With all the excitement surrounding the landscape shattering trade that saw the Celtics send the number one overall pick in this year’s NBA draft to the Philadelphia 76ers all the talk has focused upon who the Celtics will target now that Markelle Fultz isn’t about to don that Celtic Green. Will it be Josh Jackson, how about Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball, or Jonathan Isaac?
What if I told you that once Adam Silver has made the announcement and the ball cap has been put on, that Danny Ainge and his team of scouts work is just beginning for the evening? A couple hours later Adam Silver will retire for the evening leaving Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will take the podium and lead the 2nd round of festivities.
After the 3rd pick the Celtics will have 3 remaining picks for the evening, barring additional movement, which with trader Danny is entirely possible, if not likely. When the 37th, 53rd, and 56th selections are made, they’ll be made with the Celtics on the clock.
Lets take a few minutes to review some potential draftees that the Celtics may be looking at. Keep in mind that last year Ainge also had numerous draft picks at his disposal, using first round picks on Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, and Ante Zizic, followed by Demetrius Jackson and Abdel Nader in the 2nd round. Of those only Brown and Jackson made it to the parent club’s roster during the season, with Yabusele spending the majority of his season in China before seeing a brief stint in Portland, Maine to the end the year. Jackson bounced back and forth between Maine and Boston. Zizic split time between clubs in Europe. And Abdel Nader agreed to spend the year in Maine, where he surprised many with his strong play and will be looking to be signed to the Celtics roster this season.
With cap space expected to be in demand with the Celtics pursuit of a max free agent, and all the assets acquired last draft that need to be addressed it would not be surprising to see the Celtics look to turn 2nd round picks into future picks, cash, or draft and stash prospects. So without further adieu I present to you ten players that could hear their name called when the Celtics select on Thursday.
Deonte Burton – Forward – Iowa State
At 6’5” and about 260 lbs. Deonte combines strength and agility. Its proper form now a days to compare any forward who can dribble, pass, and has a little bulk to him to Draymond Green, and as I don’t want to disappoint, I’ll do that here. He has the ability to match up on the wings, while having the bulk to defend on the block if he must.
If Burton is taken they’d likely look to sign him to one of the new 2 way contracts, or let him go play overseas for a year or two to see how the roster shakes out, much like they’d done with Colten Iverson.
Ismael Bako – Center – Belgium
A 6’10” center from Belgium with good energy, and a 7’3” wingspan Bako would make a nice draft and stash prospect. With post players few and far between on the current version of the Celtics roster (Al Horford is a lock, and then Jordan Mickey & Tyler Zeller on non-guaranteed contracts) it’d be nice to add another long body to the pipeline. The only issue is that at 21, Bako may not be interested in staying in Europe any longer.
Tony Bradley – Center – North Carolina
You’ll see a theme as numerous players on this list fall under the category of NBA bigs. Traditionally it takes longer for bigs to develop their skills as opposed to guards who tend to come into the league with ready to go skills and bodies. As we’re looking for players to stash in the D-League or overseas, naturally the thought is to find guys who haven’t plateaued and could blossom with additional time and coaching.
Tony Bradley falls into that category. He left Chapel Hill after just one year, but was highly touted when he headed to play for coach Roy Williams. It wouldn’t be the least bit shocking if he had a long and productive NBA career. The Celtics have spent the last 2 seasons trying to develop Jordan Mickey into an NBA caliber player. With the cap crunch about to happen, he may not survive the on coming purge. Bradley could replace what they were looking to get out of Mickey.
Caleb Swanigan – Forward – Purdue
Disclaimer, I absolutely love Caleb Swanigan’s game. Also a disclaimer, I’m not 100% certain he’ll be a successful NBA player. Ten years ago we’d be looking at him as the next in line to the tradition of Leon Powe, and Glen Davis as successful, gritty, slightly undersized, 2nd round power forwards that Ainge has hit on. In the current NBA though, Swanigan’s game just may be too old school. But boy oh boy can he rebound and score in the paint. He started to develop his outside touch this past season at Purdue, putting up 2.5 three point shots a game, a sign that he is willing to improve, and adapt to what will be asked of him at the next level.
I’m not sure he’ll last until 37, in fact, I’ll be surprised if he does. But if it happens, Ainge should quickly make the phone call to add this tough post presence to the Celtics next season.
Jonah Bolden – Forward – Australia
The curious case of Jonah Bolden. A native of Australia he attended high school in the United States, bouncing between Findlay Prep just outside of Las Vegas, and Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before ending up at UCLA.
At UCLA he spent a season red-shirting as a NCAA partial qualifier. Once he managed to find the court during the 2015-2016 season his impact was minimal compared with what was expected from him. The knock allegedly was that as a 6’10” power forward he tended to float more to the perimeter than what the staff at UCLA would have liked.
That tendency is now what makes him endearing to NBA GM’s. A 6’10 power forward with perimeter skills. On the bubble as a late first rounder, he also could be gone by time its the Celtic’s turn to select.
Mathias Lessort – Forward – France
Guerschon Yabusele in 2016, Mathias Lessort in 2017? The new French connection. At 6’9” 250 lbs., while not as thick as Yabusele, is still a big boy with an NBA ready body. While he currently lacks the perimeter skills that the Celtics like in their bigs, he has the motor and athleticism needed to transition to being a contributing NBA big.
At 21 years old, he may be ready to make the leap to the league now, and may not be over anxious to stay another year in Europe. But his motor falls in line with what Ainge likes in his draftees.
Eric Mika – Forward – BYU
Older than most NBA rookies, he also boasts the corresponding maturity needed to step into a locker room that was last seen in the Eastern Conference Finals. After a very productive season as a freshman at Brigham Young University, he stepped away for 2 years to fulfill his mission commitment.
Coming back last year, he stepped right in and averaged just over 20 points a game as a sophomore. To have seen Mika play means to be impressed with his offensive skills, especially after spending 2 years away from competitive basketball.
There is the obvious Ainge – BYU connection to at least make Mika warrant a second glance from the Banner 18 group, and that may be all the in he needs.
Jaron Blossomgame – Forward – Clemson
A combo forward who has the look of a future NBA “glue guy”. An up and down offensive game combined with the ability to defend multiple positions in the NBA. Those guys are now in high demand in the modern NBA.
Recently quoted as saying that he could provide the same services for a team that Andre Igoudala does for the Warriors, any team drafting him would be ecstatic if he lived up to his claims as a rookie.
Only a year and a half younger than Avery Bradley, he would provide a very nice back up option to Jaylen Brown, should Jae Crowder see himself moved in an offseason deal.
George de Paula – Guard – Brazil
A draft and stash guard with good size and reach. At 6’6” in shoes he can play either guard spot. While the Celtics currently have a glut of players in the backcourt, 3 of the main cogs are due to be free agents after this season. Having the rights to player who could potentially step in to be a back up in 2018 is an option Ainge may want to explore, and would not disrupt the game plan for this year.
Jonathan Jeanne – Center – France
A potential lotto ticket. Jeanne was being talked about as a mid-first round talent this year before a medical red flag popped during his pre-draft evaluations. Diagnosed with Marfan syndrome he could very well never play a minute of NBA basketball. This is the same issue that inflicted former Baylor Bear Isiah Austin who was famously honored as an honoree draftee when he was diagnosed, also during pre-draft evaluations. Austin was actually cleared to play earlier this spring.
At just under 20 years, Jeanne is young enough to hope that he could one day get past his affliction and fulfill his potential. While this could be a wasted pick, when you have as many picks as the Celtics do, with so few available roster spots, you can afford to take a chance and potentially land the next Rudy Gobert.
With just under a week until the draft, these are just some of the names you may be looking to know deeper into the night. So sit back and enjoy the fun, the draft doesn’t end at pick #3.
- Jason Sullivan