Maybe it’s just habit, but I’m already thinking about the Celtics and the NBA Draft.
The regular season hasn’t ended yet. The playoffs haven’t started yet. The lottery hasn’t even taken place yet. I know all that, but I don’t care. It’s time to start talking some NBA draft.
For the Celtics, unlike the rest of the NBA, they know what slot they’ll be drafting from: #30. That’s a nice externality that comes with the best record in the league–you know long in advance what you’ll have to work with in the summer. Two questions arise knowing this: who should the Celtics look to draft and who will be around at the end of the first round?
First of all, the Celtics have no glaring needs, the only thing a pundit could realistically wish to add (other than health and a performance guarantee on The Holy Triumvirate) would be an athletic, shot-blocking 7-footer (Hasheem Thabeet or John Riek anyone?). Accordingly, Boston should look to draft the best player available, period. Unless, however, Tony Allen departs this summer.
If the post-whistle-dunker isn’t re-signed this summer–and let me go on record once again as saying Danny Ainge should extend the olive branch to the OK State grad–then a backup swingman will be an important get. While a veteran may be available to fill this possible hole, a younger player would be advisable as well. Adding youth to an already solid team is always the best way to prolong a run of success, and with players such as Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, and Glen Davis already firmly in the mix, with Gabe Pruitt a potential quality complement to Rajon Rondo as a tall shooting point guard waiting in the wings, adding a young, scoring wing would be ideal.
Now let’s look at some possible targets. Based on grumblings around the internet and Chad Ford’s top 100 ratings on ESPN.com, there are a few nice names to consider (rankings in parantheses): Brandon Rush (28), Courtney Lee (29), Sam Young (39), Chris Douglas-Roberts (44), and Bill Walker (46).
Stocks will drop; stocks will rise; players will enter and exit the draft; the Celtics could trade their pick for any sort of package. But, as of now, hands down, my favorite option is Bill Walker. Although ranked lowest among the prospects listed above, the forward actually has the most potential.
Walker avoided the spotlight playing Michael Beasley’s sidekick this season, but showed a deft scoring touch when his more famous teammate wasn’t lighting it up–16.1 points in 27.3 minutes per game–and has been compared to Vince Carter (the cool one who won the dunk contest, not the bum who jacks threes for the Nets). He can also rebound, hauling in a decent 6.3 per contest, and is younger basketball-wise than his age suggests. The Kansas State star missed most of his freshman year with an ACL injury to his left knee. So, despite being older than some other prospects at 20–yes, I just implied that 20-years-of-age is somewhat old for an NBA prospect, a scary thought–he still has plenty of upside, considering he’s played very little high level ball. Furthermore, Walker has only recently had to learn to play basketball, instead of merely out-athleting the competition, due to his knee condition.
While Walker has some red flags, such as his knees (he also hurt his right ACL in 2003) and poor defensive stats (he averaged only 1.4 steals and blocks combined last season), he could be the type of find in the latter stages of the draft that helps reload the Celtics before the current top-tier crew levels off in the coming years. There’s a chance the guy could turn into an explosive Manu Ginobili type slasher, giving the Celtics the scorer they’ll need to complement Rajon Rondo and the young bigs in a post-Boston Three Party world.
While nothing’s set in stone and attrition will surely alter the landscape of the 2008 NBA Draft dramatically by the time David Stern steps up to the mic at MSG this summer, nabbing a certain Wildcat from the lesser-known Manhattan could be just what the veteran Celtics need, and the rest of the NBA fears.