The 2012-2013 NBA season has come to a quicker end than most Celtics’ fans anticipated back in October. Unfortunately an offseason spent acquiring youth, athleticism, and veteran experience was not enough to overcome the plethora of injuries Boston faced this season.
Danny Ainge must now make some franchise altering decisions. Does he decide to turn the page on the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce era, or make one last run with the core group? Whichever route Ainge chooses to walk down, the NBA Draft will be an important step toward the Celtics’ future.
With the draft less than two months away, it is time to look at who could be the missing piece to the Banner 18 puzzle. Boston holds the 16th pick in the draft, which puts them in solid position to get a contributing player.
The first place Danny Ainge should probably look is in the post, particularly if Garnett chooses to return. Garnett can no longer be asked to carry the rebounding load, and guard the opposing team’s biggest player on a nightly basis. That’s why the Celtics could target Louisville center Gorgui Dieng.
The 6-foot-10 center from Senegal would give the Celtics a much-needed rebounding and shot blocking presence. Dieng averaged 9.8 points per game , 9.4 rebounds per game, and 2.5 blocks per game in helping the Cardinals win a National Championship. He came out of high school as a raw project, but Rick Pitino molded him into a destructive defensive force.
If he’s still available when the Celtics take the clock, it would make a lot of sense to take him. He could come in and immediately give the Celtics some minutes alongside Garnett. Under Garnett’s tutelage, Dieng could become an anchor in the paint for the next decade.
If the Celtics lose Pierce and Garnett, they will need somebody to fill the offensive void left. The playoff series against New York showed some of Boston’s putrid offensive tendencies. Without Rajon Rondo to create shots for others, many players struggled to consistently get quality looks.
That problem could be solved by picking Lehigh guard, C.J. McCollum. An injury plagued season hampered McCollum’s senior campaign at Lehigh, but before going down, he was looking like a bona-fide star. He played in 12 games, averaging 23.9 ppg, shooting a staggering 51.6 percent from behind the arc.
McCollum has a bit of a Steph Curry feel to his game with the ability to make difficult shots look easy. The biggest downside to McCollum is that he’s only around 6-foot-2, and is primarily a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. The Celtics already have a crowded backcourt, but it may be hard to pass up someone who is this talented of a scorer.
Picking McCollum would give the Celtics flexibility if they choose trade one or two of their guards for additional post help this offseason.
Here is some video evidence of McCollum’s ability to put the ball in the basket.
Finally the next name the Celtics will likely target comes from overseas. While still very raw, Greek prospect, Giannis Adetokunbo, could become a dynamic NBA player. At 6-foot-10 Adeteokunbo has grown up playing point guard, but will likely transition into a small forward at the NBA level.
Ainge has already been spotted traveling to Greece in order to scout the 18-year-old. Adetokunbo has risen up draft boards in the past couple of months though, and with good pre-draft workouts, could play himself into the lottery. While he doesn’t necessarily fill an immediate need, he’s got what general managers love, potential.
With his height, he could become a great perimeter defender, while taking advantage of small players on the offensive end. His background as a point guard would also allow him to create some offense for others. With the NBA being a league centered on creating mismatches and advantages, having a versatile 6-foot-1o small forward is certainly intriguing.