Celtics Fill Needs by Drafting Smart, Young

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

NEW YORK – It’s no secret that the Celtics, who ranked 26th in the league in scoring and 28th in the league in field goal percentage, struggled to put the ball through the basket last season.

They’re betting that their two first-round draft picks, Marcus Smart and James Young, will help to change that.

The Celtics used their highest draft pick since 2007, sixth overall, to select Smart in the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday night. Smart starred at Oklahoma State for two years and averaged 18.0 points per game as a sophomore last season.

Offense continued to flow into Boston 11 picks later when the team snagged Young with the 17th overall selection. Young nearly led the national runner-up Kentucky Wildcats in scoring last season with an average of 14.3 PPG, and he did lead them in scoring in the title game by dropping in 20 points against UConn.

While it’s clear that both Smart and Young are scorers, they vary greatly in how they put their points in the board.

Smart can be summed up in one word: aggressive. He has an innate ability to get to the basket and he uses that skill to his advantage.

There were only 27 players in the country who attempted more free throws last season than Smart, who earned 250 attempts from the charity stripe. Had he not missed three games, it’s conceivable that he would have been in the top 10 in the nation in that category.

Do you know where the Celtics ranked last season in free throw attempts per game? Twenty-seventh in the league, with 20.8 attempts a night. Smart averaged 8.1 attempts per game all by himself last season at Oklahoma State.

It’s unreasonable to expect Smart to duplicate that number as a rookie in the NBA, but he will get to the line. It’s what he does, and that skill will be a tremendous addition to this Celtics squad.

Getting to the rack is Smart’s strength but it’s not all he can do. He’s also a developing shooter who the Celtics believe is trending up in that department.

“He’ll get good range on his shot,” Brad Stevens said Thursday night. “He’s got good arc on his shot. He’s got pretty good mechanics. He’s worked hard on it.”

Boston witnessed the fruits of that labor first-hand this week, when Smart returned to the team’s practice facility for a second workout.

“In our last workout that we had with him, he reeled off about four or five in a row in live competition from 3 with the games on the line,” Stevens said. “So shooting is something I think he’ll improve and get better at.”

That being said, Smart makes his living in the paint and the C’s can expect him to contribute to their free throw numbers next season. Young? He’s a slightly different story.

The swingman out of Kentucky is known much more for his perimeter shot. Synergy Sports rates him as a very good jump shooter and a good 3-point shooter. He’s poised to improve in those areas while continuing to showcase his scorer’s mentality.

“James’ M.O. is he’s always been a scorer,” Stevens told media members at TD Garden. “He’s a guy that shot it at 35 percent from 3 but 47 percent from 2. He’s got a shot that can shoot it deeper. He’s got a stroke that’s just going to get better and better.”

In the meantime, Young's shot is still pretty darn good, and he knows it. He’s extremely confident in his scoring abilities and made that clear when he told Celtics.com what he’ll bring to the team.

“Really a lot of scoring,” he said without hesitation. “Just getting to the basket, hitting open shots and creating for other teammates.”

Any team would love to add those traits. Boston’s offense struggled last season because it was largely missing them.

Last season, the Celtics lacked consistent perimeter shooting. They lacked a guy who could consistently get to the charity stripe.

On Thursday night, they found both.