Boston Celtics NBA Mock Draft 2020: Prospects to Target

Draft History

Boston CelticsThe Boston Celtics come into the NBA draft as one of the best drafting teams in the past decade. I rank teams not by the number of stars drafted, but by the number of positive contributors they drafted. Starters and all-stars get the most weight with role players slightly behind. Given this information, I am high on the Celtics’ picks over the past decade.

Going all the way back to 2010, the Celtics struggled in the first few years of the decade. Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger were the only starting quality players drafted between 2010 and 2013 within a mix of disappointments including Fab Melo, MarShon Brooks, and Lucas Nogueira in the first round. The organization turned it around in a big way by drafting Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum in four consecutive years. The question is still out on 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams and 2019 first-round picks Romeo Langford and Grant Williams but regardless, the Celtics established a competitive core of Smart, Brown, and Tatum with all-star potential for years to come. Now, the Celtics are tasked with finding the right pieces to complement this core.

Team Breakdown

As previously mentioned, the Celtics have a fantastic core in Smart, Brown, Tatum, as well as first-round role players Grant Williams, Robert Williams, and Romeo Langford. Given the breadth of youthful talent, I fully expect the Celtics to be competitive for the next 10 years. A huge part of their success has to be attributed to Danny Ainge and his brilliant job in getting quality returns on the aging core of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen.

With a younger core, the Celtics must focus their attention on drafting pieces that fit together. For example, the Celtics lack a young point guard or an elite caliber post presence. With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum running the 2 and 3 in most sets, I would love to see the Celtics go after a point guard that can replace Walker’s playmaking ability. They have the bodies in Grant Williams and Robert Williams – from recent drafts – at the 4 and 5 that they should continue to develop which is why I prefer the team target a point guard.

People may argue that the Celtics are already established at the Point Guard position with Kemba Walker and the do-it-all Marcus Smart. However, Marcus Smart is not a natural point guard and I prefer Smart in small-ball lineups at the end of games. Playing Smart as a backup point guard often forces head coach Brad Stevens to sit Smart at the end of games when they need his defense and moxie. Also, Kemba Walker is 30 years old and not the long term answer for this core. Drafting a young point guard that can sit behind a vocal leader in Walker will help their development.

Lastly, the Celtics have had quality starting lineups with this past season producing Walker, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Theis. However, their bench of recent years has been underwhelming. Inserting a playmaking guard that can run the bench unit will provide a cerebral coach like Brad Stevens the opportunity to get really creative with his lineups.

Draft Range

The Celtics are currently projected to have the 17th overall pick in the draft courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies. But the picks don’t stop there. They also have their own pick (26) and the Bucks projected 30th overall pick. Given that none of these are lottery picks, don’t be surprised to see the Celtics trade for their guy. As mentioned previously, the Celtics have a solid core that can compete now and in the future. They don’t need a bevy of youthful talent.

This is even more apparent when looking at their roster construction. Adding too many young players in addition to picks from the last three seasons in Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Robert Williams, Carsen Edwards, and Semi Ojeleye would prevent the Celtics from acquiring the veteran pieces to make a championship run. Furthermore, all these young players would be forced to fight for playing time they desperately need in order to develop. If I were the Celtics, I would look to package the 17th and 30th pick to move into the late lottery. A team like the Trailblazers (14th pick) comes to mind as they lack the young talent to catapult their rebuild. Or the Celtics could package these picks for a proven contributor. Regardless, the Celtics three first-round picks will be a storyline in the 2020 draft.

Prospects to Target

Given the bevy of picks, draft position, and team needs, a few prospects stand out for the Celtics. As a disclaimer, I’m basing these prospects on their current draft position. You won’t see LaMelo Ball or other top 10 prospects on this, but players within the Celtics current draft range.

RJ Hampton

6-4 175 lb. PG/SG  Intl

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
8.83.12.41.1.3.407.295.6791.5

Hampton fits seamlessly within the Celtics short-term and long-term goals. He’s an ultra-athletic point guard with playmaking abilities that could bring a new dynamic to the Celtics bench rotations. While he struggles with shooting and defensive effort, playing as a backup with a proven team like the Celtics gives him an opportunity to play within a role and a low-stakes environment. Despite Celtic’s recent playoff struggles, Brad Stevens is one of the best X and O coaches in the league. Stevens will find the right way to utilize Hampton’s talents.

Again, the Celtic’s depth allows Hampton to contribute in the areas he’s best at (transition offense, driving to the basket, etc.) while providing him a low-pressure role to make mistakes. This is a valuable philosophy to take if you draft a project player. While not exactly a culture fit, he has the highest ceiling out of any guard in this range which is something the Celtics could take a chance on, similar to Romeo Langford in 2019.

Nico Mannion

6-3 190 lb. PG Arizona

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
14.02.55.31.20.0.392.327.7972.6

Nico Mannion is another guard from Europe coming into the NBA with elite playmaking skills. He’s so creative with the ball in his hands rifling one-handed passes cross-court or putting the perfect touch on behind the back passes. He’s not the most explosive athlete but uses his footwork and burst to change speeds and take advantage of angles to the basket. Also, Mannion can score the ball at all levels of the court. He doesn’t have the physical traits to be a great perimeter defender but, like the other point prospects listed, provides a much needed creative and energetic spark to an offense.

Lastly, I like Mannion’s intangibles. He was lauded for his leadership at Arizona and will be a great addition to grow with other young players Robert Williams and Romeo Langford. Moreover, his leadership will mesh well with current outspoken players like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown.

Theo Maledon

6’5’’ 180 PG France

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
7.41.83.1.3.1.456.367.6891.9

Theo Maledon is an athletic menace on the court. He’s got the size to be a combo guard and shines in the open court. He has a quick first step and burst which helps him get downhill and find angles to the basket. He impressed me with his touch around the rim and shooting form. While by no means an elite knockdown shooter, he provides an offense with spacing. His height bodes well on defense as he consistently jumps passing lanes. Also, Maledon’s defensive footwork is very polished for his age, he rarely gives up open angles to the basket and effectively fights through contact.

Maledon reminds me of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a quality combo guard that is above average in every aspect of his game. Maledon’s versatility, defensive prowess, athleticism, and shooting potential fit well in Brad Stevens’ positionless basketball sets. While playing a bench role in his first season, Stevens could put him in lineups beside athletic guys like Jaylen Brown to create transition opportunities. Just like RJ Hampton, Maledon has the opportunity to learn from veteran point guard Kemba Walker. The acquisition of Maledon presents a polished player that will help the Celtics now and be the eventual replacement for Kemba Walker.

Jalen Smith

6’10’’ 215 PF Maryland

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
15.510.5.8.72.4.538.368.7501.7

If the Celtics want to go with a modern big man, Jalen Smith should be their first choice. Smith shows a depth of offensive tools including a great shooting stroke, a reliable free throw shot, playmaking ability down low, and a polished hook shot. He’s also an explosive offensive rebounder and shows great instincts as an all-around basketball player. Despite his height, Smith runs the floor very well and will be a transition threat in the NBA.

The only knock against Smith is his strength. At 215 pounds, he will get knocked around by stronger forwards and centers hurting his positioning and rebounding ability. Going to the Celtics gives him the time to build muscle and learn how to leverage his body. The Celtics also don’t have a player like him on their roster. He runs the floor better than Kanter or Theis and provides a level of athleticism and verticality they just don’t have. He also has better passing vision and is a bigger threat from deep. If he can get to 230 pounds and keep the same athleticism, Jalen Smith could emerge as a star in the NBA. Look for the Celtics to see him as an athletic power forward that complements every player on their roster, essentially making their lives easier.

Tyler Bey

6’7’’ 215 SF/PF Colorado

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
13.89.01.51.51.2.530.419.7432.4

Tyler Bey is a projected late first-round pick more in line with the Celtics 30th pick. Yet, he displays so much upside. At 6’7’’, Bey is a freak athlete that plays with a high motor on both ends of the court. He has the athleticism to play the perimeter and strength to contend against bigger forwards. He has that toughness you see from Montrez Harrell, Patrick Beverley, or Marcus Smart, glue guys every team needs. Besides being tough, Bey is a great rebounder with great anticipation skills. He also has an offensive presence in the paint, most notably excelling with his back to the basket. He’s a good free-throw shooter which provides some optimism that he can become a mid-range or three-point threat.

The Celtics are championship contending team that will give him the time to work on his jump shot. In return, Bey can provide the Celtics with another tough gritty guy alongside Marcus Smart. A small ball lineup with Walker, Smart, Brown, Tatum, and Bey screams physicality,  a refreshing look given today’s NBA. Look for the Celtics to target this versatile swiss army knife.

Prediction

I believe the Celtics could trade up in the draft. However, I don’t see a drastic change in talent from the late lottery to late-teens. With the Celtics already having a deep roster, they aren’t pressured to grab the best player available. Instead, they can focus on their true needs for the present and the future. Given this, I expect the Celtics to draft their point guard for the future. With their draft range, my top three point guards are Theo Maledon, Nico Mannion, and RJ Hampton. All have similar ceilings and could fit as playmakers for the Celtics bench unit and long-term starters.

I also expect the Celtics to draft a power forward/center. Brad Stevens likes small-ball lineups and after drafting Robert Williams, I don’t see them going with a conventional center. Guys like Tyler Bey and Jalen Smith stand out as lengthy forwards who have shown proficiency on offense and defense. These guys provide another look that the Celtics haven’t had in years. Celtics fans should be happy to get either of these two players.

  
Miles Jasper is an incoming law student studying employment and labor law. Miles’ passions lie within the salary cap, collective bargaining, and labor relations between leagues and their players. He also likes to analyze college prospects and participate in fantasy sports. In his free time, Miles is an avid runner who also enjoys poker, cooking, and watching movies.

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