BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics own three picks in next month’s NBA Draft. Chances are, they will not add three more young players to a roster that is already chalked full of young players.
But just in case Danny Ainge doesn’t use his three selections as trade bait, we should probably learn a handful of names that could be called out if the Celtics make their picks at No. 14, 20 and 22 on June 20.
For that, we turn to the wonderful mock drafters of the world, who were already churning out their projected picks Tuesday night shortly after the Ping Pong ball stopped bouncing at the NBA Draft Lottery. Here’s who they think the Celtics will draft if Boston makes their three scheduled picks next month:
No. 14: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
Explosive, highly regarded 3-and-D recruit who hasn’t shown much in college, but was a late-bloomer in high school and history could repeat itself.
No. 20: Talen Horton-Tucker, F, Iowa State
Unusual athlete who has the body to defend large players and the raw skills to play guard on offense.
No. 22: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky
Strong-bodied big man who has rapidly improved his scoring and passing as a sophomore.
No. 14: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
Zion Williamson, as noted above, had the highest Player Efficiency Rating in college basketball this season. But Clarke’s PER ranked second nationally; it was more than three points better than everybody else’s. And the 6-8 forward was a big reason why Gonzaga finished a perfect 16-0 in the West Coast Conference while earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Clarke averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game. The San Jose State transfer is a high-energy big who is a plus-player on both ends of the court. Any franchise obsessed with advanced stats, which is most, will seriously consider him anywhere outside of the top 10.
No. 20: Ty Jerome, PG, Virginia
Show me a smart player with good size for his position who can play either backcourt spot, dribble, pass, shoot and be tough on the defensive end of the court, and I’ll show you somebody who will have a long career playing professional basketball. Jerome is such a player. The 6-5 combo guard averaged 13.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per game for a Virginia team that won the national title. The success other recent Virginia alums have had in the NBA, combined with the fact that Jerome made 39.2% of the 424 3-pointers he attempted in college, will help him with front offices looking to avoid a mistake.
No. 22: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Dort became just the third consensus top-50 high school prospect to enroll at Arizona State — joining a list that includes James Harden and Jahii Carson — and he was a big reason why the Sun Devils made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under Bobby Hurley. The 6-4 freshman from Montreal averaged 16.1 points and got to the free throw line 6.1 times per game. He has a 6-9 wingspan and real desire to guard both quicker and bigger players. His 215-pound frame is rock-solid. And although Dort is not a natural point guard, he did spend part of this season proving he can play on or off the ball, which helped him with scouts.
No. 14: Sekou Doumbouya, SF, France
Doumbouya, a long-time French prodigy, projects as a floor-spacing big man who can knock down 3-pointers and create plays from the post. He’s still raw — and still growing, having just turned 18 before Christmas — but he’s got lottery talent. The Celtics could develop him into a usable big man when Al Horford eventually hangs it up, and they’ve not been shy drafting international players.
No. 20: Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
Johnson fits what the Celtics love to look for in a draft pick: a player with a high motor and switchability. Johnson can guard numerous positions on the perimeter and, early on, could be a 3-and-D player in Boston. As he evolves as a playmaker and earns trust with the franchise, his physical traits could help him develop into an All-Star caliber player.
No. 22: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
The list of 7-foot-plus athletes who can shoot 3-pointers and protect the rim at a high level begins and ends with Bol in this draft. And for a Boston franchise that could be shooting for a huge hit late in the lottery, he’s worth a flyer despite his injury history. Bol shot 52% from 3-point range and blocked 2.7 shots per game in nine contests at Oregon before a season-ending injury derailed his Ducks tenure.
No. 14: PJ Washington, Kentucky
Whether or not the Celtics get Kyrie Irving back long-term, the thing they certainly don’t lack for is scorers, and a potential glue guy like Washington might make sense in this slot, He wouldn’t be a sexy pick, but has an appealing, translatable skill set that should fit into an NBA frontline sooner than later. If Washington can continue to improve his outside shooting (although his free throws remain subpar), it will go a long way.
No. 20: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
Alexander-Walker would fit neatly with the Celtics, in a situation where he wouldn’t be asked to do a ton of scoring and would be a strong complement to the perimeter talent already in place. Whether Boston actually uses all three of their first-rounders remains to be seen, but if they’re hunting for role players, they should have several strong options at this point in the draft. What Alexander-Walker lacks in athletic upside and innate ability attacking the basket, he should be able to compensate for with feel and skill.
No. 22: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Dort’s physical, workmanlike style has earned him fans around the league, and his athleticism and strong body type create a degree of floor. It‘s easy to see him being able to keep up with his tools. His shooting and skill level do create some concern, but the fact Dort plays as hard as he does leaves hope for him turning into a solid defender. He’ll need to rein it in a bit offensively, and his jump shot is a big question, but he could be another solid potential role player for Boston at this spot.
No. 14: Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia
A recent recipient of the Euroleague Rising Star award, Goga Bitadze won’t be a sleeper in this year’s draft. He’ll have the attention of lottery teams after he transformed into an impact inside-out scorer.
The 6’11” center has developed into a more versatile post player and finisher, as well as a legitimate shooting threat with a smooth jumper that’s easy to believe in.
He doesn’t come off as a high-level offensive initiator or switchy defender, weaknesses that make it tougher to envision upside. But in the late lottery to mid-first round, he’s become a worthy option with NBA size, impressive production overseas and budding offensive skill set.
No. 20: Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
The eye test is more convincing than Herro’s 35.5 percent three-ball. He’ll use workouts to validate his picturesque shooting mechanics. The Celtics wouldn’t use him to create; rather, Herro could fill an immediate role by spotting up in transition, spacing the floor and making jump shots off screens.
No. 22: Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn
A team with multiple picks like Boston could detect a buy-low opportunity with Okeke, who appeared to be on the rise before he tore his left ACL during the NCAA tournament. The 6’8″, 230-pound forward checks the boxes of a modern big with 38.7 percent three-point shooting and defensive switchability. Okeke can be a value pick for a franchise that’s willing to overlook short-term results for long-term potential.