Five NBA draft prospects that can fill a Celtics need
It took a strong run in the NCAA tournament for the masses to realize that Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker is a pretty good player. But NBA scouts and executives have had an eye on Dekker for the past couple of years which isn’t all that surprising when you consider he was one of the nation’s top 25 players coming out of high school in 2012.
He has great size (6-9, 230) for an NBA small forward, the versatility to defend that position as well as players slightly bigger than himself which is a huge plus in the eyes of many teams.
There’s not a lot to not like about Dekker other than the fact that there’s no one or two traits that he excels at; instead he’s a player that’s pretty good at pretty much everything you need done on the floor.
And that may very well work in the Celtics’ favor in landing a player that they’ll probably have to trade up for to really feel secure at nabbing him.
Similar to Trey Lyles, Dekker is another player whose game seems to fit best when it’s incorporated with a team philosophy that relies more on the collective efforts of many rather than the individual talent of one.
But as Dekker showed the world during Wisconsin’s run towards a national runner-up finish to Duke, he has the ability to take over with his ability to not just shoot but get to the basket and finish with contact.
Boston will have a chance at landing a really good player if they stand pat with the No. 16 pick. But if they’re really wanting to land Dekker, moving up a few spots – similar to what they did in selecting Kelly Olynyk two years ago – might be required.
This has been on the Boston Celtics’ wish list for a few years now, and the opportunity to fill that void may present itself in this year’s draft with the well-traveled Robert Upshaw who most recently played for the University of Washington.
Upshaw led the nation in blocked shots per game (4.6) last season, which came about prior to the Huskies dismissing him from the team.
Prior to playing for the Huskies, Upshaw spent his freshman season at Fresno State prior to the Bulldogs dismissing him from their program.
While it certainly doesn’t bode well for Upshaw’s draft prospects to be kicked out of two different schools, Boston will have to think long and hard about drafting him with their second, first-round pick which is 28th overall.
Boston could snatch him up with their 16th pick, but it’s highly unlikely any team will roll the dice on the 7-footer that high in the draft which speaks more to the issues he has had off the court than on it.
But if he can manage to move past the issues he has had in the past, Upshaw could easily become the biggest steal in this year’s NBA draft and become the latest high-talent, high-value pick of the Celtics in the latter stages of the first round.
VERSATILE WING DEFENDER
The Boston Celtics love the job that Jae Crowder did this past season defensively, especially when tasked with defending the likes of LeBron James. But with Crowder heading into restricted free agent status this summer, the Celtics are not a lock to re-sign the 6-foot-6 wing player.
And even if they do re-sign him, Boston could still bolster their wing defense with the addition of a player like Virginia’s Justin Anderson.
Folks have marveled at how much progress he has made with his offensive game which for years appeared to be what would keep him from being a solid, depending pro player.
But for Anderson to stick in the NBA, it will be because of his defense.
In many ways, his play defensively reminds some scouts of former Celtic Tony Allen (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) who has been among the NBA’s elite defenders for years.
And while the Celtics certainly are intent on shoring up their roster in terms of improved offense, adding another potential defensive pest to the mix like Anderson has to be something Boston gives some thought to on draft night, especially if Anderson is on the board when the Celtics are looking to select with the 28th overall pick.
BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE
Because the Celtics have so many needs to address, the idea of them latching the best player available is a definite possibility. The Celtics have plenty of perimeter bodies already under contract, but don’t be surprised if the Celtics make room on their roster for Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that he played for a small school. He was one of the nation’s top high school ballers but chose Georgia State because his dad was the team’s coach.
During his time with Georgia State, Hunter has proven that he is one of the nation’s best shooters which the masses got a chance to see as Georgia State advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March after a first-round upset win over Baylor.
The addition of Hunter strengthens a Celtics team that in some form or another, has to become a better team at shooting the ball.
This past season, the Celtics ranked 27th in the NBA in 3-point shooting (32.7 percent) despite taking 24.6 3-pointers per game which ranked 13th in the league.
It’s clear that Brad Stevens has a system built in part on reaping the benefits of the 3-point shot, but has yet to field the kind of personnel to execute his vision to its full potential.
Adding a knock-down shooter like Hunter addresses this need and if he’s around when they pick at No. 28, would also likely mean they selected the best player still available.
A BIG WHO CAN SCORE AROUND THE BASKET
We saw at times last season how badly Boston needed a low-post scorer which is different than scoring points in the paint. Boston did a decent job of that this past season, but not having a low-post scorer they could turn to consistently was indeed a problem.
It’s unlikely they’ll find someone who they can just plug in and play immediately who will fill that role, but Kentucky’s Trey Lyles might be the guy.
He’s 6-foot-11 and among his strengths, he can score posting up or facing the basket.
In addition, he has a 7-foot-3 wing span and a high release which makes it difficult for defenders to significantly impact his shot.
His time at Kentucky involved him spending more time away from the basket and on the perimeter, which made sense with a pair of lottery picks (Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein) roaming the paint.
If anything, Lyles demonstrated that he is more than just a back-to-the-basket player. And while his 3-point shooting isn’t anywhere close to where you would want it to be, he does have the kind of range to hit the 15-to-20-foot jumper with some degree of consistency.
When you look at his skills and Brad Stevens’ free-flowing system, Lyles would make a solid addition to what the Celtics are looking to build upon following this past season’s playoff appearance.