In addition to having the number three overall pick in the draft, the Boston Celtics have two other mid to late first round picks, and an unprecedented 5 second round draft picks. Stephen Zimmerman may still be too young to immediately have a crucial role on the team, but his ability as a two way center makes him a great option for the Celtics with one of their later picks.
The Celtics know that they still have a lot of rebuilding to do with their front court and Zimmerman can offer them something that is otherwise lacking on their roster, while being a phenomenal fit for Brad Stevens on both ends. There are a lot of question marks around Zimmerman’s consistency and aggressiveness on the court and while that could prove to be detrimental to his role, the 19 year old has shown a willingness to buy into a coach and if anyone can install relentless aggressiveness, it is the Celtics.
Initially, Zimmerman’s more passive demeanour could help him. He has never had a problem trying to overextend his abilities. Zimmerman understands what he is capable of and the only problem has been trying to get him to be more aggressive. That aggressiveness is essential for any player that wants to have a significant role on the Celtics but it may serve Zimmerman better to develop and get comfortable in Stevens’ system before he develops the necessary aggressiveness.
The great appeal to Zimmerman is his ability as a two way player. The Celtics have drafted numerous defensive standouts that has been liabilities on the defensive end and it has lead to incredibly unbalanced results on the court. The Celtics need to make sure they continue to dominate with their defense but they need to find a way to maintain that while improving on the offensive end. Zimmerman has the potential to be a strong offensive contributor, as well as one of the better interior defenders o the team.
Zimmerman may not stretch the floor like Kelly Olynyk, but may have an even more dynamic offensive arsenal. The Celtics desperately need three point shooting, but they have shown that they want to score in many different ways. The Celtics can attack the inside with Zimmerman, while working on what could turn out to be another stretch forward. Zimmerman has great athleticism for his size and that will make him an electrifying finisher on the inside. The Celtics always need reliable finishing on the inside and that should be the bare minimum with Zimmerman who has the potential to directly attack defenses in the paint, in addition to being a reliable finisher like Amir Johnson was this season.
Zimmerman’s college numbers really don’t jump out at you and truly show how much work he will need to do on the offensive end. Zimmerman failed to shoot over 30% from three point range. He has that potential to be a stretch 5. Unfortunately, the Celtics have now seen multiple bigs with the potential to stretch the floor, never truly acquire the skill. The Celtics have been waiting years for Sullinger to develop his outside shot and Johnson failed miserably in his attempts to extend the floor.
Given where the Celtics would end up drafting Zimmerman they should be willing to take the risk on his offensive game. The Celtics do not need Zimemrman to come in and immediately be a great offensive contributor, but he has the kind of potential to be exactly what the Celtics need in their front court.
The reason why Zimmerman could see playing time earlier than expected is because of his potential defensive impact. The Celtics desperately need size and they need bigs that can make a difference with their defense. Zimmerman’s combination of size and athleticism is a great combination for a team that needs to find rim protection while playing incredibly fast.
Unfortunately, Zimmerman never dominated on the defensive end, but he showed all the tools to be the best interior defender on the Celtics (except maybe Jordan Mickey). He lacked the aggressiveness to take over games with his defense but he could immediately provide a rebounding and shot blocking boost for the Celtics. His defensive rating of 92.7 demonstrates how sound he can be on that end.
Zimmerman is a fluid athlete whose ability to flourish in pace as a 7 footer and that should create all the intrigue the Celtics need to consider the freshman. If Zimmerman can work on his consistency on the court and adapt the aggressiveness that everyone on the Celtics needs then he can become a great small ball center for the Celtics. They need someone they can run with that can be trusted to finish in multiple ways, and they need to find that without sacrificing anymore in the paint.
Zimmerman would be a project for the Celtics but his upside is exactly what the Celtics need to be looking for with all their draft picks. The Celtics need to revamp there front court and while the fastest route is free agency, they have an opportunity to set themselves up for the long term in this draft.