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Irish Coffee: Doug McDermott, Aaron Gordon and Celtics philosophy

06.12.14 at 6:05 pm ET

As the Celtics begin welcoming a revolving door of NBA prospects into the their practice facility, two of the more intriguing options found their way to Waltham on Thursday, offering an interesting dichotomy for the C’s front office.

On the one hand, you have Creighton’s Doug McDermott, 22, the NCAA‘s Wooden and Naismith award winner best known in Boston for recreating Larry Bird‘s famous Sports Illustrated cover. The 6-foot-8 senior also happens to be a scoring machine, averaging 26.7 points on 64.4 true shooting this past season. A stat geek’s dream.

For the record, McDermott downplayed the Bird connection, as he should. Dougie McBuckets is no Larry Legend.

“œIt’€™s really not fair,” he told reporters after his workout. “I don’€™t think you can compare anyone to Larry Bird. There’€™s just not going to be another one. œIt’€™s good to have a guy like that for everyone to look up to, all these young guys, myself included. That’€™s the best of the best right there — him and Magic [Johnson] and Michael [Jordan], those guys. You can’€™t compare guys to those three, I don’€™t think. I just take pieces of his game and try to apply it to mine.”

On the other hand, you have Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, 18, the youngest player in the draft and best known in Boston for falling asleep on the T while in town for his sister’s Harvard graduation a couple weeks back. The 6-foot-9 forward is shooting challenged, but uber-athletic, versatile and defensive-minded. A talent scout’s dream.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it? While McDermott models himself after Bird, Gordon is more of a Magic man.

“I loved how he could control the game,” Gordon told the media following Thursday’s Waltham workout. “He kinda broke the foundation of what basketball is really about — how guards have to be little and bigs have to be big. I like how creative he was with the basketball. He kinda brought a lot of flash to the game.”

Analytics vs. eyeballs. Old vs. new, and the combination of the two. McDermott owned the nation’s No. 2 player efficiency rating this past season, and Gordon didn’t crack the top 100, but the possibilities of that untapped potential are endless. It’s the crux of the debate at Moneyball’s heart. Experience vs. upside, and all that.

So, if both players are available when the Celtics are drafting sixth, which direction would they go? C’s president Danny Ainge prides himself on blending the two philosophies, but his draft history might tip his hand.

Of the 26 players Ainge has drafted and signed since taking over basketball operations in 2003, half spent four years in college, three played three NCAA seasons and another four waited at least two years before declaring for the NBA. In fact, Avery Bradley is the lone player Ainge has selected in his first year of eligibility since 2005, when he drafted a high school kid for a third consecutive season (Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson and Gerald Green).

Of course, most one-and-done talents are taken with the first 14 picks, and technically the Celtics haven’t drafted and signed a player in the lottery during the Ainge era, so maybe it’s even more likely the C’s trade the pick after all.

Read More: Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, Doug McDermott, NBA
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