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Chris Mannix on M&M: JaJuan Johnson ‘could become a legitimate starter in this league’ 06.24.11 at 12:17 pm ET
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SI.com’s Chris Mannix spoke with Mut & Merloni Friday morning about Thursday’s draft and the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Mannix said that although he needs development, Celtics first-round draft pick JaJuan Johnson “in a few years could become a legitimate starter in this league.”

“He is a big guy, a legitimate 6-foot-10 with that I think 7-foot-2 wingspan,” Mannix said. “He’s a very good low-post player. … I think with NBA coaching he can become an even more polished offensive player.”

Mannix also said that Johnson should develop well under the veteran leadership the Celtics have.

“I think JaJuan Johnson is going to benefit enormously from playing behind Kevin Garnett for a year, and practicing against him for a year, two years,” Mannix said. “I think having Garnett and having Ray Allen on the roster are invaluable assets, because guys are going to be able to learn from these two guys.”

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Read More: Chris Mannix, E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, James Anderson
NBA draft: What they’re saying about C’s pick 06.22.10 at 1:53 pm ET
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SOme prognosticators expect that Florida State center Solomon Alabi will end up patrolling the paint for the Celtics. (AP)

Some prognosticators predict that Florida State center Solomon Alabi will end up patrolling the paint for the Celtics. (AP)

If we didn’t know what needs the Celtics had to fill in the NBA draft before the playoffs, we sure do now. A disappointing loss in Game 7 of the NBA finals gave us more than heartbreak, it also gave us an idea of what Boston could target on Thursday night when the nation gets introduced to the next wave of young talent.

Two needs seem to stand out. One is a big man who can provide rebounding and toughness in the paint. With an aging Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, this is something the Celtics had to address in the offseason regardless. However, after the news of Wallace considering retirement and Kendrick Perkins suffering a severe knee injury, it’s even more necessary.

The second need, in some part due to the possibility of Ray Allen not returning, is a scoring shooting guard or small forward. Even with all the weapons Boston had this season, it struggled at times on offense, especially with the second unit. Retooling the bench with another scorer or replacing Allen, whether he leaves or not, is at the top of the list.

Looking around the web, there is a wide variety of opinions on whom the Celtics could select at No. 19 in the first round. The general theme though, is that Boston is going to pick either a big man or scorer. Florida State center Solomon Alabi is a player many prognosticators have pegged to be taken by Boston.

My NBA Draft and Hoops World predict Alabi will be slotted at No. 19 to give the Celtics the length they’re looking for. Alabi has excellent size and potential but is very raw on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, he’ll be a presence in the post as witnessed by his 2.3 blocks per game as a sophomore. In terms of rebounding, which Boston will look for, Alabi pulled down a lackluster 6.2 boards and needs to improve in that area. Hoops Hype also has the Celtics selecting Alabi, whom they compare to the Grizzlies’ Hasheem Thabeet.

NBADraft.net and Drafttek both have Boston grabbing Oklahoma State star James Anderson. The shooting guard has good size and a strong frame, making him an offensive threat from nearly every area on the court. Anderson’s shooting range translates well to the next level and he’s incredibly effective in catch-and-fire situations. NBADraft.net compares him to former Magic player Nick Anderson and current Heat sniper Daequan Cook.

Another shooting guard that could be taken by Boston is South Florida product Dominique Jones, whom Yahoo! Sports and Draftology predict at No. 19. Jones was a big-time scorer as a junior when he averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 free throw attempts per game. He’ll bring instant offense and has the ability to go on big scoring runs, making him an intriguing pick for the Celtics.

At Sports Illustrated, Ian Thomsen’s version 2.0 mock draft has Boston going after Washington senior Quincy Pondexter. The 6-6 small forward is projected by most other sites as going late in the first round or early in the second.

The Hoop Doctors have Butler standout Gordon Hayward going to the Celtics. The 6-8 small forward led his team to the national championship and made a name for himself with strong performances throughout the tournament.

Fanhouse expects Boston to select the second Georgia Tech big man in the draft in Gani Lawal. Playing alongside start freshman Derrick Favors, the 6-9 power forward naturally saw his numbers decrease but still exhibited good defense and effective rebounding.

Read More: James Anderson, NBA Draft, Solomon Alabi,
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