C's Put Cherry on Top of Draft by Inadvertently Addressing Weakness

NEW YORK – The Boston Celtics inadvertently addressed one of their greatest weaknesses during Thursday night’s NBA Draft: their ability to get to the free-throw line.

Boston ranked 29th – next-to-last – in the league last season with an average of only 19.5 free throw attempts per game. The four players they drafted Thursday night alone combined to average more free throws than that last season at the NCAA level, with a combined average of 23.1 per game.

Surprisingly, Danny Ainge said Thursday night that boosting that category wasn’t his main intention on draft night.

“We don’t specifically just look for that,” Ainge said of his new players’ propensity to get to the free-throw line. “That was a weakness on our team last year, agreed, and we noted that, but that wasn’t something specific (we searched for). We were looking for guys who can defend and rebound and shoot and think and pass, lead, and great work ethic. It all contributes, but not specifically that.”

Still, the addition of young and dynamic players who can get to the charity stripe is an important takeaway from draft night for the Celtics.

Boston finished the night with four overall picks, including two first-rounders: Nos. 14, 22, 33 and 51. It used those picks to select Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters, respectively. The first three selections play the largest roles in boosting the team’s ability to get to the free-throw line.

Langford, a versatile guard who was chosen with the No. 14 pick, attempted 6.1 free throws per game as a freshman at Indiana. One of his strengths is creating and playing through contact – and he did so at a high rate while playing with a torn ligament in his shooting thumb last season.

Asked by Celtics.com Thursday night how he accomplished such a great while averaging 16.5 points per game, Langford said, “I'm just a hooper, I guess. I just get buckets.”

So, too, do Williams and Edwards, who were each All-Americans last season.

Williams, a First Team selection, led the SEC in scoring with an average of 18.8 PPG thanks in large part to his ability to get to the free-throw line. He averaged 7.0 free throw attempts per game as a junior, and he averaged at least 5.9 per game during each of his three seasons at Tennessee.

Edwards, also a junior and a Second Team All-American, attempted 6.1 free throws per game as a dominant scoring guard for Purdue. Getting to the line was a key factor in him averaging 24.3 PPG last season, which ranked sixth nationally.

Waters was not quite as dangerous in getting to the line at LSU, but he did still average at least 3.9 free throw attempts per game during his two collegiate seasons.

Surely, there is no guarantee that any or all of these players will be able to replicate or improve their collegiate free throw rates in the pros. Still, this is an ability, similar to rebounding, that tends to transfer relatively well from college to the pros.

The first evidence of whether or not it will translate for these four players will come at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Boston, led by this quartet of prospects, will play at least five games in the league, which tips off July 5 and concludes July 15.

If these players continue to get to the line at a high rate, as they did at the NCAA level, that will serve as a cherry on top of the Draft for Ainge and his staff.

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