BOSTON (CBS) – With the NBA Draft less than three weeks away, the Celtics’ front office has been getting a firsthand taste of numerous college prospects at the team’s training facility in Waltham in the month of June.
Boston’s needs for the upcoming season are abundant, but head coach Brad Stevens tried to keep his expectations relatively grounded when asked about what’s he looking for in this upcoming rookie crop after a recent workout.
“I think we’re just looking for basketball players that bring transferrable skills to this level,” Stevens explained. “Sometimes those (experienced) guys are more ready than others. But sometimes the other guys have higher upsides. And you just weigh that. That’s where Danny and his staff have done all the research and figured out the directions that they want to go – certainly with regard to inviting guys to workouts. And then they will continue to sit down and talk as a staff, and coaches will occasionally poke their noses in there and throw out an opinion. But these guys do a great job.”
Stevens and his staff have already worked out over 35 players in front of the team’s decision makers. That player number could eclipse 100 by the time draft day hits, thanks to the fact that Boston holds four draft picks this year spread around both rounds (Nos. 16, 28, 33, 45).
While it’s unlikely the Celtics will keep all of those selections, there are a number of intriguing prospects the team has brought in for a closer look.
Who could be some of the best potential fits out of the long list of individuals that have arrived in Boston?
Let’s sort through a few candidates at Boston’s top tier, the No. 16 spot:
Justin Anderson, Virginia, 6’6″, SF, Junior
2014-15 Stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 46.6 FG%, 45.2 3P%
Overview: Anderson broke out offensively this year after the departure of second-round pick Joe Harris. The swingman became the featured offensive option on a lackluster scoring team, and his shooting percentages skyrocketed despite an enhanced role (he shot 29 percent from deep in 2013-14). The improvement bodes well for a transformation into a role player in the NBA where he won’t be counted on as a focal point. Anderson also counts his defensive versatility as a strength, another need for this Celtics team on the wing.
Notable quote after Celtics workout: “I’ve always had confidence in my jump shot and my ability. A lot of people thought I was set back because of my finger and hand injury. I think it’s helped out even more, the way you can handle the ball and the rotation and everything. It’s work, it’s confidence, and after a while, you just get really good at it.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6’7’’, SF, Sophomore
2014-15 Stats: 11.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 50.2 FG%, 20 3P%
Overview: It’s hard to find a more athletic and energetic player in this draft on the wing than Hollis-Jefferson. He earned All-Defensive and First-Team honors in the Pac-12 despite rather pedestrian offensive numbers. That lack of offense, particularly outside shooting, could be his downfall at the pro level, but the thinking for now is that Hollis-Jefferson does enough in other areas of the floor to make up for his shortcomings on the perimeter.
Notable quote after Celtics workout: “I’ll get a lot better at [the shooting], and then I’ll become great. I’m not worried about what (draft boards) are saying now. I’m just going to love what I do great and get better at what I don’t do great.”
Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6’11’’, PF/C, Sophomore
2014-15 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 53.6 FG%, 46.7 3P%
Overview: Shooting, energy, offensive rebounding, steady defense. Those skills are among a long list of things Portis did well during his two years at Arkansas. He’s been rising up draft boards all season long, and although Boston has a crowded frontcourt, his upside could top anyone in that group right now. The one big question about his track record is if the 3-point shot will translate to the NBA (only took 0.6 per game in college), but his overall motor and mid-range touch will make some team happy that drafts in the teens.
Notable quotes on Celtics after workout: “They are a winning franchise. I just feel like they have a winning culture and a winning attitude. I would bring that. I’d be myself from Game 1. I’d bring that sense of urgency and passion, and my mid-range jumper…Every draft team has a need. If the Celtics need a rim protector, I can bring that. Teams need different things every year. They never said something about (rebounding), but that’s something I can surely bring, eight or nine boards every night. More than that, I can score the ball. I can do a lot of things and expand my game.”
Other prospects likely to workout for Celtics in the coming weeks as potential candidates for No. 16 pick: Sam Dekker, Trey Lyles, Jerian Grant Kevon Looney
Up next: A look at some possibilities at No. 28 and No. 33.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.