CHICAGO -- This year’s top-shelf draft talent - Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant - don’t really have a lot of use for the NBA draft combine.
Regardless of what the scales say they weigh or how high their vertical leap may be, they are the undisputed top-3 picks in the draft next month and there’s nothing they can do or say that’s going to change that this week.
So, it’s no big deal that they’ll be absent from the next 48 hour’s worth of poking, prodding and predicting who will constitute the other 57 spots in the 2019 draft class after their names are called.
But for teams such as the Celtics, eager to add an infusion of talent into the mix for next season, the combine offers an opportunity to replenish their depth with what will once again be a Celtic-heavy first round of the draft.
Boston has picks No. 14, No. 20 and No. 22, so the pool of players that Boston will be focusing much of their attention on the next couple of days isn’t quite as all over the map as it has been in recent years.
Because nearly half of Boston’s roster will either be free agents or players who can opt-out and become free agents, the only true need they have is added depth.
Point-guard play appears to be an area the Celtics will have to address in some capacity, with both their starting point guard (Kyrie Irving) and his backup, Terry Rozier, headed this summer for unrestricted and restricted free agency.
Morant of Murray State and Darius Garland of Vanderbilt are the top two point guard prospects, but they’ll both be off the board by the time Boston is on the clock at No. 14.
Virginia’s Ty Jerome and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards are considered the next best point-guard prospects, but they’re both seen as late-first, early second-round picks that might come into play with one of the C's picks at No. 20 or 22.
And while all in attendance will be sniffing out the best talent they can unearth, having the right fit looms large in Boston’s efforts to get better from prospects in this year’s draft.
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck discussed earlier Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Felger & Mazz" show how difficult this past season was for many, including himself and fans who followed the team.
“It was one of the hardest teams to love, from my standpoint," Grousbeck said. "Just to answer for myself. I wasn't coaching them but I was watching them. It was frustrating. It was a tough year for everybody concerned. I think the fans all feel that. We're going to try to make it better. We all feel that. The highs and lows -- it just has been frustrating."
And while no one anticipates the Celtics will find the solution to what ailed them this past season at the combine, there’s no question Boston will have ample opportunities to get to know some prospects who may well be able to help the team at least shore up some of the deficiencies that factored in them getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs after getting to the Conference finals the two previous seasons.
One of the better success stories for the Celtics coming out of the combine the past couple of years was Semi Ojeleye.
A muscular 6-foot-6 forward from SMU, Ojeleye used the combine to showcase that his strength as a player was, well, more than just his pure physical strength.
Ojeleye, selected by Boston in the second round in 2017 with the 37th overall pick, had a lane agility time of 10.58 seconds which was tops among all non-guards and third overall at the combine.
That time confirmed what the Celtics thought about Ojeleye - that he could move his feet well enough to defend multiple positions, which is important in a league where most teams run a ton of pick-and-roll plays.
And if you don’t have guys with the kind of lateral quickness that Ojeleye has, those pick-and-rolls will just pick apart your defense.
Combine that with his 40.5-inch vertical and above-average strength in which he bench-pressed 185 pounds 19 times - that was tops among all players at the 2017 NBA combine - and you had a player with tremendous athleticism and strength who could play a role and help a team win.
But the physical measurements tell just part of the narrative when it comes to the combine.
There are also interviews for players with various teams, which may prove valuable on draft night when a decision comes down to just two prospects.
“I really didn’t think a whole lot about it,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston earlier when I asked him about the combine. “The big thing is to be you; don’t try to be what you think they want to see or hear. Just being you; that’s all I tried to do.”
And it worked out well for him and the Celtics.
Only time will tell whether the latest pool of talent at the combine will produce a player or two that can do more than just add to the Celtics’ depth but play a role that aids them in doing the one thing that matters most - winning.
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