BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft is just a few days away, and the landscape of the extravaganza was shaken up over the weekend by the blockbuster trade of Anthony Davis. The Brow will now be playing in L.A., and the No. 4 pick currently belongs to the New Orleans Pelicans — along with the top selection.
What does it all mean for the Boston Celtics? Quite a bit. For starters, they won’t have Anthony Davis next season. So much for pairing him up with Kyrie Irving and forming a super team in the East. It also probably means that Irving will be skipping town come early July, leaving Boston without a starting point guard and a star player.
While they could potentially find another point guard in the draft, they won’t be landing a star player (at least not an immediate star) with any of their three first-round picks. Danny Ainge is set to make picks No. 14, 20 and 22, though there’s a good chance he tries to package a few of them to move up, down or out of this year’s draft, or potentially add another star player via trade. With a roster that is already loaded with young players, the Celtics don’t need to add three more youngsters to the mix.
But should the Celtics make their scheduled selections Thursday night, here’s who the mock drafters have them picking in the aftermath of the Anthony Davis trade:
No. 14: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Versatile scoring wing who can play on or off the ball and serve as a playmaking presence.
No. 20: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Massive physical specimen like his father, Manute Bol, though he has far more offensive upside. His medical report will make or break his draft stock.
No. 22: Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia
Talented playmaker and shooter who moves at 3G, but his mind calculates actions on the floor at 5G.
No. 14: Gogo Bitadze, C, Georgia
There is plenty of uncertainty around Boston and what its roster will look like next season, and most of its big men hitting the open market adds to that. Bitadze is a high upside play with plenty of room to grow, and what he provides as a versatile offensive weapon and rim protector could be a valuable skill to build around.
No. 20: Keldon Johnson, SG, Kentucky
Marcus Smart or Jayson Tatum — or both — could be centerpieces of a trade package for Boston if they engage the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Johnson is a safe pick to protect from such potential losses with his 3-and-D potential and always-hot motor.
No. 22: Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State
Marcus Morris is headed towards free agency and the Celtics need a player — whether it’s Morris, a free agent or a draft acquisition — to be a floor-spacing power forward. Kabengele can do that after two strong seasons shooting from 3-point range at Florida State, and he provides upside as a rim protector, too.
No. 14: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
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, SG, 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: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
From a purely basketball perspective, Porter is a lottery talent who would be a steal for the Celtics, or anybody else, this low in this draft. But he’s done very little, and possibly nothing, to eliminate some of the red flags that figure to make selecting him in the lottery a non-starter for some — not all, but definitely some — franchises. The 6-6 wing spent part of his freshman season injured, part of it suspended and was something less than the model student-athlete while averaging just 9.5 points in 22.1 minutes per game for a USC team that finished with a losing record. None of that alone means Porter won’t emerge as one of the 10 best players from this draft. But some of that is why he’s unlikely to be one of the top 10 players selected in this draft.
No. 14: Tyler Herro, Kentucky
The Celtics could use a knock-down shooter to play off of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Herro gives them that spacing along with a competitive fire that should help offset some of his physical challenges.
No. 20: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
With three picks in the first round, the Celtics can afford to take a gamble on a combo guard with legitimate All-Star potential. Teams want to see Porter utilize his power in the paint and around the rim more, and his attention to detail defensively is lacking, but he has great athleticism, and his handle and shot creation are elite.
No. 22: Darius Bazley, F
The Celtics take another risk on a forward with good length and athleticism, potential for switching defensively, and the ability to grab and go in transition at a high level. Rumors coming out of pre-draft workouts suggest that Bazley has added muscle and impressed after his year away from competitive basketball.
Note: Bazley chose to skip school and played last
No. 14: Gogo Bitadze, C, Georgia
Although the Celtics ended up left out of the Anthony Davis pursuit, expect them to be active in exploring their various options with three first-round picks in hand. Signs obviously point to Kyrie Irving being on his way out. Al Horford has a player option for this season, Gordon Hayward has one for next season and Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the key long-term pieces for Boston, who are in a bit of flux after a disappointing season.
Bitadze is considered by some to be the best center in the draft, and is pretty clearly the closest to making an impact in the NBA. If Boston is thinking best player available at this pick, he’d be a nice option. He comes off a strong year overseas in which he won multiple MVPs and the EuroLeague’s Rising Star award. His impressive productivity as a teenager bodes well, and his size, interior skills, physicality and developing jumper are legit. Bitadze’s ceiling might be capped a bit defensively, as he won’t do much guarding on the perimeter, but he should bring enough to the table that scheme can help cover up some of those issues. He’d fit well as a long-term solution at the five.
No. 20: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
If the Celtics keep these later picks, they’ll be able to bet on talent, and Porter certainly has that. He comes with a wide variance of outcomes, but would be a fascinating risk-reward pick for them. It’s possible he could be in play for them at No. 14, but there’s also a chance he slips down toward their other picks, and at this point in the draft, he’s going to have to be a serious consideration. The sense I get is that Porter’s range begins at the end of the lottery, with Charlotte and Miami both showing a degree of interest, according to league sources.
The myriad concerns regarding Porter’s off-court issues at USC and his overall maturity have hurt him a bit, but he’s capable of some things most players can’t do with the ball in his hands. Porter isn’t considered to be a bad egg, but it will take some insulation early on to help keep him on track and focus on becoming a pro. On ability alone, he’s totally justifiable in the lottery, teams just have to feel comfortable that they can put him in a positive environment to help him get acclimated and avoid distractions.
No. 22: Cameron Johnson, SF, UNC
Again, who knows what happens with these Boston picks—rostering three first-round rookies seems like a long shot—but Johnson does make some sense for them as a plug-and-play shooter. Johnson is 23 and comes with an injury history, but the age factor won’t matter as much for the Celtics, whose roster already skews on the younger side. He makes sense with their competitive window, and can be had on an affordable contract in this part of the draft.
Johnson is an outstanding catch-and-shoot player with little to prove in that regard, and has legit size for his position. He seems likely to fall in the 20–24 range, with all these playoff teams conceivably having a use for him immediately. The upside isn’t massive, but he’s a safe bet to space the floor in above-average fashion, provide adequate defense, and rebound a little bit.
No. 14: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
No. 20: Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State
No. 22: Nassir Little SF/PF, North Carolina