BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft is only a week away. And the Boston Celtics still have three first-round picks.
Danny Ainge is really hoping that changes soon. This isn’t a particularly talented draft, and the Celtics don’t have room on the roster for three rookies. They barely have room for one. Ainge will be furiously working the phones over the next seven days in hopes of consolidating his three selections (Nos. 14, 26 and 30).
Maybe he’ll get lucky and be able to move up into the Top 10. Perhaps he’ll snag a player he wants at No. 14 and then cash in Boston’s later two picks for future selections. Ainge doesn’t have any future firsts to clamor over, so you better believe he’ll jump at the chance to add another selection or two in the near future.
Sources: The Timberwolves are attempting to acquire a second lottery pick. They’ve had talks with the Hawks for #6. A possible deal could include Jarrett Culver and #17.
A number of teams are interested in Atlanta’s #6 pick—the Pelicans and Celtics being among them, sources say.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 11, 2020
Or… he’ll have to make three picks on Nov. 18, and that will kinda stink. It’s not that Ainge won’t be able to get some good-to-decent players if he hits on the picks (which is always an adventure), but with a mix of vets and youngsters ready to win now, three more rookies won’t really do much for the 2021 Boston Celtics. If he does end up making two or more picks, expect Ainge to go the draft-and-stash route with at least one of them.
But we really should be hoping that Danny can swing a trade or two or three before it’s his turn to make a pick next Wednesday. But if he does have to make picks, here’s who the mockers have him drafting with the NBA Draft one week out:
No. 14: Saddiq Bey, SF, Villanova
Bey might go 14th regardless of whether the Celtics keep the pick or not. My perception is that Bey and Nesmith are competing for the same type of draft slots and both will go in the teens, but that Bey is very slightly preferred to Nesmith by most of the “win-now” crowd.
From Boston’s perspective, Bey doesn’t ooze upside, but he provides a good shooter and switchable defender at the 3 and 4 to take over some of the backup wing minutes that had Brad Stevens desperately sifting through the Ojeleye-Langford-Williams pupu platter a season ago.
My favorite draft trade, by the way, is for Boston to flip this pick to Cleveland for Larry Nance, with the Cavs then taking either Bey or Nesmith in this slot. But as noted above, I can also see Boston packaging 14 and one of 26 or 30 to move up a few spots and get into Okoro/Vassell territory.
One other name to watch here: Aleksej Pokusevski. The Celtics could survive their roster crunch by leaving him in Greece and then bringing him over a year from now.
No. 26: Leandro Bolmaro, SF, FC Barcelona
I suspect Boston would absolutely love it if Desmond Bane fell here, but the odds don’t favor that outcome. One can also make a case for Robert Woodard here since Boston has over-indexed on muscles in recent drafts and Woodard has a big, strong frame, but I don’t really see Woodard as a first-round talent and most of the people I talked to agree.
A lot of scouts aren’t crazy about Bolmaro, but he’s the one guy you can see being selected as a stash pick in the first round — Bolmaro is playing games for Barcelona right now and will be there all season, at a minimum.
In this case, he makes a ton of sense if Boston can’t move the pick, given the Celtics’ roster crunch and the fact they have three first-round picks. Bolmaro plays a valuable position and has some intriguing possibilities as a point forward who can guard his position, but his overall production has been pretty disappointing for FC Barcelona this year.
No. 30: Tyler Bey, SF, Colorado
I don’t have a great landing spot for Bey, but this dude is too athletic not to go in the first round. I’m parking him here for now, on the expectation that Boston trades this pick someplace else and the acquiring team is more likely than not to see Bey as the best player available.
Some other names to watch here, and at the back end of the first round in general, are Jordan Nwora, Daniel Oturu, Payton Pritchard and Xavier Tillman. Devon Dotson and Paul Reed, despite my admiration for both, are far more likely to go later in the draft, as is another sleeper of mine in Elijah Hughes.
As for the trade front, Hollinger notes that the Celtics appear to be the only team “particularly excited about trading up.” The Knicks could be a potential swap partner for Boston, but New York already owns pick No. 27 so they may not want to swap the No. 8 pick for Boston’s three selections.
But the San Antonio Spurs, with pick No. 11, could come calling.
“Tracing all that smoke back to an actual fire, one wonders if the Spurs are looking at trade-down scenarios with Boston that could put them in a position to have picks 14 and 26 if the player they want isn’t here at 11,” writes Hollinger.
No. 14: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C ,Memphis
Achiuwa’s physical tools and defensive versatility might be attractive to a Celtics team that could add depth to its frontcourt. Achiuwa has the frame and length to contain big men and the lateral quickness to switch pick-and-rolls. Although his offense is a work in progress, the Celtics have ample scoring on the perimeter.
No. 26: Aleksej Pokuševski, C, Serbia
A 7-footer who can dribble, pass and shoot, Pokusevski has lottery-level upside but is highly unproven. I’d be surprised if he made it past Oklahoma City’s pick, but if so, he makes perfect sense for Boston. The youngest player in this draft, Pokusevski is likely several years away from being able to hold his own on an NBA floor physically. With very few roster spots available, the Celtics can afford to be patient, especially if they are able to stash him in the G League or in Europe for a year or two.
No. 30: Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Consider this a best-available selection. Azubuike isn’t the most modern big man, but his frame, length and explosiveness could make him an interesting antidote to the small-ball movement. He was the best player on the best team in college basketball, and he could make a significant impact on both ends in the right role.
No. 14: Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama
Lewis is in the top 10 on my board, so the Celitcs would be lucky to snatch him up here. The blazing quick point guard’s development could be accelerated by learning from Kemba Walker, who pretty much embodies Lewis’ ceiling as an NBA player.
No. 26: Robert Woodard II, SG, Mississippi State
The Celtics need wing depth, and Woodard will be able to defend immediately. If he proves he can make his 3s the way he did his last season in college, he should earn minutes quickly.
No. 30: Theo Maledon, PG, France
Maledon is an intriguing 19-year-old French prospect whose shooting has improved nearly every season. His potential as a playmaker is obvious, but the Celtics may want to stash him overseas to get him more experience.
No. 14: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C ,Memphis
Achiuwa falling to Boston might be a perfect scenario for both the player and the team. Daniel Theis is solid, but the Celtics could use a high motor player like Achiuwa. He sets huge screens, has skills as a roller and has the potential to be a defensive anchor. Boston has two additional first-round picks, which means they’ll have an opportunity to fill other gaps in the rotation later on.
No. 26: Aleksej Pokuševski, C, Serbia
Pokuševski is a smooth shooting 7-footer with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, but there are questions about his toughness. Boston has three first round selections and will need to hide a player or two in Europe. Pokuševski could go higher than this, but he could also fall to the early second round. This is a perfect low risk, high reward situation for the Celtics, who already have a deep squad.
No. 30: Desmond Bane, G, TCU
Like [Malachi] Flynn, Bane is climbing. The senior guard can really shoot it from the outside and he’s improved every season at TCU. Boston has plenty of picks and very few open spots in their rotation, but adding a mature player like Bane makes sense. He has a big motor, a high basketball IQ and he plays defense, which is a prerequisite to earn minutes for Brad Stevens’ club.
No. 14: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
Achiuwa checks every box physically for a modern hybrid front court player. At 6’9, 225 pounds with a 7’2 wingspan, the Memphis freshman is a big, strong, fast athlete who can provide tremendous defensive versatility and a major impact on the glass so long as he’s disciplined. The other side of the floor is a different story. Achiuwa is a rough outside shooter and only made 60 percent of his free throws. His ‘feel for the game’ very much remains a work in progress especially on the offensive end, which is troubling for a freshman who is already 21 years old. The hope is that Achiuwa can play a variety of coverages defensively either as a four or a five, and that his offense slowly develops with cutting ability and spot-up shooting. His tape at Memphis leaves a lot to be desired, but the physical tools are hard to come by.
No. 26: Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona
Bolmaro is a 6’7 guard from Argentina who flashed his playmaking potential and defensive instincts in a limited role with Barcelona this year. Bolmaro has a chance to develop into an oversized creator down the road who can effectively run offense. Defense will likely be his calling card early in his career, where he uses his plus size and high basketball-IQ to make an impact as a help defender. The best thing about Bolmaro? He’s a wonderful draft-and-stash option thanks to a quality developmental setup with Barcelona, which would be ideal for a Celtics team with three first rounders should they decide to keep every pick.
No. 30: Grant Riller, G, Charleston
Riller will turn 24 years old as a rookie and spent the last four years playing in the Colonial Conference, but his unique gifts as a scorer are worth betting on at this point in the draft. Riller has incredible burst with the ball in his hands to create separation on the perimeter combined with quality shooting touch to give him one of the most diverse scoring packages in this class. He finished in the 97th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in the 87th percentile in isolations, and in the 96th percentile on spot-up opportunities. His defense is a huge question mark, but offensive players like this are worth a shot with the final pick in the first round.
No. 14: Precious Achiuwa, PF/C, Memphis
Remember when Boston couldn’t find a physical answer for Bam Adebayo in the Eastern Conference Finals? Achiuwa would be a step in the right direction. The 6’8¾”, 234-pounder provides switchability and rim protection, although his offensive role will be confined to screen-setting and rim-running.
No. 26: Aleksej Pokuševski, PF, Serbia
Unable to consolidate picks in this mock, Boston could instead use one of its three first-rounders to land the (literally) biggest boom-or-bust prospect in this class. He’s a 7-footer who can handle, create, block shots and hit on-the-move threes, but he’s also problematically thin (201 pounds), inconsistent on defense and prone to forcing things offensively.
No. 30: Grant Riller, PG/SG, Charleston
Boston lacked second-team scoring last season, and Riller could provide tons of it so long as his game translates against much stiffer competition than what he faced over four years with the Cougars. If it does, the C’s would be getting ambidextrous finishing, dynamic handling and enough off-the-dribble shooting to demand plenty of defensive attention.
No. 14: Aleksej Pokuševski, C, Serbia
No. 26: Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
No. 30: Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
No. 14: Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
No. 26: Tyler Bey, PF, Colorado
No. 30: Leandro Bolmaro, G, Barcelona
And if three first-round picks aren’t enough for you, the Celtics also own the No. 47 pick in the second round.