Five NCAA conference tourneys Celtics will keep eye on
Five NCAA conference tourneys Celtics will keep eye on
By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
WALTHAM, Mass. – All eyes will be on the NCAA Tournament later this month, but you can count the Boston Celtics among those paying close attention to the upcoming NCAA conference tournaments and its various participants.
The Celtics don’t really have much of a choice in the matter, not with all the picks they have in both rounds this year.
Boston has three first-round selections with the first (from Brooklyn) likely in the top-10, a second (from Dallas) probably in the teens and a third (Boston’s own) likely to be in the 20s.
The Celtics are just as all over the map in the second round where they currently have five – yes, five – second round picks.
That’s why it’s important for them to cast an even wider net than usual when it comes to scouting the various conference tournaments.
Here we take a look at five conference tournaments that Celtics fans should keep an eye on as well because there’s a chance – a very good chance – that at least one or two players will be donning a Celtics jersey in the near future.
5. Western Athletic Conference (WAC)
The talent well isn’t particularly deep here, but there’s enough there to make this conference tournament worth keeping tabs on. The player of interest to Boston is Pascal Siakam, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward at New Mexico State. Originally from Cameroon, Siakam is an exceptional rebounder with a double-double in all but five games this season. He has quick feet, great instincts but is extremely limited offensively which is why you won’t hear his name called on draft night until the middle or late-stages of the second round. But being a second-round pick is no longer seen as a career death sentence for players looking to eventually make an impact.
4. Big Sky Conference
Similar to the WAC, the Big Sky is not big on talent this season. They too have a legit draft prospect in league MVP Joel Bolomboy. The 6-9, 230-pound forward is also an above-average rebounder who has shown promise as a potentially decent 3-point shooter. But his passing skills and basketball IQ overall are questionable which is why in all likelihood, he too will be a second round pick that one could easily see being drafted by Boston and immediately sent to play overseas akin to Marcus Thornton who was selected by Boston in the second round of last year’s draft and has been playing overseas this season.
3. Southeastern Conference (SEC)
Of course the Celtics – and just about every other team in the NBA – has paid attention to the SEC all season courtesy of LSU’s Ben Simmons who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft.
But the talent in the SEC this season, while not quite as lottery-rich deep as years past is still pretty good.
Kentucky has a pair of potential lottery picks (top-14) in guard Jamal Murray and big man Skal Labissiere who at one point early in the mock draft process was seen as a potential top overall selection.
Vanderbilt has a nice 1-2 punch in 7-foot center Damian Jones and 6-3 point guard Wade Baldwin who have played their way into being first-round picks that could potentially sneak into the latter stages of the lottery (top-14).
While none of those players would get serious consideration with the pick Boston will get from Brooklyn unless it’s near the end of the lottery, all could potentially come into play when the Celtics use the first-round pick from Dallas (somewhere in the mid to late-teens most likely) or possibly their own which would be in the early to mid-20s.
Lots of depth in the Pac-12 this season which will become evident on draft night when there’s about half dozen or so Pac-12 players expected to be taken in the first round with at least three (Jaylen Brown of Cal, Jakob Poeltl of Utah and Ivan Rabb of Cal) as potential lottery (top-14) selections.
Boston has a roster full of role players, so they have to reach for the player who has the greatest amount of upside rather than a proven body of work.
If the pick Boston gets from Brooklyn falls outside of the two or three picks, look for the Celtics to think long and hard about Cal’s Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick. If they take a pass on Brown at No. 3, look for Boston to scoop up Croatia’s Dragen Bender instead.
For years the ACC has been the cream of the crop and this season has proven to be no different. There is a potential difference-making, impact player from the ACC likely to be available at wherever the Celtics are selecting.
While most agree that LSU’s Ben Simmons will be the top overall pick, there’s a growing number of NBA folks who believe Duke’s Brandon Ingram may be the better fit with the Celtics. His ball-handling, deep shooting range and overall savvy and lithe build is very similar to Kevin Durant. Ingram has so many of the game-changing skills that Boston would absolutely love to come away with in this draft. And while he has the talent and potential to be a star in this league, he would be joining a Celtics roster that won’t need him to carry them from Day One.
But even if Boston doesn’t get a shot at Ingram, there are plenty of other talented players on the board from the ACC.
Ingram’s teammate at Duke, Grayson Allen, is projected as a late first-round pick. Other elite ACC-caliber talent likely to be drafted in the first round or early second include Maryland’s Diamond Stone and Melo Trimble, Notre Dame’s Demetrious Jackson as well as Malik Beasley and Dwyane Bacon of Florida State.
In addition, UNC’s Brice Johnson has played his way into being a likely lottery (top-14) pick as well.