The Boston Celtics have quite the luxury moving forward. It’s a team fresh off a trip to the NBA Playoffs, cap room is more than workable, and the ping pong gods curried in Boston’s favor, as the organization now has the third pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Decisions will have to be made, though. While Boston did make the playoffs this season, logic says it is still a few pieces away from being legitimate threats in the Eastern Conference. With that being the case, and Danny Ainge being the king of not loving the top of drafts, it is entirely possible the Celtics trade their third overall selection for a first-rounder next season and other assets.
After the ping pong balls landed in Boston’s favor, however, Ainge — for the first time in recorded history — said he liked this draft a lot, which simply means he’s trying to increase the value of his pick even more.
Making the possibility of the Celtics moving their pick even higher.
However, if Boston decides to stand firm in its slotting, there are plenty of options for them. Especially in an area — scoring — where it could use some extra help.
Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will obviously be off the board by the time Boston makes its decision. That is unless the Los Angeles Lakers attempt to think way outside the figurative box.
According to DraftExpress, the next “best” five guys after those talented bigs are (in order) Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, and Buddy Hield.
Right off the bat, it can be argued Dunn can be taken off Boston’s board. He is similar — at least in idea — to Marcus Smart. While a nation loves Dunn, especially as more and more features of his life become available, he is certainly the type of athletic marvel one could be intrigued by, but lost in all the hoopla is the fact that he isn’t a dynamic scorer.
Don’t get me wrong. He is a more than capable scorer, but his points aren’t coming by way of incredible efficiency or the sweetest stroke this side of the Mississippi.
Coming off a season in which he shot under 45 percent from the floor and 37 percent from distance, Dunn got his buckets thanks to his elite quickness and ability to attack the rim as if it owed him money. Sure, that can translate to the next level, yet the theory of a player’s athleticism doing so is one of the riskiest of bets to make.
Jaylen Brown might be intriguing to Boston as well, but if Ainge thinks they are closer to winning right away, then he is not their guy. Brown is probably at least a full NBA season away from being able to produce at a decent enough level, nevertheless, one that deeply impacts a team that is NBA Playoffs quality.
As for Bender — HONESTY ALERT — I have simply not consumed enough of his games to have a solid opinion on him yet. That said, he isn’t even 19-years old, and 7’1″ youngsters don’t tend to be ready to play against NBA bigs as teenagers.
That leaves Murray and Hield. Especially if the team wants an impact player to have meaningful minutes in year-one of their NBA careers.
Starting with the latter, the ideal situation would be for Ainge to trade back. Hield isn’t projected to get picked until the seventh selection. Assuming that’s “about right” if Boston’s man in charge of drafting players can find a team from 4-6 enamored enough with a player to take the third pick off his hands in exchange for that team’s first round pick and other assets, Hield would be a more than solid get.
Not only was Hield a national collegiate darling this past season, but he’s as NBA-ready as any player in this draft. While there are certainly question marks regarding his ability to score translating at the next level, Boston could attempt to swing for the fences by bringing in the idea of his offense.
Simply imagine a backcourt that features Isaiah Thomas with a player who can seriously help the offense by making shots from all over the court. Boston’s offensive woes could be positively altered in a major way. Not to mention, the spacing Hield would force upon other teams could open up offense for other talents.
That would seem ideal right?
There are problems with bringing in Hield, though. If it doesn’t work out, the backlash would be tremendous. Basically, “How can you draft a college senior? Did you only do so because he has a big name?” And all of that jazz.
While he can end up somewhere in the middle, projections for Hield’s NBA prospects range from Jimmer Fredette to Stephen Curry, and both comparisons are hyperbolic in nature. But the fear he’s the former is understandable. Fear, after all, drives many general managers insane because of all the supposed “can’t misses” that, you know, missed.
As for Murray, the initial reaction is that the Celtics already have a point guard, which they do. Still, Murray played a ton of off-guard at Kentucky and doesn’t have a slew of holes in his game on the offensive side of the ball, but can be considered a work in progress defensively.
Murray isn’t incredibly athletic (again, relative to the NBA’s best guards. He is athletic, merely not “that” athletic). He is strong, has shown the propensity to improve each and every time he hits the hardwood and is a marvelous shooter, specifically in spot-shooting situations. He’s also incredibly aggressive and fearless attacking the rim. He has a lot more positives than negatives.
That said, at least at this portion in their careers, there is a glaring difference between Murray and Hield. Murray is a good shooter but becomes great when attempting a jumper while set. Hield is a great shooter in any scenario.
But remember, there’s a long line of guys who were able to “create” their own shot in college but couldn’t create enough space at the NBA level to remain in the league.
Either way, Boston can draft the reincarnation of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and it would still be a gamble. The reality of the situation is that there’s ALWAYS going to be risks in NBA Drafts — from the first overall pick to the last one made. If anything, landing the “right” guy is less a science and more a combination of educated best guesses and luck.
Regardless, this simply points out that Boston has plenty of options. To this author, without yet having consumed enough of Bender to have an opinion, it boils down to Murray or Hield. In a perfect world, Ainge would be able to do what he loves to do (trade picks) and still draft one of the two.
All of this is likely moot, though. Fully expect Ainge to trade out of the first round completely because the moment he said he liked this draft is like the moment someone tells you that you don’t look fat in those jeans… there’s an agenda in the statement.