skills to make an impact, but also the opportunity. He has low post skills and the rebounding prowess to get playing time and to make it count. The Celtics were horrendous last year rebounding the basketball on both ends. They aren’t the deepest team at the 4/5 spot with Bass, Wilcox, and Garnett as the stalwarts up front. Sullinger should be able to crack that rotation and give the Celtics a much needed rebounder who isn’t going to be a huge liability on the offensive end.
The only major question mark about Sullinger is his ability to defend the bigger power forwards and centers on other rosters. He is a tad undersized at 6’9 to bang down low and did have problems in college defending big men. As we all know, the Celtics won’t put anyone on the floor if they are unable to defend, so I do see this being a possible issue with his immediate impact.
In the summer league, both Orlando and Las Vegas, Sullinger proved he was NBA ready and put up a truly solid performance. He was not only playing to prove he could compete, but showed a lot of GM’s that passed him up because of injury concerns that those rumors were dead wrong. He played 9 games in 13 days and showed no signs of any back issues.
Fab Melo should help on the defensive end
with his size alone.
My immediate reaction to the draft pick was that Sullinger would be ready right away to help the C’s. I would look for him to play a bout 10-15 mins per game to start the year, and bearing injuries and progress, go up from there. If all goes well Sullinger has the chance be the first Celtic since Rondo to crack the All Rookie Team.
Fab Melo, as noted earlier will be a project. I don’t see him making any significant impact his first year. Not only do I not have faith in the big man, but I’m sure Doc Rivers won’t be giving him any time on the floor until he can prove it in practice.  Melo couldn’t ask for a better team to develop with though. the Celtics’ veterans can show him the way. Garnett should have a major role in developing the young man.
Is there a spot for Mr. Joseph?
Kris Joseph, being a second round draft pick, will not have anything handed to him. He will have to work his way on to the squad and most likely will start out with the D- league. He did have a very strong showing in the Summer League and could crack the roster, but again nothing is guaranteed. If injuries open up a spot, I think he can be a scorer in the league. Joseph can hit the outside shot and has shown flashes in Vegas and Orlando to be a slasher.
 As training camp is inching closer and closer we will learn more of the organizations outlook and plans for the recent draftees.  Yet, it seems as if the Celtics drafts in the past few years have been termed failures, the only way they can go is up, right?

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