Celtics Have Needs as Draft Approaches
BOSTON – If you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics, all you’ve been hearing for a week and a half is that we’ve all witnessed the end of an era. That may be possible, but let’s take an optimistic point of view and pose this question instead: Are we about to witness the beginning of a new era?
The Celtics have positioned themselves perfectly for the future, and the future begins right now. They are equipped with loads of cap space, and for the first time since 2004, the franchise owns multiple first-round draft picks.
Let’s take a quick look back at that 2004 draft. The Celtics landed plenty of talent by drafting Al Jefferson (15th pick), Delonte West (24th pick) and Tony Allen (25th pick). If you follow the NBA on the regular, you already know that all three of those players are still making great impacts in the league. In fact, all three were starters for playoff teams this season.
Clearly, Boston’s front office did a fantastic job of assessing talent in a deep draft and loaded up for the future. The Celtics needed talent and they got it.
Now, eight years later, the team is in a similar position. Boston owns the No. 21 and No. 22 picks in this year’s draft, as well as a second-rounder at No. 51. With only four players guaranteed to be under contract come July 1, the C’s must again look to infuse their roster with talent via the draft. They’ll have a great opportunity to do that on June 28, when one of the deepest drafts in history will play out.
Stars are rarely found in the 20s, but good players are certainly there to be had. West, Allen and Avery Bradley (No. 19 pick in 2010 Draft) are evidence of that. There are few stars in this draft, but there is a heck of a lot of talent that could potentially help the Celtics move into their new era of basketball.
With all of this being said, here’s a position-by-position look at Boston’s priority list come June 28.
Priority Level – Low
There’s no doubt that the Celtics already possess one of the top point guards in the world in Rajon Rondo. There are many basketball analysts who believe wholeheartedly that Rondo is, in fact, the top floor general in the game. He led the league in assists this season with 11.7 APG, and then led all players in the postseason with 11.9 APG.
In addition to Rondo, the Celtics also have Bradley under contract. Bradley shifted over to shooting guard this past season, but he has played point guard in the past and could eat up minutes to give Rondo a spell if need be. The same can be said for 2011 draft pick E’Twaun Moore, should the team decide to bring him back.
With a perennial All-Star manning the position and the possibility of having two other players who are capable of filling in, point guard will not be a position of need on draft night.
Priority Level – Medium
There are a lot of shooting guards in this draft. Some are rumored to be slipping due to various reasons and they could fall all the way to Boston’s picks in the early 20s. But would the Celtics bite if a sharpshooter fell to them? Maybe.
Bradley took over the starting shooting guard position this past season and excelled in that role. He might be the top on-ball defender in the league and he showed that he can put the ball through the basket. Bradley averaged 12.3 PPG on 50.4 percent shooting, including a 46.5 percent clip from 3-point range, in 28 regular-season games as a starter.
Beyond Bradley, though, there is not another shooting guard under contract. That’s why Boston might not be able to pass if an athletic shooter happens to fall to them.
Priority Level – Medium
We all know who’s manning the small forward position in Boston. It’s the captain, Paul Pierce.
Pierce is coming off of an underwhelming performance in the playoffs, but he was hobbled by a sprained left MCL. Take his full body of work into account and you’ll realize quickly that there is a lot of basketball left in No. 34. Pierce averaged 19.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 4.5 APG in 61 regular-season games and was named to his 10th career All-Star game.
However, much like the shooting guard position with Bradley, there is nothing beyond Pierce at the three. The Celtics may look to bolster this position via the draft and try to groom a youngster to take over for Pierce in the future. There is a long list of talented small forwards who are being forecasted as mid-to-late first-round picks this year, so there should be some names for the choosing when the C’s are on the clock. But there will be free agent options at the wing position as well, including Boston’s own Mickael Pietrus and Jeff Green.
Priority Level – High
Boston’s first-round acquisition from 2011, JaJuan Johnson, is currently the only big man under contract. He was the 27th overall pick last year and appeared in 36 games this past season, averaging 3.2 PPG and 1.6 RPG.
Although the Celtics are high on Johnson’s potential, this position is a clear weakness at the moment. That all changes if Kevin Garnett returns to Boston next season, but the team may not have that answer before draft night. If Johnson is the only power forward Boston knows it will have on its roster, this position will certainly be a high priority when the team makes its draft decisions.
Priority Level – High
Of the four players Boston is guaranteed to have under contract on July 1, none of them are centers. Judging by that fact, coupled with the lack of depth at power forward, Boston will likely have its eye on size during the draft.
Thanks to injuries last season, the team was forced to move Garnett over to the center position. Even though he excelled at that position and the team excelled with him playing that position, it’s unlikely a long-term solution for Garnett should he return to the C’s. Banging around with the likes of Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and other big centers on a nightly basis is probably not in Garnett’s best interest.
With no starter-caliber center in line to be on Boston’s roster when July begins, this position might be atop Boston’s wish list on draft night. Unless the C’s plan to fill the center position with free agents, we might see some big bodies come Boston’s way in the first round.