BOSTON (CBS) — The odds were in the Celtics’ favor, but it still felt like a surprise when the Green Team came out of Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery with the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft.
Now, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has a wealth of options when it comes to how he steers his team between now and June. He may trade the pick, or he may use it to add a franchise-altering type of player to a team that’s currently in the Eastern Conference finals.READ MORE: Woman Found Dead Inside Lowell Residence, DA Investigating As Apparent Homicide
While the draft is still more than a month away, here are the best players that will be available to Danny Ainge and the Celtics on June 22. While popular opinion may limit the group to just two or three players, the fact is that Ainge doesn’t like to follow popular opinion, as evidenced by his surprising selections of Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier in the past two years. So this list is a bit more extensive than one might expect.
Markelle Fultz (Washington)
Throughout much of the pre-draft hype period, Fultz has been considered the No. 1 pick in this June’s draft. The soon-to-be 19-year-old averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds in his lone season for the Huskies, who went 9-22 on the year. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Fultz appears to be ready to be a regular NBA player as a rookie.
Lonzo Ball (UCLA)
Though his father has dominated national headlines for largely the wrong reasons, Ball remains a highly considered prospect. The 6-foot-6, 190-pound Ball didn’t score much (14.6 points per game) but he led the nation with 7.7 assists per game. He also brought down six rebounds per contest. Considered more of a distributor than a scorer, Ball figures to be a pass-first type of guard in the NBA — at least to start his career.
De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
As a freshman, Fox didn’t post gaudy numbers (16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds). Nevertheless, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound Fox has reportedly been rising on draft boards.
Dennis Smith (North Carolina State)
Likewise, teams have reportedly liked what they’ve seen out of Smith, the 6-foot-3 freshman point guard for the Wolfpack. In his lone season, he scored 18.1 points per game to go with 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
Frank Ntilikina (France)
The 6-foot-5 18-year-old is the top international prospect in the draft. Though he posted modest numbers in just 18 minutes per game for his team in France, he made his name known by leading France to a FIBA U18 European Championship, scoring 31 points in the title game.
Malik Monk (Kentucky)
As a 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman, Monk scored a tick under 20 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field and 39.7 percent shooting from 3-point range. He scored 21 points against UCLA in the Sweet 16.
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The Connecticut native saw a big boost in playing time in his sophomore season, upping his scoring from 7.4 points per game as a freshman to 15.6 points this past season. Overall, he shot 40.8 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.
Josh Jackson (Kansas)
The 6-foot-8 Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in his lone season for the Jayhawks, earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Conference honors. He hauled in a dozen rebounds in each of Kansas’ final two games of the NCAA Tournament, though the one-seeded Jayhawks were bounced in the Elite Eight by way of a 14-point loss to Baylor.
Jayson Tatum (Duke)
The 6-foot-8 freshman posted numbers similar to Jackson with 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Tatum’s athleticism is rare for his size, and his 6-foot-11 wingspan has some teams hopeful in Tatum being an impact player on both ends of the court.
Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
In 26 minutes per night, Isaac averaged a dozen points and a tick under eight rebounds per game, adding in 1.5 blocks. His athleticism is seen as high level, but at 6-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he still has some filling out to do.
Lauri Markkanen (Arizona)
The 7-foot, 230-pound Finn posted 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for Arizona, earning All-Pac 12 First Team honors. For a 7-footer, he’s surprisingly efficient as a 3-point shooter at 42.3 percent.
Zach Collins (Gonzaga)
It’s unlikely the Celtics would take a center so high in the draft. But if they do, Zach Collins is considered the best option. He put up 10 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for Gonzaga.
Jarrett Allen (Texas)
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And if it’s not Collins, Jarrett Allen is considered the other top center. He put up 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his freshman season at Texas.