Here’s the deal, Boston Celtics fans:
As you are all well aware, the Boston Celtics currently have a gaping hole on their roster when it comes to the center position. Yes, Boston has Vitor Faverani, but between the big man’s season-ending knee surgery (which only compounds the fact that one of the knocks on him in his scouting report is that he has struggled with injuries) and his lack of rebounding/post defense, I’m not inclined to believe that El Hombre Indestructible will be starting at center for the Celtics, uh, ever.
Enter . . .
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, University of Kentucky
No, I didn’t go with Cauley-Stein simply because he plays for Kentucky. Nor did I select him because he plays for a team called the Wildcats, since I have managed to do profiles on Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Nick Johnson – all Wildcats in one way or another.
Honestly, the center I would most like to see the Celtics draft in this year’s draft is Kansas’ Joel Embiid – but the chances of Embiid being available when the Celtics pick are slim to none. However, don’t think that Cauley-Stein is only on here because his team is still playing tonight, as the 7’0″ sophomore has a ton of potential.
Cauley-Stein ranked 31st in the nation this season with 2.9 blocks per game, and if you were to weed out some of the players who play on teams with far, far weaker strength of schedule, you would find Cauley-Stein easily in the top 20 or even 15. His wingspan, athleticism and superior sense of timing could make him exactly the sort of rim-protector the Celtics are looking to land. Cauley-Stein already has swatted five shots in the tournament, including 4 in Kentucky’s first-round matchup against Kansas State, and has done so coming off of the bench, which is even more impressive, in my eyes. Cauley-Stein is also a force to be reckoned with on the glass, when he is inclined to assert himself, and can really extend his team’s possessions with timely rebounding on the offensive glass.
Speaking of offense . . . well, there’s nothing to see here, aside from the occasional put-back and dunks. His total lack of offense is the sole reason why Cauley-Stein is currently ranked in the teens on every NBA prospect board I have seen so far. Teams looking for offense at the center position will want to steer clear of him, but any team who is looking primarily for a ferocious defender and someone who can clean the glass can probably live with the fact that Cauley-Stein is never going to average double-digit scoring per game. That’s a decision for coach Brad Stevens, his coaching staff and the Celtics’ front office to make. If you get a chance, check out Willie Cauley-Stein tonight and see how big of an impact he has in the grudge match between his Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals.