In what is considered a weak draft, the Celtics are no illusions that they will be able to find a true difference-maker in the first round.
“When you’re drafting where we’re drafting, I’m not trying to put a negative spin on this, I’m trying to be realistic,” team president Danny Ainge said on Wednesday. “The 25th pick in the draft is probably not going to help us, immediately. But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, fit into the personality of our team and have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster.”
Ainge also said that he’s not interested in packaging their future first-rounder from the Clippers obtained in the Kendrick Perkins trade to move up in this draft. (The pick is top-10 protected through 2015. If the Clippers and Timberwolves both have picks in next year’s draft out of the top 10, then the Celtics would get the lower of the two choices.) That would take a player like USC center Nikola Vucecic out of the mix.
That said, Ainge can still go in a number of different direction in the draft. Here are a few of the scenarios:
IF THEY TRADE THE PICK
ESPN’s Chad Ford reported this morning that the Celtics would be looking to add a young veteran in exchange for the pick and they have the Marquis Daniels trade exception — valued at just under $2.4 million — to help the cause. The player should be young, relatively cheap and tall.
SI’s Zach Lowe compiled a helpful list of players who could be available in that scenario. It includes players like Antony Tolliver, Lou Admunson and most intriguingly Sacramento’s Jason Thompson who is easily the best player on the list. The Celtics need two things: size and shooting and if they could begin the process of addressing one of them in the draft that would be a success.
IF THEY KEEP THE PICK: OPTION I — THE COLLEGIAN
There will be a number of experienced college players available at 25 and Ainge has done well in this regard over the years, most notably taking Ryan Gomes and Leon Powe in the second round. (Click on the name for a mini-profile).
Jimmy Butler, Marquette: Butler is getting the most buzz because the Celtics had him in for a workout this week. He’s long and athletic for a wing player, which are two things the Celtics have in mind. They feel that one of their problems in the playoffs against Miami was that the Heat got to way too many loose balls and long rebounds. That’s not effort as much as it’s athletic ability. A player like Butler would help in that regard.
Reggie Jackson, Boston College: One of the biggest mysteries in the draft. Jackson was considered an obvious first rounder with the chance to sneak in the lottery when the process started, but he didn’t participate in the combine and hasn’t worked out for teams. Rumors are everywhere that he has a promise from some team to take him in the first round and if he isn’t picked, the Heat are expected to snatch him up with the first choice in the second round.
Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: Like Butler, Honeycutt is long and athletic. UCLA players tend to be better pros than collegians and he has an intriguing upside.
Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper is 6-foot-10 with range and the Celtics love big players who can stretch the floor.
Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler is a fairly well-known commodity, but with Jeff Green likely back it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he would get playing time with the Celtics.
Nolan Smith, Duke: Ainge has never really worried about having a true backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo, but Smith is experienced enough to compete for backup minutes as a rookie.
IF THEY KEEP THE PICK: OPTION II — THE PROJECT
Jeremy Tyler: His backstory is well-known. Tyler skipped his senior year of high school to play professionally in Israel. Things didn’t go as planned mainly because of maturity issues, but he had a better year playing in Japan for former NBA coach Bob Hill. Tyler is big and talented, but it’s unrealistic to think he can help the Celtics immediately.
Doc Rivers offered his take on big men projects: “Usually if size is available at the 25th pick, I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign honestly. Sometimes you can get lucky. Danny, I’ve said it for years, if there’s a guy there at that size who can play he’ll know it.”