Monday, January 12, 2015

Celtics heading towards 2015 NBA Draft Lottery

Photo: Getty Images

This season, the Celtics have gone from fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference to becoming one of the worst teams in the NBA.

After losing nine of their last 11 games, Celtics (12-23), are now seventh in the NBA Draft Lottery standings. The C's are not far behind Utah (13-25) and Orlando (13-27), and could be a top five lottery team by the end of the season.

For now, it's safe to say the Knicks (5-35), Timberwolves (5-31) and 76ers (7-29) will most likely finish the season as the three worst teams in the league, but there's still plenty of basketball to play. The Celtics have looked horrible since Rajon Rondo was traded, and they'll only get worse now that their leading scorer, Jeff Green, is gone.

The month of January will a miserable one. The C's will play against the Hawks and the Bulls this week, two of the top three teams in the east, and then head out west for a six-game road trip that includes stops against the Clippers, Blazers, and Warriors.

Although it's early to start talking about draft prospects, one thing that is certain about this year's draft is that it will be stocked with big men. After drafting two guards last summer, the Celtics will look to draft a big man who will hopefully delivery an immediate impact.

Duke center Jahlil Okafor is hands-down a first pick overall favorite. At 6-11, he plays like a traditional center, meaning he finishes around the hoop, makes post moves and doesn't shoot outside the paint like a lot of centers in the NBA do. Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns is another big man who is projected to be a top five pick. Towns is also 6-11, but is a defensive minded big, who's energetic, protects the rim and can grab a lot of rebounds.

If the Celtics can finish somewhere in the bottom five, they could have a chance at drafting one of these big men. Historically, the C's haven't had much luck with those ping-pong balls. Last season, the Celtics were the fifth worst team and ended up with the sixth pick. And in 2007, Celtics had the second worst record and ended up with the fifth pick overall.

But look at a team like Cleveland, a team that finished ninth in the lottery standings last season, ended up with first pick overall. So, who knows what will happen this summer.

One thing that's for sure is that the Celtics will not make the playoffs, but will most likely finish as one of the bottom eight worst teams in the NBA. This team is just too weak. Now that Rondo and Green are out of the picture there isn't enough chemistry or experience for this team to win games. It's time to give the best players more experience (Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner) and develop the young talent (Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart), then go from there.

Time to unleash James Young

While Marcus Smart gets more experience playing point guard, it will be great to see more of the other Celtics first round draft pick; rookie James Young. After a few stints in the D-League, and battling a couple of injuries, Young is healthy and ready to play consistent minutes. In the D-League, he proved that he's a good three-point shooter and did it by averaging 22 points in five games. In his last four games with the Celtics, including one against the Hornets when he scored 13 points in a blowout, Young is only averaging seven minutes per game.

After making three trades in three weeks, Celtics President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is not done trading players. He's reportedly working on his fourth trade, a potential Austin Rivers deal (who was acquired from New Orleans in the Green trade) to the Clippers, and still has four weeks until the trade deadline to reel in more draft picks. Ainge will try to trade for as many draft picks as he can from now until February's deadline. He will do his best to move Celtics guard Marcus Thornton, probably to a playoff team that's looking for a scoring guard. And look for Jameer Nelson to negotiate a buyout from the Celtics. This will open the door for Young, expect his minutes to increase as the season continues.

Josue Pavon
Twitter: @Joe_Sway10

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