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Celtics first-round draft prospects

05.19.10 at 8:16 pm ET

Prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night, 14 teams watched the ping pong balls determine their draft location in the NBA draft lottery, with the Wizards, 76ers and Nets grabbing the top three spots, respectively. Though the Celtics weren’€™t one of those teams, they will have their own pivotal decisions to make on June 24, regardless of the outcome of their playoff run.

Celtics president Danny Ainge has done fairly well in past drafts. When Ainge has had high picks to work with, he’€™s turned Al Jefferson and Jeff Green into Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and helped bring Boston a 17th banner. The Celtics also have had success with later picks such as Glen Davis (35th in 2007), Rajon Rondo (21st in 2006), Leon Powe (49th in 2006) and Tony Allen (25th in 2004). All of those picks (the first three of which technically were chosen by other teams but were part of draft-day trades) have been of some service to Boston and have worked out well compared to other late fliers.

Picking at No. 19 this year, Boston will need to rejuvenate its veteran roster and continue to find late steals. Here’€™s a list of 10 players the Celtics potentially could draft in the first round.

Xavier Henry

Size: 6-foot-6, 220 pounds
Position: SG
Team: Kansas
Class: Freshman

The Kansas one-and-done star likely won’t be available when Boston drafts at No. 19, but we’€™ve seen lottery picks slide before. Henry originally committed to play at Memphis with John Calipari but left for the Jayhawks when Calipari fled to Kentucky.

Strengths: Henry’€™s 6-6 frame and fluidity makes him one of the smoothest players in this year’€™s draft. His playing style will translate well at the next level and his scoring ability is already NBA ready. A quintessential shooting guard, Henry is a natural scorer and possesses a deadly shooting eye. His fundamentals and knowledge of the game are very strong coming from a basketball family, and his intangibles separate him from fellow freshmen.

Weaknesses: Henry was once considered to be a top three pick coming out of Oklahoma’s Putnam City High School, but his freshman season at Kansas wasn’€™t as stellar as many hoped. His game showed concerning flaws, including turning the ball over at a clip of nearly two a game. Despite being a great athlete, Henry doesn’€™t possess the explosive quickness that will enable him to blow by or stay with every player at the next level.

James Anderson

Size: 6-6, 195
Position: SG
Team: Oklahoma State
Class: Junior

Similar to Henry, Anderson is one of the better scorers in the draft. Unlike Henry, Anderson had to carry the bulk of the scoring on Oklahoma State as a junior and led the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament.

Strengths: A prolific scorer with good size, Anderson will enter the league and be a factor right away. He possesses a smooth shooting stroke and was effective in his college career with 46 percent field goal shooting. He increased his free throw attempts throughout his career and was better than 80 percent at the line. Anderson also is a strong defender with the ability to lock down opposing players.

Weaknesses: Anderson’€™s ball-handling still needs work and his turnover rate is high for a shooting guard. Though he can score at will, he sometimes has difficulty creating his own shot. Anderson is not an adept passer and doesn’€™t get his teammates involved enough despite commanding the attention of the defense. He forces shots at times and has problems adjusting to what the defense is giving him.

Daniel Orton

Size: 6-10, 260
Position: C
Team: Kentucky
Class: Freshman

Orton is the least heralded of the Kentucky foursome who have declared for the draft. Though there hasn’€™t been much buzz around him, Orton’€™s size will garner him a mid-first-round selection.

Strengths: At 6-10, Orton has an NBA-level body and has the potential to even add to his bulk. Like many big men out of college, Orton has value on the defensive end. His ability to alter and block shots will make him a presence in the paint. On the offensive end, Orton has the rare ability to hit spot-up jumpers and has smooth form for a big man.

Weaknesses: Though he has next-level size, Orton doesn’€™t yet have next-level skills. Whichever team drafts him will need to be patient and allow Orton to develop his potential. He lacks consistent post moves and needs to work on establishing position in the paint. Orton could use another year or two of college and will be a project his first few seasons in the league.

Damion James

Size: 6-7, 227
Position: SF
Team: Texas
Class: Senior

One of the few seniors who will be drafted in the first round, James has grown as a player through his four years at Texas. He’€™s played alongside NBA players Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin and came into his own in his senior season.

Strengths: James is a freak athlete and one of the most athletic players in the draft this year. Standing at 6-7, he runs the floor like a guard and possesses the quickness to outjump other players. Both his scoring and rebounding numbers have increased throughout his career and he’€™s shown the ability to improve different facets of his game. James is always around the ball on defense and can match up with different positions on the floor.

Weaknesses: For his size and style of play, James lacks a defined position. He’s more of a small forward than a shooting guard but will have trouble matching the bulk of power forwards. James still needs to improve his outside jumper and his 60 percent free throw shooting hampers his aggressiveness. He looks more like a complementary player in the NBA than a go-to guy and doesn’€™t seem to be a primary offensive threat.

Gordon Hayward

Size: 6-8, 200
Position: SF
Team: Butler
Class: Sophomore

Hayward wasn’€™t a household name before last season, but he made a name for himself in leading Butler to the NCAA championship game. On skills alone, Hayward should go late in the first round, but add in his intangibles and he’€™s worthy of going just outside of a lottery pick.

Strengths: An excellent shooter, Hayward is deadly from both the mid-range and beyond the arc. When aggressive, he can get to the line often and knocks down his free throws at over an 80 percent clip. His size makes him a matchup problem as he’€™s taller than most small forwards and quicker than most power forwards. Hayward also has a high basketball IQ and defers to his teammates.

Weaknesses: Despite his ability to score and be a matchup problem, Hayward isn’€™t as aggressive as most primary offensive options. That has a lot to do with his lack of a post game and quickness in attacking the rim. Guarding small forwards at the next level, Hayward will have trouble staying in front of players because of his comparatively slow foot speed. To be fully effective, Hayward will need to be in the right system and find open shooting opportunities.

Larry Sanders

Size: 6-10, 220
Position: PF/C
Team: VCU
Class: Junior

Another big man who likely will be a project in his first few seasons, Sanders has the potential to develop into a dominant defensive presence. Many teams could snatch Sanders with the mindset that he has a fairly high ceiling.

Strengths: Sanders combines athleticism and quickness with his size and length to be an authority in the paint. His calling card is defense and rebounding, averaging nine rebounds and three blocks per game in his junior year at VCU. His offensive game has improved and he’€™s a very good finisher around the rim.

Weaknesses: Relying too much on his athleticism, Sanders hasn’€™t developed post moves to score. He’€™s yet to add a consistent jumper to make him a threat outside of the paint. Though he has good length, Sanders lacks bulk and will need to hit the weight room. Until he adds size, he’€™ll have problems bodying power forwards and center in the low post at the next level.

Paul George

Size: 6-7, 190
Position: SG/SF
Team: Fresno State
Class: Sophomore

George is one of the best and unheard of prospects in this draft. Many will be surprised with how good he was at Fresno State and could become familiar with him very quickly when he enters the NBA.

Strengths: Though his great size and quick shooting release are appealing, George’€™s athleticism is what makes him a complete package. He runs the floor well and gets many thunderous dunks in transition. His free throw shooting improved drastically from 70 to 91 percent from his freshman to sophomore year. George rebounds well for a small forward at over seven per game and his athleticism translates to the defensive end where he averages two steals and a block.

Weaknesses: Despite his athleticism and shooting ability, George has trouble creating for himself. He settles for outside shots too often and isn’€™t as aggressive in attacking the lane and getting to the line. Playing at Fresno State has limited George’€™s competition, and NBA teams will need to project how his skills will translate against better players.

Luke Babbitt

Size: 6-8, 220
Position: SF
Team: Nevada
Class: Sophomore

Babbitt, like Hayward, is a tweener player between the small forward and power forward position. He’€™ll likely be drafted in the middle of the first round by a team for which he can start or produce off the bench.

Strengths: Babbitt’€™s value is in his ability to find a way to score the basketball. He averaged nearly 22 points per game and shot an impressive 41 and 90 percent from beyond the arc and at the line in his sophomore season at Nevada. He’€™s also developed a post game against smaller defenders and can consistently hit a fade-away jumper. He’€™s intense on defense and has a knack for being around the ball, making him a good rebounder.

Weaknesses: At the next level, Babbitt will be a liability on defense against quicker small forwards and strong power forwards. He doesn’€™t possess lateral quickness and won’€™t be one of the most athletic players on the court. That will give him problems in creating for himself, but defense will be the area where he struggles.

Avery Bradley

Size: 6-3, 185
Position: SG
Team: Texas
Class: Freshman

Bradley likely will be the second Texas player selected in the first round, after James. Though he is undersized, Bradley can score and provide an offensive spark to any team that drafts him.

Strengths: His quickness combined with his outside shot makes Bradley a pure scorer. He isn’€™t limited to being a spot-up shooter because of his control and balance on his jumper off the dribble. When he attacks the rim, Bradley can finish above larger defenders by using his athleticism. On defense, he has the ability to lock down the opposition with his physical tools.

Weaknesses: Bradley is undersized for the shooting guard position and doesn’€™t possess the vision and skill to play the point. He tends to look for his own shot too often and relies heavily on his outside game rather than attacking. Bradley’€™s lack of size on defense will make it difficult for him to challenge bigger guards who will look to post him up or shoot over him.

Solomon Alabi

Size: 7-1, 237
Position: C
Team: Florida State
Class: Sophomore

The Nigerian is all about his size and is one of the tallest players in the draft. Many teams, however, will see him as another Hasheem Thabeet and will fear drafting him.

Strengths: Alabi’€™s size clogs the lane and allows for defenses to funnel the ball into the paint where he can protect the rim. What sets him apart from many other big men is his ability to stay out of foul trouble. Alabi averaged 2.3 fouls per game, showing his ability to position himself and be an effective shot blocker. His mid-range jumper is much better than most big men and is an asset to his offensive game.

Weaknesses: Alabi is another project-type player who will have to develop before he can see consistent minutes at the next level. Alabi has problems against other 7-footers because he still needs to add bulk. Despite often being the tallest player on the court, he doesn’€™t pull down many defensive rebounds, averaging six per game. His lack of quickness limits Alabi on both ends of the court and his post game needs a lot of work on offense.

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