The Celtics are attempting to climb up the Eastern Conference standings with roughly five weeks remaining in the regular season, but the NBA Draft suddenly is just three months away.
As it stands right now, Boston’s first-round pick would sit in the mid-to-late teens, just outside of the lottery. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office could very well shop this pick as part of a larger offseason deal, but if Boston stays put, there will be some interesting options on the board.
Let’s take an early look at some names that could be on the Celtics’ radar.
Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers (Australia), Guard: At 6-foot-8, Giddey is an intriguing backcourt option who has come on strong over the last month in Australia. His athleticism won’t blow you away by any means, but his feel for the game is promising. Giddey sees the floor well and has showcased his passing skill against good competition in the NBL. Yes, Boston has a plethora of guards at the moment, but they also don’t have many roster spots. At 18 years old, Giddey could be a smart project with a lot of upside. His shooting and defense need some work, but he wouldn’t be thrust into a plug-and-play role in Boston. The Celtics are in a spot where they can be patient with his development, a luxury many of their counterparts don’t have.
Franz Wagner, Michigan, Forward: The Celtics brought in Moritz Wagner at the trade deadline, but his younger brother could be an interesting option for Boston on draft night. His Elite Eight performance against UCLA was not pretty, but Wagner fits the 3-and-D forward mold that so many NBA lineups consistently benefit from.
Wagner was a major part of Michigan’s success this season. His defense, shot-making and all-around game helped the Wolverines nab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s those same skills that will help him at the NBA level. Wagner’s basketball IQ and versatility on both ends should make him a seamlessly fit no matter the landing spot.
Josh Christopher, Arizona State, Wing/Guard: Christopher was rather streaky in his lone college season, but he could provide a nice scoring burst off the bench at the next level. His impressive creation ability could see further improvement with NBA spacing, but it’s what he will do without the ball that raises some concerns. Christopher is a great shot-maker who possesses the skill set of a good pro slasher, something scouts really liked even during some of Arizona State’s low points.
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He showed promising playmaking flashes with the Spartans this season, highlighting some potential in that area to go along with his pure scoring ability. For teams in need of depth points, Christopher should be a good option deep(ish) into the first round. Does he know what to do without the ball? That remains to be seen.
Greg Brown, Texas, Forward: His pre-draft stock is lower than it was a few months ago, but Brown’s athleticism is undeniable. If the Celtics make a push up the Eastern Conference standings and end up with a later first-round pick, Brown could be an interesting prospect on their radar. With little playing time up for grabs, taking a flier on Brown makes a lot of sense. Boston has had success with its G League system, and allowing Brown to patiently develop in Maine would be mutually beneficial. His lone season at Texas did not live up to expectations, but he is still worth a late first-round choice in this year’s class.
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga, Wing: Kispert won’t last until the Celtics’ selection, although he did struggle a bit over the last month of his college career. Those issues were highlighted in Gonzaga’s National Championship loss to the Baylor Bears, where he had just 12 points and often looked overmatched on the defensive end. It’s unlikely that the previous month will really hurt his stock, although it could draw some newfound pause from lottery teams. If that’s the case, he could fall closer to the high-end of Boston’s range.
Kispert simply is a solid rotation piece and plug-and-play pick if all goes well for the 22-year-old. He is the best shooter in the class, posting a 44% clip from beyond the arc on high volume in 32 games this season. His offense has more to it, however, as Kispert consistently showed good pace and body control on drives in transition. His strength and good positioning helped him display some good work in hand-offs this season as well.
Again, he likely falls out of the Celtics range, but Kispert will bring lights-out shooting, good team defense and smart decision-making wherever he lands.
Davion Mitchell, Baylor, Guard: Mitchell’s stock has skyrocketed over the last month or so as he helped lead Baylor to a National Championship. Like Kispert, Mitchell is a stretch for the Celtics, as he’ll likely be a lottery pick. His defense and 3-point shooting are an extremely promising combination, while the 2021 season consistently showed his athleticism and impressive instincts. Using a top-10 pick on Mitchell seems like a slight stretch, but his skill set outweighs any concerns about him being an older prospect.