Celtics

Final Mock Draft Roundup: Celtics Likely Going Big With 6th Pick

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Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart. (Photos by Andy Lyons, Sam Forencich, Jennifer Pottheiser and Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart. (Photos by Andy Lyons, Sam Forencich, Jennifer Pottheiser and Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft is just a few short days away, and soon we’ll be able to finally put all (or most) of the rumors and speculation to rest.

But until Thursday night, let’s enjoy all that nonsense while it lasts. The final round of mock drafts are out, and there is a wide selection of potential picks for the Boston Celtics at both sixth and 17th overall.

Just a week ago, Joel Embiid was projected to go first overall to Cleveland. Now, he has two screws in his right foot, will likely miss the first six months of his rookie season and has dropped to somewhere in the mid-lottery range. Three mockers currently have the Celtics taking a chance on the Kansas center.

Others have the C’s choosing another oft-injured big man in Kentucky’s Julius Randle, while Arizona power forward Aaron Gordon and Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart are the other two selections for the Celtics with the sixth overall pick.

That is of course if the Celtics make that selection. Danny Ainge has owned a top 10 pick twice in his time with the Celtics (fifth overall in 2007 and seventh overall in 2006) and traded it off both times — for Ray Allen in 2007 and Sebastian Telfair in 2006. If you believe all the reports, it looks like Kevin Love will be staying in Minnesota (at least for the near future), but don’t sleep on Ainge having another deal in the works for a veteran player if he can’t land the T-Wolves All Star. Based on his past moves, Ainge prefers proven talent over risking a high draft pick on an uncertain player.

But for now, the Celtics currently own two first round picks and here is what the draft “experts” see them doing with those selections:

Chad Ford, ESPN (June 23, Insiders content)

No. 6: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

Embiid could go No. 3 to the Sixers (or to the Cavs in a Sixers-Cavs swap) or to the Magic at No. 4. But if he slides past both of those teams (I don’t see the Jazz taking the risk on Embiid) there’s an increasing belief that GM Danny Ainge won’t let him slide further. Ainge always has been a gambler and has always emphasized having great assets, and Embiid has the potential to be a franchise center, and there’s no one else on the board that the Celtics are in love with.

There are a few caveats. The Celtics, like everyone else, are still gathering medical info. Sources say that the foot and back fractures aren’t the only issues with Embiid’s physical. There are several other issues that need to be addressed. Something they see in the next four days could scare them away. And second, the Celtics are engaged in a number of different trade scenarios that could alter this plan (by either trading the pick or getting an established star that would necessitate getting a player in the draft who could help them now.).

If the Celtics pass on Embiid, I believe Gordon is their top target. If he’s gone, Marcus Smart seems to be the next guy up. The Celtics love his toughness and think he can play with Rondo as well as free them up to explore Rondo deals.

No. 17: Dario Saric, F, Croatia

Saric might go as high as No. 10. He’ll get looks at 11, 12, 14 and 15, as well. But with Saric staying in Europe for two more years, there seems to be more reluctance toward taking him that high. Again, I don’t think the Celtics let him pass. Yes, I know that it means that Celtics fans would not see EITHER of their first-round picks play in Boston next season. But as far as talent goes, Ainge could walk away with the best player in the draft and a top-10 pick for Nos. 6 and 17. I’m not sure he could help himself.

Jeff Goodman, ESPN (June 24, Insiders content)

No. 6: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

Danny Ainge will have a difficult decision between forwards Julius Randle and Gordon — as well as point guard Marcus Smart. Ainge could use a high-energy, athletic forward. And while Gordon isn’t much of a scorer, his work ethic could allow him to become one down the road.

No. 17: T.J. Warren, SF, NC State

Warren is not an exceptional athlete, but neither was Paul Pierce. Warren can flat-out score, and his perimeter shot is hardly broken. Boston needs a guy like Warren, who was ACC Player of the Year last year while carrying the N.C. State Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament.

Chris Mannix, Sports Illustrated (June 24)

No. 6: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

This just feels like a Danny Ainge pick, doesn’t it? Ainge is in Year 2 of a long rebuilding process and has the full support of ownership. The early reports indicate that Embiid could be back in 4-6 months, though doctors and medical experts have advised SI.com that the average recovery time is 6-9 months, and could be as long as a year. But if Embiid heals properly — and despite the anecdotal evidence suggesting a broken navicular bone could be a career-threatening injury, most of these injuries heal cleanly — he could be just the type of franchise player Boston covets.

No. 17: P.J. Hairston, SG, NBADL

The Celtics have a decision to make with restricted free agent Avery Bradley, who could command a contract in the neighborhood of $7 million to $9 million per year, according to rival executives. There is some debate over the value of Hairston’s D-League stats, but his size and inside-out scoring ability are very appealing.

 

Sean Devaney, Sporting News (June 24)

No. 6: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

If the Magic pass on Embiid, the Celtics might be the most realistic option for him. But if not, the Celtics will consider Smart and Gordon at this spot. Ultimately, Gordon’s athleticism and upside will win out.

No. 17: James Young, SF, Kentucky

The Celtics have an eye on T.J. Warren here, but there is a chance a higher rated prospect falls to them. That would be the case if Young, a capable shooter, slipped to them here.

Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com (June 23)

No. 6: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

Yes, that previously mentioned foot injury matters, but it shouldn’t prevent the Celtics from grabbing Randle here. His upside might not be that of Embiid, Parker, Wiggins, Exum or even Vonleh. But he’s a talented prospect with an incredible motor, and that motor is what basically makes him bust-proof. There’s just no scenario, barring injury, where Randle isn’t a relevant NBA player for at least a decade.

No. 17: Dario Saric, F, Croatia

Saric has reportedly reached an agreement in principle to remain in Europe for at least two more seasons, but that shouldn’t be a concern for the Celtics. Boston can attain his rights here, get great value and bring him to the NBA at a later date when the franchise will likely be in a better position to compete for something of note.

Matt Moore, CBSSports.com (June 19)

No. 6: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

Danny Ainge disses the draft for six months and winds up with the best player in it. Typical Celtics. Remember, the Celtics took Jared Sullinger with a medical red flag, and they’ve been pleased with the results. They trust their training staff. Kelly Olynyk is not the future, nor is Vitor Faverani. And if you’re looking to eventually deal a combination of assets for starpower, like they did in 2007, Embiid is the guy who in two years could net that kind of player, beyond any other available at this spot. Unbelievably, Embiid goes green.

No. 17: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke

Hood’s defensive upside is dramatically overlooked due to Duke’s systemic issues last year. The wingspan isn’t great, but most of his issues were mental, not physical. And while that’s often harder to fix than anything, sometimes, guys just “get it” at the next level. And offensiviely, he’s an immediate starter-worthy guy.

Zach Harper, CBSSports.com (June 19)

No. 6: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

This is good for the Celtics on two counts: 1) They can flip Gordon as part of a bigger trade package for Kevin Love. Gordon is a high-flying, defensive forward who will own highlight reels in his first couple years. The Wolves can use a guy like him if they rebuild. Or 2) the Celtics get a potential star to use in their own rebuild and have a great passing point guard already to get him the ball.

No. 17: Zach Levine, SG, UCLA

In this scenario, the Celtics grab two high-flyers with a lot of potential. LaVine has incredible athleticism and skills, but his decision-making on the court could hold him back from maximizing that potential. Put him with Rondo leading the offense and under Brad Stevens’ tutelage and you have a great chance of making LaVine a very successful player.

David Aldridge, NBA.com (June 23)

No. 6: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

Does Randle somewhat duplicate Jared Sullinger’s game? Yes. But the Celts can’t be picky about passing over talent. Randle may have shorter arms than you’d like in a power forward, but he’s got grown man moves in the paint. There are legit questions around the league about Randle’s defense — and, more importantly, his right foot, and whether he’ll ultimately have to go under the knife. (He and his camp say no. What do you expect them to say?) It is possible Boston could roll the dice here on Embiid if he’s still on the board; taking a potential franchise center at six, even if injured, is certainly worth the gamble.

No. 17: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn

The Celtics could well be picking for someone else here. Napier has shot up Draft boards ever since his star turn in the NCAA Tournament, and he’ll be a strong backup for a good team trading up to this spot. If Boston keeps this pick, it needs a point guard to perhaps replace Rajon Rondo soon. No, I don’t believe the pledges of fidelity Rondo and the Celtics have made to one another in the last few months. I’m a bit of a cynic.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com (June 19)

No. 6: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The call belongs to the Boston doctors as much as Boston management. A healthy Embiid, cleared from the fractured back that ended his one-and-done college career early, would probably be No. 1 with room to spare. But that changes with the right foot stress fracture. The Celtics need a rim protector and have to look hard at the bold move that could either end in disaster or a huge payoff into the next decade.

No. 17: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

Nurkic does not show star potential, but he is on an upward trajectory of improvements, a consistent physical presence and good energy. More importantly for his draft stock, he is the second-best center in the draft, a strong selling point. The Celtics could use a long-term starter there.

DraftExpress.com (June 23)

No. 6: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

No. 17: Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

HoopsHype.com (June 20)

No. 6: Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Boston is in rebuilding mode and unless this pick gets moved in a deal for Kevin Love, they are likely to draft the player they feel has the most long-term potential, and if Exum falls here he would fit that criteria. Exum is the biggest wild card of this year’s draft. He’s a terrific kid with a great deal of talent, but without question he’s still very unproven as his biggest accomplishments have been in the form of international matches playing against low level of competition. He was very impressive playing for his Australian national team in competitions such as the U19 World Championships in Prague. He’s got a ton of upside due to his versatility, potential to play either guard position and extreme quickness off the dribble. Has drawn comparisons to Penny Hardaway. He may scare away some teams due to unfamiliarity and has some kinks to work out such as a shot that lacks much trajectory. Is he a PG or SG at the NBA level? Scouts appear to be split down the middle on this. He must learn to either become a facilitator or learn to play off the ball. But surely a kid with a bright future.

No. 17: T.J. Warren, SF, NC State

Warren is a talented forward with a nose for scoring. He spring boarded off of a solid freshman campaign to become one of the most prolific scorers in the country, third in the nation at over 24 per game. Though just an average NBA level athlete, Warren shows a knack for taking what the defense gives him and one of those guys that makes the game look easy. He still needs to extend his range and add a three-point shot to his repertoire, but he shows good form on his shot and should be able to improve that over time. Warren’s incredible season taking home ACC POY honors virtually locks up a first-round selection, and he could even get looks in the late lottery.

MORE CELTICS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON

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