Celtic’s fans, if you’ve been in some kind of stupor since New Years, it’s time to take a peek at the standings. Boston is in a situation that no other team can dream about. The Celtics are #3 in the East while holding the #1 odds in the lottery thanks to their right to swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets. We’ve got a long way to go until those lottery odds become official, but the Nets look like the clear-cut worst team in the league by a wide margin.
With insightful trading by Danny Ainge, the Celtics are allowing themselves to compete while taking advantage of the Nets' terrible situation. It all started back in June of 2013, as the NBA Draft neared, Ainge was scouring the market for a deal.
Eventually, he found one that he couldn’t refuse. On June 27, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, 2014 1st, 2016 1st, 2018 1st and the right to swap picks in 2017. All in all, it was one crazy haul that helped the Celtics begin to move on from Pierce and Garnett.
The first Brooklyn pick turned into James Young, obviously. Young has performed way below expectations and I even wrote a piece about how he had to step up now if he wanted to salvage his career while only in his third year in the NBA.
In June, the 2016 Brooklyn pick became Jaylen Brown. Brown is oozing with potential and it’s going to be exciting to see how Brad Stevens taps into that. He’s super athletic, long and competitive. This is a kid that is putting in the work to become a successful player and I think he’ll play a huge role in the future of this team.
This season, the Celtics have the rights to swap picks with the Nets, which they’ll certainly do. Boston will also have three second round picks. One from Minnesota, One from the Clippers and one from Cleveland, all unprotected. After electing to do the pick-swap with Brooklyn, the Celtics will have to send their 2017 second round pick to the Nets if it falls between picks 46-60.
Let’s take a look at five potential prospects the Celtics could be eyeing at the top of the 2017 NBA Draft.
1. Markelle Fultz, Washington
Fultz has been the consensus projected number one pick in the 2017 Draft since the College Basketball season began. He’s averaging 22.1 points, six rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Man, that’s quite the lengthy stat line to type out, but he’s that good. He’s a bigger point guard at six foot four inches tall, which gives him some versatility to be a small ball two in the NBA if needed. He shows off crafty finishes inside the lane and at the rim, and his athleticism allows him to throw down powerful dunks. Fultz is shooting 49.8% from the field and 43.% from deep, he’s a give who can step right in and help stretch defenses with his shot. He could come in and learn from IT, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.
2. Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Ball is another one of the most coveted prospects in the upcoming draft, in fact, NBADraft.net is currently projecting him to the Celtics with the number one pick. He is averaging 14.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, eight assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks. Ball is currently second in the country in assists per game, he was number one earlier in the season. He’s displayed a variety of flashy assists and he plays with a high basketball IQ. Ball rarely makes the wrong play on either end of the court, and his unselfishness would fit right in with the way Boston swings the ball around. One knock on Ball is his awkward shot form, but he’s shooting 52.8% from the field and 43.2% from deep. He’ll need to prove that his jumper can translate to the next level, if it can, someone is going to get a good player.
3. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Isaac is one of the most intriguing prospects that could come out of college this year and one that draws a comparison to Kevin Durant. At six foot and 11 inches tall, with elite athleticism, he is the ultimate mismatch. His main weakness is his slender frame, but Isaac should be able to add weight and strength with time in an NBA program. On the court, he flashes a high defensive IQ. Isaac is able to read passing lanes to force steals, and he also can strip the man he’s guarding. His leaping ability allows him to be a menace on defense, he blocks shots with ease and is grabbing 8.6 rebounds per game in ACC play. On offense, he needs to learn to be more aggressive. Isaac has shown the ability to stretch the defense but as of late, he’s lost his touch from deep, and his percentage has fallen to 35.4%. He has a ton of potential to become a great player in the NBA, but he’ll need some development. But Isaac’s upside may be the highest in the draft.
4. Harry Giles, Duke
Right now, Giles may be the riskiest prospect. He’s dealt with injury concerns since high school, where he suffered two ACL injuries. At Duke, Giles missed the Blue Devil’s first 11 games after undergoing a knee surgery. In seven games since returning from the injury, he’s averaging 5.6 points and five rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game. It’s obvious that Duke is bringing Giles along very slowly, and it’s a smart thing to do with the number of injuries he’s suffered. He needs to get healthy and earn more minutes, but his potential should keep him around the top of the first round. If he gets back to what he was in high school, his stock will go skyrocketing.
5. Jayson Tatum, Duke
Tatum is another impressive prospect. He’s sized to fit between the third and fourth slot in the NBA and is performing well at Duke. He’s averaging 16.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, two assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. He displays elite athleticism and a good mid-range jumper. Tatum is below average from deep at 30.6% and that is worrisome since he wasn’t good from deep in high school either. He’s going to need a lot of work on developing his range. He also needs to show more effort on defense; he gets lost too much. When he’s locked in, he’s great, but he needs to be locked in all of the time. At this stage, I think you should take Isaac over Tatum.