Thursday, May 19, 2016

Draft Lottery Recap - Where Do the Celtics Go From Here?

Winning the third pick in the 2016 NBA Draft was poetic justice for a Boston franchise who has rarely (if ever) been rewarded its rightful pick in the Draft Lottery age. The Celtics came into the night with a shot at landing anywhere from picks one through six and found themselves rewarded by the Brooklyn Nets hard work in landing exactly on the slot they should have. Now that they know the 'where' the question shifts to 'who?'

While everyone has their opinion on where to go with this pick, I took the time to outline a few ideas that may intrigue every green teamer to varying degrees. Here are a few names and scenarios that might be worth watching:

Keeping the Pick(s)

If Boston elects to stand pat in the first round  (Picks 3, 16, & 23) they will be picking eight players in the 2016 draft. I would assume Danny Ainge trims that number to four or five by dumping some of the second round picks (31, 35, 45, 51 & 58)  he has for cash considerations or a spare trade exception out there. With that in mind, here are a few names for Danny to consider in each spot:

3rd pick:

  • Buddy Hield (Guard, Oklahoma): Hield is widely considered to be one of the top scorers in the draft. His shooting stroke and offensive instincts are matched by (maybe) Brandon Ingram of Duke or Jamal Murray of Kentucky and perhaps nobody else. The issue starts with Hield’s perceived value at the third pick. Many analysts believe Hield can be selected closer to the sixth pick and afford Boston the ability to trade back and collect more assets in the process. Ultimately, Hield’s readiness to score on the NBA level and superb offensive skills make him a great pick for Boston…wherever they get him. 

  • Kris Dunn (Guard, Providence): Think of Kris Dunn as Marcus Smart with offensive instincts. Dunn has been the leader of an improving Providence College basketball program for the last three years and has burst on to the national stage with his supreme athleticism and fantastic potential on the NBA level. With a more spaced floor in the NBA, Dunn should be a starter on the next level and could be an all-star under the right circumstances. 

  • Dragan Bender (Forward, Croatia): The seven foot Croatian is the unquestioned mystery of the 2016 draft. His potential has the optimists thinking Kristaps Portzingas and Dirk Nowitzki, and the pessimists thinking Darko Millicic and Jan Vesely. Bender is a legit seven footer who seems to have good coordination and athleticism (rare) but very limited floor time in a European league that might not produce a champion in the Big Ten. Did I mention, he’s already 20 years old? Hard pass in my opinion but the risk/reward makes him intriguing at the very least. 

  • Jamal Murray (Guard, Kentucky): Possibly a top three offensive player in this draft. Has great scorer’s instincts and finds a way to put the ball in the basket…a lot. Because he’s only 19 years old and played very well on a good Kentucky team there is a good amount to like about Murray on paper. On tape however, I see a stiff athlete with a bad release point on his jumper (almost covers his vision of the basket). Some of the greatest players in league history are “unorthodox” and his skill set has some thinking Steph Curry but I warn fans and Mr. Ainge alike that Murray might be in the same boat as Bender in his potential risk factor. 

16th Pick:

  • Denzel Valentine (Guard, Michigan St.): As a friend told me, “Valentine is Evan Turner 2.0.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Valentine is a vetted four year letter winner under Tom Izzo and has had a fantastic career both in the NCAA Tourney and in one of the best conferences in the country. While I doubt Valentine can be a franchise altering player, his skills should develop him into a great glue guy on the second unit…like ET. The added bonus? Valentine is widely considered one of the top kids in the draft when it comes to character and leadership. 

  • Henry Ellenson (Forward, Marquette): Some mock drafts had Ellenson in the top 5 players in this draft during the past NCAA season. Since then, he’s dropped considerably into the back end of the lottery and even projected as far back as the late teens on some boards. The skinny, he’s an NBA sized power forward/center with a perimeter game as an added bonus. He’s fluid, he’s well built, and he likes to put the ball in the basket. Think Kelly Olynyk without the hair. Ellenson is a steal at #16 which makes me think someone else wakes up and takes him closer to #10 but if he’s there, take him. 

  • Brice Johnson (Forward, UNC): Pogo-stick forward with athleticism and shot blocking skills. The easy comparison is John Henson with a few more pounds on his frame. I don’t love his perimeter game but he should be a hard working second unit forward who can run the floor and make a few SportsCenter top 10 moments. 

23rd Pick:

  • Guerschon Yabusele (Forward, France): Little known about this big Frenchman but he’s got good size and can be stashed for a few years in Europe. If Boston are picking three to five players in this draft he might be a nice grab for a future addition to the squad. Best comparison is a French Jared Sullinger without the affinity for shooting the three. 

  • Thon Maker (Forward, Australia): Might be the most controversial player in the draft with his petitioning to get into the draft in the first place. If he isn’t stonewalled by the league offices, he’s a seven foot monster with fantastic skills to boot. His body isn’t NBA ready but he could also spend a couple seasons in Europe to add weight and gain experience on a higher level. Perfect type of player for Ainge to take a risk on, at the perfect time in the draft to take the risk. Honestly, if Maker spent a year in college he could be a top 10 pick in 2017. 

  • Ante Zizic (Forward, Croatia): Long, athletic, and basically a Bender clone physically. Doesn’t have the perimeter skills but looks like a true center who will go after the basket with aggression. Again, a stashable European that can be looked at a few years from now. 

Trade Time!

If Boston elected to make a move, the obvious candidates are Jimmy Butler of the Bulls, Paul George of the Pacers, and DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings. As mentioned a few weeks ago, these are all going to be very tough moves to pull off because of the value of the players and the large market for this caliber of player. I have a few other smaller deals that could work with this pick while adding pieces to the current Celtics roster. 

  • Celtics Trade: Picks 3, 23, 45, 58 and James Young to Phoenix Suns for 4th pick and Alex Len
Not the sexiest deal going but it adds a young big man who has NBA experience to cover the loss of Tyler Zeller and the added bonus of allowing Boston to remain in the top four picks to select Hield or Murray if desired. You do lose another first rounder but at that point in the draft you’d be lucky to grab a big man like Len who can provide 10 points and 10 rebounds a night.

  • Celtics Trade: Picks - 3, 23, 35, & 45 to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 5th pick, Adreian Payne, and Nicola Pekovic
Again, not going to make anyone do cartwheels but allows the Celtics the leftovers of Murray, Hield, Dunn, or Bender as well as adding much needed depth to the frontcourt. Payne is a great athletic stretch forward who would fit well with the second unit and Pekovic (if healthy) is a strong starting center who can give a much needed physical presence to the Celtics frontcourt without needing a ton of shots to help.

  • Celtics Trade: Picks - 3, 23 & 31 to the Utah Jazz for Gordon Hayward
Of the deals discussed, Hayward is the biggest name swapping hands. He may not be a household name but he would immediately add offense to Boston’s perimeter and adds a fantastic relationship with Celtics coach Brad Stevens to the locker room. The team would still be in need of some frontcourt help but the offense would be in terrific shape with Hayward’s 18 to 20 points a night added in.

In fairness, I don’t envy the amount of phone calls and meetings Danny Ainge will be making in the coming weeks leading up to the draft. Keeping the pick(s) means the Celtics will be hunting for players who can help this young team get over the first round hump and challenge LeBron James and the Cavaliers now, as well as stockpiling talent for a few years down the road. Trading the pick(s) will have Boston searching for players to add to a group that is in need of another star…God bless you Danny. 

Zach Peloquin 

Follow on Twitter: @ZAPSports508 , @OTWSportsRadio

Click Here to listen to some in-depth discussion about the Celtics and NBA Draft on the latest episode of the Causeway Street Podcast!

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