By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft is just two weeks away. But for the first time in three years, there really isn’t too much excitement from a Celtics standpoint.
This year, Danny Ainge doesn’t have the No. 1 pick to trade away. He doesn’t even have the No. 3 pick to take another star of the future. Heck, he doesn’t even have a single second-round selection. All he’s working with this year is the 27th overall pick, leaving Celtics fans with as much enthusiasm as Ainge has for a Grateful Dead concert.
That’s not to say there isn’t any talent at the end of the first round. Just last year the Lakers snagged Kyle Kuzma with the 27th overall pick, and he was worlds better than the guy they took second overall. Rudy Gobert (2013), DeMarre Carroll (2009) and Dennis Rodman (1987, when No. 27 was in the second round) were also drafted in that spot. And you may remember, Ainge was able to get Kendrick Perkins at No. 27 (thanks to a draft night swap with Memphis), and the Celtics never lost a playoff series when Perk was in the starting five for the entire series. Never. Lost.
But for every Kuzma and Gobert, there are JaJuan Johnsons lurking at the end of the first round. So yeah, it’s quite the hit-or-miss spot to be in.
The Celtics have already worked out roughly 50 players per the Boston Globe, and chatted with a handful of Top-10 prospects at the combine. They have more pre-draft workouts scheduled at their practice facility in Waltham on Friday. And even if Ainge doesn’t have the draft capital this year, he has a bevvy of future picks to pawn off if he wants to trade up. With Ainge, you always have to keep your head on a swivel.
Will all of that being said, let’s dive into the first roundup of who the mock drafters think the Celtics will take at No. 27:
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: Mitchell Robinson, C
Synopsis: Robinson made a mess of his college situation by enrolling at Western Kentucky before, just two weeks later, leaving campus and asking for a release. Then the 7-foot center never actually enrolled in another school — meaning he did not play competitive basketball anywhere this past season. That’s neither ideal nor smart. And it’s possibly a red flag. But Robinson remains a lottery talent. And it would be just like Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to land a prospect of this caliber late in the first round and then turn him over to Brad Stevens, who might be exactly the type of coach Robinson requires to reach his potential.
Scouts say Robinson is the best shot-blocker available in this year’s draft, and his 7-foot-4 wingspan could eventually give Boston the rim protection they’ve been seeking for years. He’d be a fascinating project for Ainge and Brad Stevens, and he apparently already has some Celtics gear in his wardrobe:
Matt Norlander, CBS Sports: Dzanan Musa, SF, Croatia
Synopsis: Good/youthful prospect, and almost certainly guaranteed to be a third international player taken in the first round. Young, growing, already a fabulous scorer. Brad Stevens would probably turn him into a borderline All-Star by year four or something.
The 6-foot-9 Musa is touted as one of the best scorers to come out of Europe — ever. He’s played pro ball since he was 16 and can play either guard spot or small forward.
Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation: Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
DiVincenzo made a name for himself during Nova’s run to the NCAA title in March, highlighted by his 31-point outburst in the championship game against Michigan. He averaged 15 points on 55 percent shooting during the tournament, earning him Most Outstanding Player honors after the Wildcats cut down the nets for the second time in three years.
The 6-foot-5 guard shot 48 percent from the floor last season and 47 percent during his collegiate career.
Hoopshype.com (dated May 18): Donte Divencenzo, SG, Villanova
Synopsis: The rich get richer as the Celtics have an extremely deep and talented backcourt already. They are a team that can afford to take the BPA no matter the position. DD has proven that he’s not afraid of the big stage and should be able to contribute in limited minutes to the Celtics.
Jeremy Woo, SI.com: Elie Okobo, PG, France
Synopsis: Okobo has helped himself over the course of the past month with a strong finish to his season in France that included a much-ballyhooed 44-point game in which his primary defender was veteran Aaron Craft, who’s no slouch. If the Celtics find a way to keep Marcus Smart at cost and choose to retain Terry Rozier, it’s only delaying an inevitable financial logjam. Boston could be smart to use this pick to stash a player they like, and Okobo could be groomed overseas until the Celtics have a need for him at the point. An athletic, lefthanded scorer, he offers a degree of upside that most other point guards lack at this stage of the draft and could become an NBA contributor given time.
The 6-foot-3 lefty combo guard averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 assists per game overseas last year and scouts say he has some high potential on the defensive end.
Joe Tansey, Bleacher Report: Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech
As a sophomore last season, the 6-foot-4 guard was fourth in the ACC with 18.2 points per game. Overall, Okogie averaged 16.9 points over his two seasons with the Yellow Jackets.
Wayne Staats, Landof10.com: Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
The 6-foot-1 guard led the Pac-12 last season with 20.3 points per game for the Bruins. He did so on 46 percent shooting from the floor, hitting 43 percent of his shots from downtown.
Basketball Insiders: Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
A gifted scoring guard, Robinson led the Eagles with 20.7 points per game on 49 percent shooting as a junior last season.
NBADraft.net (May 24): Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
Brunson had a fantastic three-year career at Villanova, playing a key role in two NCAA titles. Last season he was awarded Big East Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year honors and the Wooden Award after averaging 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Update: In their new mock draft, NBADraft.net has the Celtics drafting Musa and Brunson going 30th overall to the Atlanta Hawks.