The NBA lottery was held last night, and the Boston Celtics stayed in their projected third position, so who should the Celtics target with their first of three first round picks?
Unfortunately for Boston, staying at three likely means losing out on Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the consensus top two players available in this years draft. There is still some quality talent after those two, and the Celtics will get the best of the rest.
The first prospect that seems like a perfect match is Dragan Bender. The Croatian-born power forward is the type of sharpshooting big man that head coach Brad Stevens loves. Just 18 years old, Bender has plenty of time to develop his game even further once he lands in the U.S.
The 7 footer doesn’t see much time for his current team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, seeing around 12 minutes of action a game in both the Euroleague and in the Eurocup. But scouts have loved what they have seen from this kid in his limited action against grown men.
He’s a solid shooter for a big man and can run the floor with ease. Even for his skill as a shooter, Bender is still dangerous on the post and has a couple of moves that can be effective with a little more polish. He also projects as a solid rebounder on both ends with his 7’2″ wingspan. This length, along with his solid athleticism, could also help him block and alter shots all over the court.
His biggest issue when arriving to the NBA will be his weight. He’s just below 220 pounds and could get pushed around on the blocks and on the glass in his early years. Bender is certainly a developmental prospect, and will also have to learn the ins-and-outs of the NBA game.
Bender has been compared to Kristaps Porzingis, a rookie who took the NBA by storm in the first two months before leveling out. He may be a year or two away from making a serious impact for the Celtics, but Brad Stevens is one of the best in the business, and with the right coaching, this kid could become a stud.
The other option the Celtics have if they keep they pick (more on that shortly) is the man from Oklahoma, Buddy Hield. No, Buddy Hield isn’t just here so I can get excited about him wearing the green. He is a legitimate option and fills a legitimate need for the Celtics.
The Celtics shot 26 threes per game, good for 11th most in the league, but only hist 33% of those attempts, 28th in the league. As seen in the playoffs, the Celtics desperately need shooting, because once they get behind, it’s tough for them to come back.
Buddy Hield is the best shooter in the class and it’s not close. He led Oklahoma to the Final Four and scored 25 points per game. From behind the arc, Hield shot almost nine threes per game and sunk four a game, good for 45%.
Hield is more NBA ready than RJ Hunter and Terry Rozier, who were both first round picks last year. Buddy is a also a solid, yet underrated athlete. He doesn’t project to be a lockdown perimeter defender, and with Isaiah Thomas lacking size, it might not be the ideal fit. but with Avery Bradley being one of the top perimeter checkers in the game, it shouldn’t be too big of a concern.
Another serious option for the C’s is to move this pick for a star to go alongside Isaiah Thomas. Boston has been, is currently, and will be forever rumored to be in the mix for DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. The price for Cousins would be extremely steep, but the Celtics have eight total picks this year, with of those being in the first round.
The Celtics have also been rumored to be in talks for the 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor, much like they were during last years draft process. Philadelphia currently holds the #1 spot in the draft, and with a host of young big men, Philly should probably move at least one of them before the season begins. Boston has the pieces to pull off the move, it just needs to be done.
One final team that the Celtics could be involved in is the Chicago Bulls. The team from the Windy City is looking for an heir to throne of Derrick Rose, and Kris Dunn is the perfect player to do that. Chicago owns the 14th selection, and would need to move up to get him. Boston has had its eyes on star Jimmy Butler, and much like Philly, Boston has the pieces to move and acquire a star. A swap of picks, plus another first rounder to Chicago and potentially Avery Bradley and a developmental player could pique Chicago’s interests.
Cover Photo via ClutchPoints