Prototypical Celtics: Bigs that could interest C's on draft night
Our 2019 Prototypical Celtics series rolls on with a look at big men that might interest the Celtics in this month’s NBA draft.
A reminder about the ground rules: With the Celtics sitting at picks Nos. 14, 20, 22, and 51, we’re putting an emphasis on players that could be landed at those spots. We’re eliminating players that should be ticketed for the high lottery (sorry, Zion Williamson) but will include players that might be available to Boston if the Celtics wanted to bundle picks and move up.
BIG MAN NEED LEVEL: MEDIUM (FOR NOW)
The Celtics should get a better idea of where their bigs stand before the draft and that could shift the level of importance.
Al Horford can opt out of the final year of his current deal if he desires to test free agency or simply seek more security by signing a long-term deal to stay in Boston. Aron Baynes has a $5.5 million player option to ponder. The Celtics can extend a qualifying offer if they hope to keep German-import Daniel Theis in town. Second-year big man Robert Williams is the only big guaranteed under contract from last season.
WHAT DO CELTICS SEEK IN A BIG?
Some notable recent big-man picks:
Robert Williams - 27th, 2018
Guerschon Yabusele - 16th, 2016
Ante Zizic - 23rd, 2016
Jordan Mickey - 33rd, 2015
Kelly Olynyk - 13th, 2013
Jared Sullinger - 21st, 2012
Fab Melo - 22nd, 2012
What exactly do the Celtics look for in a big? While the team has put a premium on floor-stretching 5s like Kelly Olynyk (13th in 2013) and Guerschon Yabusele (16th, 2016), the team has targeted a diverse group of big men in recent years. They watched rim-running Robert Williams slide to 27 last year, while Ante Zizic was more of a back-to-the-basket type when they snatched him at 23 in 2016.
With some raw big-man talent in the 2019 draft, it’s worth remembering the 2012 draft. The Celtics pounced on Jared Sullinger after he slipped due to injury concerns then took a flyer on Syracuse 7-footer Fab Melo one spot later. Boston’s track record at the big-man position is spotty at best, with Olynyk maybe the best of the bunch and even that comes with the everlasting asterisk given that Giannis Antetokounmpo came off the board two picks later.
BOL BOL, OREGON
The Celtics have long put a premium on players from basketball families. Olynyk’s father was a national coach in Canada, while Sullinger’s father was a high school coaching legend in Ohio. Heck, even top free agent/trade targets like Al Horford and Kyrie Irving come from basketball families. Which is to say that, if the 7-foot-2 Bol and his tantalizing offensive game weren’t enough of a draw, then being the son of legendary NBA big man Manute Bol doesn’t hurt either. The younger Bol needs to bulk up and not settle for simply using his size to impact the defensive end, but he has the tools to be an impact two-way talent. Being able to stretch the floor and defend the rim — particularly with a standing reach of 9 feet, 8 inches — might have him off the board before Boston picks at 14.
JAXSON HAYES, TEXAS
A rim-running big man out of a Texas college who blocks shots with regularity? The nearly 7-foot Hayes might be an even more skilled version of Williams. Hayes is the son of a former NFL tight end and played wide receiver in high school. Ainge knows a thing or two about being a two-sport success and Hayes’ athleticism is obvious. His stat line doesn’t jump off the page — he scored just 10 points per game but did so on 72.8 percent shooting and added 2.2 blocks per game. The Celtics could have the depth to bring the 19-year-old along slowly.
JONTAY PORTER, MISSOURI
One of the few characteristics that the Celtics tend to have more so than their rivals: Patience. Boston is willing to play the long game if they can use a non-lottery pick to nab a lottery talent. Williams and Sullinger prove that. One year after Celtics fans salivated over the possibility of Michael Porter Jr. sliding out of the lottery (Denver snagged him at 14), Boston could be intrigued by his younger brother. Jontay Porter is exactly the sort of playmaking big that could thrive in Brad Stevens’ system. He missed all of last season after tearing his ACL and MCL in a scrimmage, then tore his ACL again in March while rehabbing.
NICOLAS CLAXTON, GEORGIA
The Celtics know a thing or two about the value of a versatile SEC-bred big man with floor-stretching capabilities. Claxton is still very raw and must develop his offensive game. He averaged 13 points per game last season and shot just 28.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc. He has shot-blocking abilities (2.5 per game last year) with great size (nearly 7 feet, 9-2 standing reach) but he’ll have to bulk up a bit to bang with NBA bodies. Claxton could be an intriguing late first-round option.