Picking third could potentially pay off for Celtics

Picking third could potentially pay off for Celtics

BOSTON – With the third-best shot at landing the top pick in next month’s NBA draft, winding up with the No. 3 pick is essentially where the Boston Celtics should be following the ping-pong drawing.

But that doesn’t mean they have to love it.

In this year’s draft, the No. 3 pick is the beginning of when things become quite unsettled as to who should be selected.

At this point the draft becomes much more of a gamble, so if you’re the Celtics it only makes sense to gamble on the player with the most upside.

And that would be Dragan Bender, the 7-foot-1 Croatian big man who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, a perennial international power.

The 18-year-old has seen limited time this season, averaging just 2.1 points per game. But the intrigue with Bender has nothing to do with his production and everything to do with his immense potential.

He’s the youngest player in the draft (he won’t turn 19 until November), but there are some physical measurables that make him one of its more unique bigs.

He runs the floor and moves without the ball like a small forward, and yet has the physical dimensions of a true center. What’s particularly impressive is his standing reach of 9-foot-3-inches, the kind of length that as he continues to grow and gain more experience could make him a difficult cover defensively.  

In addition, that length gives teams hope that he’ll develop into a pretty good offensive rebounder, as well.

But in talking about Bender, you can’t use the word ‘potential’ enough because, frankly, that’s at the heart of why he’s rated so highly in this year’s draft.

Like most big men coming into the NBA, Bender must get stronger in his upper and lower body, not to mention strengthening his core in the process. Doing so would address one of his biggest weaknesses, and that’s finishing at the rim while drawing contact. His rebounding needs to get better, as well.

Improving in those areas will also provide some clarity as to the whether he’ll be a better-than-average role player in the NBA, or eventually evolve into the kind of player that a franchise just might build around.  

That’s not a bad problem to have for the Celtics, whose roster is filled with role players who have collectively improved upon their time with the Green. Now that the Celtics have the No. 3 pick, they’ll be hoping for more of the same from Bender.

WATCH: Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Trail Blazers in Portland. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 9  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How will Kyrie Irving's knee injury affect him going forward?

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How will Kyrie Irving's knee injury affect him going forward?

1:30 - How concerning is Kyrie Irving's injured knee? Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Chris Mannix discuss how this will affect Kyrie for the rest of this season, if he will be ready for playoffs, and if it will linger into next year.

6:50 - What are the expectations for the Celtics if they are without Kyrie Irving? Is it worth it to push Kyrie to play if they can’t win the title this season?

9:05 - Celtics are playing more for the 2018-2019 season than they are for 2017-2018 as they could become serious title contenders with a healthy team and more development from young players.

11:50 - What will be the interest in Marcus Smart in the offseason? Is it more likely he leaves or stays in Boston?

15:30 - Raptors or Cavaliers are both dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference. Who is the favorite to come out of the East?

20:06 - How can dangerous could the 76ers be in the playoffs? Do they have a chance to win a playoff series?

24:19 - Brian Scalabrine sits down the Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to talk about NCAA March Madness and his love for Butler University.