A Positional Guide to the NBA Draft
BOSTON – The NBA Draft is less than three weeks away, meaning it’s crunch time for Boston’s scouting staff.
Heading into the Draft, the Celtics are projected to make the most first-round selections of any team in the league, as they own the Nos. 14, 20 and 22 picks. Boston also owns the 51st selection.
It’s possible that the C’s won’t end up using all four of those picks should they decide to package any of them in draft night trades. Though, if they do keep them all, there will be plenty of options to help bolster the roster. Below, we’ve highlighted four positional routes that the C’s could take.
As NBA offenses have become more and more perimeter oriented, the importance of 3-and-D players has amplified. Being a shooting threat from beyond the arc and being able to defend elite sharpshooters are vital traits in today’s NBA, which is why 3-and-D players are one of its hottest commodities.
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, in particular, have displayed an affinity for 3-and-D’s, as they have relied on a number of such players over the past several years, such as Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris and Semi Ojeleye. Most of those players bring far more to the table, but their 3-and-D abilities are of utmost importance.
With offenses spacing the floor more than ever, a team can never have too many 3-and-D wings.
Two-Way Combo Guards
Ainge has also taken a liking to two-way combo guards, as he’s plucked a number of such players from the draft during his tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations.
Boston draftees such as Tony Allen, Bradley, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and Delonte West have all fit the mold of this type of player, showing the ability to handle point guard duties and also thrive off the ball on offense, while providing suffocating perimeter defense and relentless ball-hawking on the other end.
Perhaps Ainge has a soft spot for tenacious combo guards because they resemble exactly what he brought to the Celtics back in the 1980s. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of the blue-collared, hard-working culture that’s so strongly represented in Boston. Whatever it is, the organization seems to be a magnet for these types of players.
There was a time when rim protectors were the most sought-after players in the NBA. Imposing giants such as Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell ruled the league with their defensive dominance in the low post.
The demand for such players has decreased over the last couple of decades due to the rise of pace and space offenses, though that doesn’t mean that the position has completely lost its value.
For example, every team could use a player like Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert to defend drives and post-ups.
Boston rolled with a rim-protecting big during last year’s draft, as it selected shot-blocking stud Robert Williams with its lone first-round pick. The C’s could certainly go that route again this June to help bolster their frontcourt presence.
A jack-of-all-trades is both the rarest and the most valuable type of player in the NBA. Perennial MVP candidates such as Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard fit this mold, as each of those guys is capable of doing virtually anything on the basketball court.
They can all handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and finish strong, and defend multiple positions.
For the current group of Celtics, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum best fit this description. Hayward has proven to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player, adapting to any role he is asked to play, while Tatum is rapidly developing his skill set across the board.
At times, it’s obvious which potential draftees will develop into one of these well-rounded phenomena. Zion Williamson, the Duke product who is widely projected to be the No. 1 overall pick, fits this mold more than any draft prospect. For others, such as Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, it takes time to develop from a raw prospect into a well-rounded athlete, which can make it difficult to predict exactly who will shape into such a player.