Source: Mark L Baer - USA Today Sports
Before the Celtics trade all their draft picks away, there’s one prospect in particular that I think is too good to pass up on, and his name is Ben Bentil. Immediately, you might be asking, “What does he add to the team that we don’t already have? There are six young forwards on the roster already, so why should a valuable trade chip be used to get another?” Remember that time Jae Crowder was injured and the Celtics resorted to the “Ok, now what?” offense? That’s why they want Ben Bentil.
Bentil is currently ranked 34th on CBS’s (CBS the TV network, not Coach Brad Stevens) prospect rankings and the Celtics own the 31st and 35th picks in this year’s draft. It’s not often you’d think of a potential second rounder as a must-have, but projected rankings are hardly indicative of a player’s potential, if Isaiah Thomas, Draymond Green, and many others are any indication. Bentil averaged about 21 points and 8 rebounds per game with a steal, a block, and an assist to boot on 46% shooting from the floor, 78% from the line, and 33% from long range. He also did this on a team whose national ranking peaked at eighth in the country while playing in the competitive Big East conference alongside Villanova, Seton Hall, Butler, and others. How 33 players in this draft have a better resume than Bentil, I simply don’t understand.
DeAndre Bembry of Saint Joseph’s, a great player in his own right, is 21st on CBS’s list. By no means do per-game averages define players, but I’m not sure how slightly less scoring with worse percentages on threes and free throws (but otherwise comparable averages) while playing in a weaker conference moves him 13 spots higher on the draft board. Bembry is a solid talent whose strengths, which is highlighted by athleticism and defense, shouldn’t and won’t go unnoticed, but I would think the philosophy behind drafting in the late first round and beyond is about taking the best available player. I’m not an NBA scout. However, I think the strength of any given prospect’s competition is something that should be looked at more closely.
At 6’9”, 235 lbs, Bentil has the build of a leaner Jae Crowder or Draymond Green – both of which are exceptional defenders who can guard players at three positions. His ability to score from several different spots on the floor is also a skillset that I find to be highly valuable for players of his size. With some grooming, he could be the type of player who could spread the floor now and then with a big line up on the floor (similar to what Olynyk likes to do, not that this is Bentil’s natural role), as well as a post-up/mid-range player in a smaller line up (where he really thrives). With a strong body and some finesse on his shot, I think we could realistically see him do what both Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson do, but with a more crisp looking shot. The main concern I see with Bentil’s offense is that most of his points come from straight away, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but doesn’t bode well for his potential involvement in a role where he would spread the floor in the corner-three-pointer era.
While it isn’t necessarily the expectation of every single Celtic to be able to knock down threes, take note of how many Celtics, Evan Turner included, had the green light from distance last season. By my count, 12 out of 15 members of the C’s final roster where expected to take an open three pointer given the opportunity, make that 13 if you include John Holland based on his only minute of action.
I don’t expect many, if any, of this year’s picks to play a single game for the Celtics. As you may have heard, the Celtics have high hopes to make major improvements this summer and it’s high time Danny Ainge turned his treasure trove of assets into some bigger pieces. Some have argued that there is no rush to get over the hump with a young team and more picks to trade in the future, but how many picks can we realistically draft and stash? I feel like we can only stockpile so much before there’s some overflow, and by that reasoning I would rather see Danny make moves sooner rather than later. If one of these picks were to slip through the cracks and land on the roster, I would expect it to be a 2nd rounder. If we can’t steal Jimmy Butler or Paul George away from their respective teams, then Bentil could be the forward we need.