A. Sherrod Blakely ran a very interesting piece today on the NBA’s tendency to prioritize the young age of a player at the top of the draft, perhaps even to a fault.
As Blakely writes, each of the first five picks this year are expected to be spent on college freshmen. This is in part to a mindset throughout the league that prioritizes youth over experience, which Blakely quotes a scout as saying is the “best and worst of our game right now.”
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Yet the Celtics, who are viewed as something of a more forward-thinking organization, don’t necessarily do what everyone else does. They hired Brad Stevens before he was expected to be an NBA coach and they got a meeting with Kevin Durant despite not having the supporting cast of other teams.
So how much stock do the Celtics put in a player being as young as possible? Judging by their work since 2006 (the first year that high schoolers had to play at least one year of college before being drafted), not an absolute ton.
The Celtics have made come away with 12 college players selected in the first round, meaning they either drafted a player or traded for a player in that year’s class during the draft.
For example, Rajon Rondo was the 21st pick of the 2006 draft, but he was chosen by the Suns and then flipped to Boston. Similarly, the Celtics technically drafted players like Randy Foye (2006) and Jeff Green (2007) but moved them immediately in previously agreed-upon trades.
So, of the 12 first-round college players the C’s have netted, here’s a breakdown of their status:
What stands out there is that the Celtics have drafted only three freshmen since high school players became ineligible. Using the past three drafts as a sample size, here’s how each year has been represented among college first-round picks:
Freshman: 32 (46 percent)
Sophomore: 15 (22 percent)
Junior: 8 (12 percent)
Senior: 14 (20 percent)
In other words, you can expect nearly half the college players selected in the first round of a modern draft to be freshmen, yet the Celtics have kept an open mind. In fact, 75 percent of the college players they’ve netted have not been freshmen, with them more likely to have spent a pick on a junior or senior (four) than on a freshman (three).
Part of this has to do with where the selections have been made. The prospects at the absolute top of the draft are typically freshmen and the Celtics have only held a top-three pick in that span. When they did, they took a freshman in Jaylen Brown.
However, they have had a top-seven pick four times since 2006. Other than the Brown selection, they traded the picks for veterans in both 2006 and 2007; they took a sophomore in 2014 (Marcus Smart).
These figures will change when the Celtics presumably take Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall next month. Yet by their draft history, that won't be a decision based on age.