Blakely: Could these picks guard against potential Celtics departures
One of the reasons the Celtics were among the last teams standing in the Eastern Conference was because of their guard play.
Yes, Kyrie Irving was a dynamic scorer/playmaker/baller in his first season with the Celtics, averaging a team-best 24.4 points to go with 5.1 assists per game.
But in the postseason, one in which Irving (left knee) did not log a single minute, we saw the depth of Boston’s backup guards who carried the C’s to the Eastern Conference Finals with strong play from Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.
Well, Rozier is eligible for a contract extension prior to the start of next season and Smart will be a restricted free agent on July 1 and will likely have a handful of suitors chasing him.
Couple that with Shane Larkin likely to get more lucrative offers as an unrestricted free agent and it’s clear that Boston may find itself in the market for another playmaker at the guard position.
This month’s draft is heavy on bigs, but there are some quality rookies-to-be that should be around near the end of the first round - the Celtics pick 27th - that deserve some consideration:
Donte DiVincenzo, 6-5 G, Villanova
Numbers last season: 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
DeVincenzo’s Most Outstanding Player performance in the national championship was the catalyst to him testing the NBA waters before ultimately deciding to stay in the draft. He has exceptional athleticism with the ability to finish at the rim and from 3-point range. Having come off the bench with a championship team at Villanova, he would adapt better than most first-round picks to seeing limited minutes as a reserve. Like Khyri Thomas, there’s a good chance that DeVincenzo will be off the board by the time Boston is on the clock at 27.
2018 NBA Draft Reel: Donte DiVincenzo
Khyri Thomas, 6-3 G, Creighton
Numbers last season: 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals per game
With no guarantee Smart will be back next season, Thomas would be a solid addition. He’s only 6-3, but he has a 6-10 wingspan, which allows him to defend up a position – something the Celtics love from their perimeter players. And while Thomas isn’t considered an elite shooter, you wouldn’t know this by his 3-point shooting, which was 41 percent or better in two of his three seasons with Creighton. There’s a very good chance that he’ll increase his stock in the eyes of NBA teams as he continues the workout circuit. But if he’s still available when the Celtics are on the clock, it’ll be tough for them to pass over a player who seems such an ideal fit for them.
2018 NBA Draft Reel: Khyri Thomas
Jalen Brunson, 6-3 G, Villanova
Numbers last season: 18.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.1 assists on 52.1 percent from the field.
Arguably the most decorated player coming out of the college ranks, Brunson excels in so many areas of significance. He can run a team, score from just about every point on the floor and maybe most important, he is the ultimate lead-by-example floor general every team would love to have. But at 6-3 with a wingspan of just 6-3 1/2, Brunson doesn’t have the versatility to defend multiple positions which makes him a potential liability when it comes to defensive switches. And if the Celtics don’t re-sign Aron Baynes or add a legit rim-protector (Nerlens Noel?), Brunson won’t have the luxury of having him funnel players towards the defense.
2018 NBA Draft Reel: Jalen Brunson
Aaron Holiday, 6-1 G, UCLA
Numbers last season: 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game
Has point-guard size with combo guard skills, Holiday looks to join his older brothers Jrue and Justin who have carved out solid careers in the pros. His size limits him to primarily guarding other point guards, but Holiday makes up for his lack of height with a 6-7 wingspan and a dogged attitude defensively that would fit in well with the Celtics.
2018 NBA Draft Reel: Aaron Holiday
Jerome Robinson, 6-6 G/F, Boston College
Numbers last season: 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
Showed significant growth as a scorer every year at BC, going from 11.7 points to 18.7 to 20.7 this past season, which led to a runner-up finish for ACC player of the year this season. Robinson has an array of moves off the dribble and off the ball to create space and score. His biggest strength - scoring - is certainly a skill that Boston could benefit from coming off their bench. However, Robinson has to improve as a playmaker for his teammates in addition to being a better defender, two attributes that he has to show growth in if he is to have a shot at contributing in the NBA.