I had built up a lot of hope about the NBA Draft tonight for the Celtics. I allowed myself to believe Kevin Love might come to Boston a couple weeks ago. And then I allowed myself to think that Joel Embiid might fall into our lap. Then there were the moments tonight when I hoped the Celtics might trade up, or when I thought they could potentially wind up with Dante Exum. But then pick number six arrived and none of whom I wanted was still there. I should know not to get too excited when it comes to the Celtics and the Draft.
When Marcus Smart put his Celtics hat on at number six, my first thought was that this rebuilding process is going to take a while. I think Smart will be a good player, but probably never an all-star. I can see him being a defense-first point guard on a contender in a few years, one who needs to play alongside a scorer to thrive. Ideally, he will develop a jump shot at some point, but right now he’s not going to light it up offensively in the NBA.
I’m afraid this pick will signal the end of the Rajon Rondo era, if not now then later this season, and that’s a bit sad to think about. A long rebuild with Smart manning the point could lead to another great time for Celtics basketball in a number of years, but count me as one who would have liked to see Rondo given another shot with a star player in Boston. This pick also was the second time recently that the Celtics have taken a probable number one pick the year after they should have come out of college, with Jared Sullinger being the other. I guess that’s a good thing – but maybe there’s a reason these guys have fallen out of the top spot after another year in the spotlight.
At number 17, the Celtics pick of James Young was another case of drafting a guy who had the talent to be picked a lot higher. Personally, I was never very impressed with Young when I watched Kentucky play – which was a lot. He of course was immensely talented, but like the Harrison twins, I always wanted him to do more. As a shooting guard, he is not a pure shooter, and at that position, I would have liked the Celtics to have added a more consistent shooter.
I would have taken Gary Harris or Rodney Hood ahead of Young. For me, if Young works out, he’ll be a double-digit scoring energy guy off the bench on a good team. Best case scenario he becomes a Reggie Jackson type scorer. His performance in the NCAA Tournament was sensational, but it’s hard for me to ignore how many bad shots he took over the course of the regular season. In Kentucky’s two losses against Arkansas, his reaction to any adversity was to huck up threes. That doesn’t do it for me. But at pick seventeen, his upside as a scorer is great, so I shouldn’t complain, especially having watched the Celtics’ second-unit struggle to score for much of the latter half of the season.
In the current state of the Celtics, these two first round picks won’t change much for next season, and I don’t see them being cornerstones for the future. They can certainly contribute going forward, but Danny Ainge will have his work cut out assembling top line talent in the next few years that Smart and Young can complement. At this point, if Love isn’t coming, I say trade Jeff Green and see if you can get any assets for him. Keep Rondo for now, until an offer blows you away. Trading Rondo for fifty cents on the dollar right now would be a huge mistake.
I would also like to congratulate Nik Stauskas on his meteoric rise to the number eight pick. I saw him play a couple years in high school and always knew he was a player, but the speed at which he took over the spotlight from his high school teammates Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski (two top-ten recruits) was incredible. I’m proud to say I was the official statistician for Stauskas’s high school team’s league, emailing his stats out to Boston newspapers every week and once telling his coach in an email that he was “probably the best player in our league.” That same New England prep school league also produced Shabazz Napier, who himself was taken in the first round as well. Needless to say, it’s a big night for the Independent School League. I’ll be rooting for Stauskas every step of the way with Sacramento.