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NBA mock draft roundup: Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh popular potential Celtics selections

06.04.14 at 11:58 am ET

Just three weeks from Thursday, the Celtics will have some important decisions to make regarding their future. The June 26 NBA draft is quickly approaching. And with pre-draft workouts in full swing, the rumors and predictions surrounding each team are growing.

Kevin Love became the story in Boston this week after his surprise visit to the city over the weekend. But what can’t be ignored is the arrival of some of the top college players in the country for the Celtics‘ workouts in Waltham this week.

The C’s have the No. 6 and 17 picks in this year’s draft. While many fans would like to see Boston trade one — or both — of these picks for a star addition such as Love, there are some names gaining traction in mock drafts as potential Celtics selections.

No. 6 — There’s no question the Celtics frontcourt could use a boost. And of the 13 mock drafts reviewed, nine of them expect the C’s to address that concern by selecting either Kentucky’s Julius Randle or Indiana’s Noah Vonleh.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Randle is predicted to fall to the Celtics in five mock drafts, including one by CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish. Parrish writes: “Think of all of the great freshmen who have played at Kentucky, then understand Randle recorded more double-doubles [24] this past season than any of them. His upside isn’t that of [Andrew Wiggins] or [Joel Embiid]. But Randle still projects as a possible future All-Star.”

Four mock drafts have Boston selecting the 6-foot-9, 247-pound Vonleh. A Haverhill native, Vonleh is not a finished product after just one year at Indiana, but he is considered by some to be a rim-protector with the ability to shoot. The Sports Network’s Jim Brighters writes: “The Celtics seems to have a glut of big men with Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green, but the reality of this slot is that Vonleh is the best available player. Boston needs help shooting and maybe even a replacement for Rajon Rondo, if Danny Ainge moves him. Vonleh’s body needs work, but there are a lot of intangibles in his lean frame. Truthfully, this Indiana product is not that far from being ready, as he has a versatile game.” Two mock drafts had the Celtics picking Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, including Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, who writes, “Several league sources believe that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon.” Guards Marcus Smart and Dante Exum also are considered potential selections at No. 6.

No. 17 — There was much less certainty regarding the path the Celtics are expected to take at No. 17. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton, UCLA’s Zach LaVine, Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early and Duke’s Rodney Hood are predicted to go to the C’s, each by two of the 13 mock drafts.

Payton, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound point guard, is thought of by Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin as Rondo’s potential replacement. Helin writes: “Rajon Rondo‘€™s career with the Celtics will end sooner rather than later, and Phil Pressey certainly isn’t the answer as his replacement. Payton will remind many of a young Rondo with his ability to rebound well for his size and a strong ability to get into the lane and create. He needs to work on becoming a more consistent shooter, but he will improve. Payton will also provide a strong defensive presence on the perimeter, which will make him very popular with coach Brad Stevens.”

The 6-foot-6, 181-pound LaVine would add size to Boston’s backcourt. Hood, at 6-foot-8, 208 pounds, is said in mocks to be an NBA-ready player who could shine in Stevens’ system. CBS Sports’ Zach Harper writes: “Hood is one of the more well rounded offensive talents on the wing in this draft and would immediately be an impact player with the Celtics. He can create for others, create his own shot, and knock down the three.”

At 6-foot-7, 209 pounds, Early is another frontcourt option who improved his stock with a 31-point, seven-rebound effort against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. The Washington Post’s Jeffrey Tomik writes: “Boston’€™s frontcourt could use an athletic scorer.”

Other players listed as potential options at No. 17 include UConn guard Shabazz Napier and Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis.

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