With Irving and Rozier's future uncertain, guard becomes a key need
Ripping a page out of the playbook of our Patriots crew, we’re debuting our "Prototypical Celtics" series by examining what ball-handlers might interest Boston in the 2019 draft.
A couple of ground rules: With the Celtics sitting at picks Nos. 14, 20, and 22, we’re putting an emphasis on players that could be landed at those three spots. We’re eliminating players that should be ticketed for the high lottery (sorry, Ja Morant and Darius Garland) but will include players that might be available if the Celtics wanted to bundle picks and move up.
BALL-HANDLER NEED LEVEL: HIGH
There’s a lot of uncertainty with the Celtics' ball-handlers this summer.
It starts with Kyrie Irving and whether he elects to re-sign with Boston. Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent and Boston’s interest in matching any offers might hinge on Irving’s decision. Further down the depth chart, the Celtics have a decision to make on Brad Wanamaker.
Marcus Smart and his steadily improving playmaking should be back and Gordon Hayward can help with ball-handling chores, especially if he returns with more confidence further removed from that gruesome ankle injury.
WHAT DO CELTICS SEEK IN BALL-HANDLER? SPEED, GRIT
Some notable recent ball-handler picks:
Terry Rozier - 16th, 2015
Marcus Smart - 6th, 2014
Rajon Rondo - 21st, 2006
What exactly do the Celtics look for in a ball-handler? Danny Ainge has always had a need for speed with Rozier (16th in 2015) and Rajon Rondo (21st in 2006). The Celtics don’t seem to put a premium on size or scoring, often preferring intangibles and grit.
When it comes to end-of-the-bench depth, the Celtics have often looked to fill that role outside the draft. Think recent signings like Phil Pressey, Shane Larkin, and Brad Wanamaker. Still, the team should look to develop deep depth.
Boston hit the jackpot after trading into position to snag Rondo in 2006 and their starting guards in recent seasons have been acquired via trade (Irving, Isaiah Thomas). Many thought the Celtics reached for Rozier in 2015 but he justified the pick with his performance in the 2018 playoffs and could still be an option for the Celtics next season if Irving departs.
COBY WHITE, NORTH CAROLINA
The Celtics would probably have to move up to snag White, who’s projected in some mocks to be a top-10 selection but he certainly checks a lot of boxes. Size? Yup. Energy? Definitely. Speed? Oh yeah. Tommy Heinsohn would love to see this kid cranking the tempo in transition. White needs to improve his decision making and limit his turnovers if he develops as a point guard but his 4.1 assists per game at North Carolina prove he’s capable of creating for himself and others. Watch White's highlight reel here.
TY JEROME, VIRGINIA
At 6-foot-5, Jerome is bigger (and slower) than the guards that Ainge has typically targeted but his high basketball IQ is what will intrigue the Celtics. With an NBA-ready pick-and-roll game, Jerome could give Boston’s bench a floor general who can hit the open 3-point shot but is more willing to defer to teammates. Jerome's lack of athleticism could limit his ceiling at the next level but his size and playmaking make him an intriguing late first-round option. Watch Jerome's highlight reel here.
CARSEN EDWARDS, PURDUE
The Celtics have had a lot of luck with undersized guards capable of scoring, especially when the rest of the league views them as bench players (miss you, Isaiah). The 6-foot Edwards averaged 24.3 points per game at Purdue and, while he can handle the ball, he’s more likely to create for himself than others (only 2.9 assists per game last season). As former Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry dives into his new gig at Purdue, he can funnel all the necessary intel on Edwards to Boston’s decision-makers. Watch Edwards' highlight reel here.
TERENCE DAVIS, OLE MISS
While the Celtics have typically erred on the side of drafting young, Davis, 22, has an intriguing skill set, particularly if he’s still on the board for Boston’s lone second-round selection (51). Maybe he’s a bit like E'Twaun Moore, the Purdue product who Boston brought in (alongside JaJuan Johnson) in 2011 and eventually emerged as a scoring threat. Davis averaged 15.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season. He shot 37.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc — but that was a spike after shooting just 32.4 percent from distance the previous two seasons.
JORDAN BONE, TENNESSEE
The 6-foot-3 Bone is exactly the athletic marvel that will catch Ainge’s eye, even if it wasn’t certain he’d stay in this year’s draft. An eye-popping stint at the NBA’s combine last month might have encouraged Bone to roll the dice on himself. He’s lightning fast and has a monster vertical. His scoring popped this season at Tennessee (nearly doubling from his sophomore year to 13.5 points per game) and he added 5.8 assists. Watch Bone's highlight reel here.
JALEN LECQUE, BREWSTER ACADEMY
The Celtics didn't shy away from prep-to-pros guys back in the day (Al Jefferson, Gerald Green) and the team could take a second-round flyer on Lecque, 18, eligible for the draft after a year of prep ball locally at Brewster Academy. He was ticketed for NC State but decided to go pro. Depending on how Boston’s roster shakes down, the team might have a desire for a player it could stash in the G-League or overseas and develop. Scouts seem to think that Lecque has first-round potential but most teams will be leery without seeing at the college level. Lecque at least got everyone’s attention at the combine with the best vertical leap of 43 inches.