The Celtics late-season heroics have Boston fans rejoicing and rallying behind this team. It’s hard not to be excited when what looks like a pure rebuilding year turns in to an opportunity for the C’s to make some noise in the post season. The only downside is that, provided that they make the playoffs, their own first round pick will move from a potential top 10 to a pick in the late teens or early twenties.
Lucky for the Celtics, GM Danny Ainge has been stockpiling draft picks as if the NBA apocalypse was coming any day now. In the 2015 first round alone the Celtics could have as many as five picks, although, realistically they will probably only have their own and the Los Angeles Clippers pick (also a post-15 pick). The most valuable of Boston’s stockpiled draft picks, as most of us know, are the 2016 and 2018 Brooklyn Nets unprotected first rounders. Since the Nets frequently flirt with being the NBA’s next big disaster of a team, these picks could end up being huge in either of those draft years. With all of the assets Ainge has stocked the Celtics with, it’s worth wondering whether he should consider trading some of those picks to move up in the draft this year.
The 2015 draft class is not considered as deep or talented as the 2014 class, but it should be extra appealing to the Celtics with the plethora of big men projected to go in the top 15. Say the Celtics do make the playoffs, and they DON’T trade up at all in the draft. The best-case scenario would probably be snagging Wisconsin Center Frank Kaminsky in the late teens. Kaminsky is a solid player, no doubt, but his skill set is a little too similar to other Celtics, specifically Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko. In other words, Kaminsky is undersized, especially to be a true rim-protecter, but he can stretch the floor and hit shots from behind the arc. Kaminsky doesn’t seem like a necessary addition to the current Celtics lineup, and Ainge would be missing out on the real cream of this years crop if this was the pick he went with.
Say the Celtics traded their pick and the Clippers pick to move up and get a top 10 pick. One potential team for Ainge to target would be the Sacramento Kings, who don’t haven’t faired well lately in the draft. It may be easy to convince Kings management that the team would benefit from drafting two players later in the first round then taking a gamble on one player earlier on. If the Celtics could secure a spot in the top 10 it would open their options to several more impact players.
One name that Celtics fans have thrown around a lot is the 7-foot Center out of Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein. WCS is the splitting image of the player that the Celtics need. While his offensive skills could use some sharpening, he is an elite defender in the NCAA. Not only can he protect the rim, but he is capable of guarding outside of the paint as well. If the Celtics aren’t going to make a move for an established NBA rim protector, WCS is the guy they should be looking to target.
Another player projected to go in the top 10 of this years draft is the UCLA power forward Kevon Looney. While Looney wouldn’t exactly answer the Celtics problems with keeping guys out of the paint, he would provide the Celtics with a good mix of inside and outside scoring. Looney would certainly enhance the C’s already impressive ability to spread out the floor.
There is one final possibility. If Ainge and the Celtics felt that this years draft was turning out some truly elite talent, they could make a move for one of the top 2 picks projected to be Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, both true Centers. This would likely require Boston to give up players (think Jarred Sullinger and/or James Young), one or both of the Brooklyn picks, and their own first round pick. It’s not impossible that the Philadelphia 76ers (fair contenders for one of the top two picks) would be interested in giving the picks to another team for the right price. The Sixers don’t really need another Center considering their recent drafting of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.
Towns and Okafor have elite potential and would make immediate impacts if they came to Boston. Okafor is the better of the player of the two, however, Towns might suit the Celtics needs a little bit better. Okafor is an elite scorer with a plethora of low post moves. He’s the kind of guy that would destroy the current Celtics if he was playing for another team. Towns doesn’t put up the same numbers as Okafor, but he is more consistent with his shot blocks and on the boards.
The top 2 picks in this years draft will be highly sought after players. It would take some true wheeling and dealing by Ainge to move Boston up to one of those spots. With that said, he has spent this year piling up assets and these two players have shown in the brief college careers that they are worth the price. Given Boston’s inability to attract big-name free agents, it just might be worth it to make a sacrifice and gun for a top pick in the 2015 NBA Entry Draft.
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