The Boston Celtics are slotted to select lower than 16th in Thursday night’s draft for the first time since 2012. The last time the C’s picked this low was in 2009. That year, they selected the immortal J.R. Giddens following their first NBA title in 22 seasons.
This, of course, is barring any last-second jockeying from President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. He could decide at any moment that the #27 overall pick would be better served as part of one of his infamous trade packages. Twitter has been buzzing with fake trades for Kawhi Leonard or a move into the top five. However, such moves seem unlikely. It appears we’re headed for a (relatively) straightforward night.
As of Monday, the Celtics have held pre-draft workouts with 17 different players, including:
- National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson
- Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo
- Duke guard Grayson Allen
- Arizona guard Allonzo Trier
- Villanova forward Omari Spellman
Ainge mentioned in interviews earlier this month that he and his team had “tried to laser focus in to about 10 [players] at this point” for the 27th pick, taking a number of different factors into account. But which of those players makes most sense for the C’s?
Needs and Wants
Guard is the most pressing area of need roster-wise. That explains why Boston has worked out so many high-pedigree players at that position. Marcus Smart is a restricted free agent. Terry Rozier proved his value in the postseason, but his contract expires after this season. Shane Larkin was serviceable as a spot up shooter and fringe rotation guy. However, he’s more of a nice depth piece to have in the mix than an irreplaceable rotation player. And of course, Kyrie Irving‘s health and impending free agency have spawned hot takes and think-pieces across the internet for well over a month.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Celtics are thin at big. Al Horford is Brad Stevens‘ Swiss Army Knife and Boston’s most important player. He also turned 32 on July 3rd. Aron Baynes was surprisingly effective last season. He’ll hopefully figure into the team’s plans next season. Daniel Theis is coming off a torn meniscus, and Greg Monroe is not a viable modern center.
Ainge seems to favor gritty guards and wings with strong intangibles (Rozier, Smart, Avery Bradley, Tony Allen, Jaylen Brown), especially with first round picks. That rules out a player like Trier, whose scoring is offset by often lazy defending and lack of focus.
Spellman and DiVincenzo could be high ceiling options who fit the mold. DiVencenzo has wowed at both the combine and in his individual workouts, which has only perpetuated a stock rise. Spellman could be the type of multi-faceted offensive big Ainge hoped to get with Jared Sullinger. However, I’d be surprised if either are still there at #27 based on their pre-draft buzz.
Ultimately, I think the best bet here is Brunson, followed closely by Duke’s Allen and Georgia Tech shooting guard Josh Okogie. Brunson’s feel for the game is unmatched by anyone else in this draft class. He’s also a terrific shooter (52/41/80 shooting splits last season) with a diverse offensive arsenal that includes a developed post-game. Plus, Brunson has proven himself on the biggest stage, winning two national titles as a starter. In other words, he’ll be able to contribute immediately.
The Same can be said for Allen, who, despite his on-court antics and volatility, has been a top contributor on one of the best teams in the country throughout his college career. Okogie is a project with tremendous upside. He has all of the physical tools (6′ 4″ with a 7′ wingspan). He was also a 37.6% three point shooter at the college level. Okogie may be rough around the edges, but would be a welcome addition to Boston’s ever-growing stable of switchable wings.
Ainge will take the best player available on the board, there’s no denying that. But part of the beauty and fun of the draft is “the best player on the board” could be anyone. It all depends on who rises, and who falls. All things considered, if that player is Jalen Brunson, expect commissioner Adam Silver to call his name when the Celtics are on the clock.