With the Celtics officially in rebuild mode after this past off-season (I am hesitant to call it a “reload stage” like Danny Ainge does), the 2014 NBA Draft, as well as the drafts of the immediate future, should be full of surprises for Boston Celtics fans and NBA fans alike. Whether Boston chooses to move from the sixth spot or not, the team’s fan base (and even the roster) will go through some sort of an adjustment period.
The first question that needs to be addressed is what the team’s highest priorities are going into the draft. While there is bound to be back-court questions about the futures of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, the loss of a legitimate, big defensive leader in Kevin Garnett proved to be much more dramatic than anticipated. Not to say that guys like Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger cannot fill that void – in fact, I think that Sullinger can very well perform that duty with more experience – but reliable front-court depth, rebounding, and post play on both sides of the court seem to be the most waning need for the Boston Celtics.
Unfortunately, the best big man prospect (who can do it all) after the big three of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker will probably not be available as the Orlando Magic might wisely pair Indiana University’s Noah Vonleh with a much improved Nikola Vucevic or the Utah Jazz might once again choose to overstock their front-court instead of focusing on what they really need, which will probably be a swingman, assuming Gordon Hayward departs Salt Lake City. Regardless of what teams “should” do with their picks, odds are that Noah Vonleh will not be available at number six. Same goes for combo guard Dante Exum from Australia, who at 6’6” should prove to be a valuable player wherever he ends up, using his size to overpower smaller guards.
That leaves two choices: pick a guard to help sort out potential problems regarding contracts over the next few seasons or trade out. While combo guard Marcus Smart is an appealing selection who I would not be opposed to at all given his “grit and grind” play style, trading out makes the most sense given the possibility of gaining more future picks and opening up the chance to unload burdening contracts such as that of veteran small forward Gerald Wallace. Trading down does also mean that Marcus Smart would most likely not be available at the spot they move to. And depending on their trading partner, the Celtics first draft choice of the night could be more surprising than anticipated.
Assuming the Celtics remain in the top ten after moving down, a great selection would be combo forward Aaron Gordon from the University of Arizona. Gordon is such a valuable player because of his flexibility. His 6’9” frame allows him to play both forward positions and guard offensive players with relative ease while allowing him to overpower smaller or even slower forwards on the other side of the floor – a skill that 2013 number one overall pick Anthony Bennett clearly had not mastered in his time at UNLV. Gordon rebounds exceptionally well as a combo forward, plays very instinctively at the defensive end, and attacks the rim relentlessly to account for his scoring. The one thing that truly needs to be improved in his game is the confidence in his shooting which can be altered and improved in training camp, while hustle simply cannot. Furthermore, picking Gordon gives Boston even more flexibility at the sixteenth overall pick to either draft a combo guard or go big and add more depth.
If Boston is not in the top ten after trading down, guard Nik Stauskas from the University of Michigan or forward Doug McDermott from Creighton would also be viable options, providing Rondo with a reliable outside shooter to serve assists to, much like he did to that one player that the Celtics acquired from Seattle a couple years ago. Yeah, Ray Allen? He wasn’t too shabby.
With all of the options given the commitment to the inevitable rebuild, the Boston Celtics are sitting fairly pretty at this year’s NBA Draft despite only having the sixth pick. Only time will tell if Commissioner Adam Silver says “with the sixth overall pick, the Boston selects …” or “the Boston Celtics have traded the sixth pick to … for ….”
Written by Alex Floch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I am currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Growing up in a sports family, I have formed a distinct love for the industry. I enjoy writing about sports in my free time and hope to one day be able to pursue it as a career.