You’ve heard from the experts.
Should the Celtics retain their first pick in next month’s draft, names like Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, and Noah Vonleh could all be available as a trade chip or, with any luck, a future perennial All-Star.
After taking a day to recover from Tuesday night’s disappointment, we’ve once again assembled our Boston.com panel of C’s insiders to offer their thoughts on who they’d select if available at No. 6 on June 26.
[Note: You can also find previous entries on what it would take for the Celts to acquire Kevin Love and whether Boston should keep or trade its first pick.]
Gary Dzen: The more I look at it the more I'm sold on Noah Vonleh. An athletic big man with a giant wing span who can also shoot a little? I know he's not as polished as Julius Randle, who could also be there at No. 6, and he didn't do as much at Indiana as some of the other players did in college, but by the smell test Vonleh has all the makings of the guy who makes the biggest leap three or four years from now.
The other reason I like Vonleh is the position. Who's the last Celtics big man besides Kevin Garnett you were truly excited about? Probably Al Jefferson, but we never got to see him mature to his full potential here. I'm all in on the kid from Haverhill.
Jeremy Gottlieb: The Celtics must do everything they can to make a deal for an established, big name player (hello, Kevin Love!) this summer. Should such an opportunity present itself, the No. 6 pick in next month's draft will certainly be a part of the package. But if Danny Ainge finds that what's ultimately available via trade won't tangibly improve the Celtics all that much more than keeping the pick, he could do far worse than grabbing Indiana big man Noah Vonleh.
At 6'10", the Haverhill native isn't a prototypical center, which the Celts need more that anything. And his scouting report bears some similarities to Kelly Olynyk's. But where Vonleh and Olynyk differ greatly is on the defensive end, where Vonleh appears to have the makeup to flourish. He's already seen as a superior rebounder and an excellent shot blocker who is still improving in that area. The Celtics need players with those skills desperately. And it stands to reason that once he fills out a little bit and adds to his 247-pound frame, he'll be able to combine that increased size and strength with his already excellent athletic ability to become a force around the rim on both ends.
There will be a million more mock drafts between now and draft night but based on several of the ones already published, Vonleh looks to go in the No. 5 to No. 8 range. If the Celts stay at No. 6 and Vonleh remains on the board, they should grab the hometown kid.
Adam Kaufman: Ignoring the front-line stars-in-the-making while hoping one of them slides, I’ll start with who I don’t want: Marcus Smart. Nothing against him, other than his position. I’ve long been a supporter of Rajon Rondo being a central figure in the Celtics’ rebuild and my thoughts on the matter haven’t changed, so there’s no need to draft a point guard this high unless Danny Ainge is bracing for his captain’s departure next summer.
After that, you’re looking at three power forwards. Hey, didn’t the Celts have massive redundancy at that position last year? Yes, but not one of those guys is untouchable or necessarily a long-term fixture so there’s always room for an upgrade. Julius Randle is the most NBA-ready and can contribute right away, the explosive Aaron Gordon might literally be able to leap a tall building in a single bound, and the lanky but talented Noah Vonleh could use another year at Indiana, despite being the Big 10 Freshman of the Year.
If he’s there, give me Randle. As a freshman, the Kentucky stud averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds (he led the NCAA in total rebounds) while shooting 50.1 percent from the field over 40 games. He led the nation with 24 double-doubles (and came within a total of seven points and six rebounds of achieving seven more), gives a non-stop effort on the glass (a real need for the C’s) and is a fierce competitor, he’s a good ball-handler, and he’s got Zach Randolph’s big, strong body and skill-set. The latter, by the way, has had an awfully impressive 13-year career to date, averaging 17.2 points and 9.4 boards. Yes, he’s a little undersized for the position (6’9”, 250), turns the ball over too much (2.5 per game), and can be inconsistent with his jumper but if he were perfect he’d go No. 1.
Brian Robb: Julius Randle. If the Celtics are going to keep this pick, they need to go with the best talent available rather than fill in a position of need. If Randle is still on the board at this spot, there is a high likelihood he will be the most talented player remaining in play.
The Celtics have more power forwards than the depth chart can handle right now, but that should not matter with this selection. Danny Ainge can deal with that later this summer since Randle should be worth the trouble. He’s only 19 years old and was a walking double-double for Kentucky last season on their march to the NCAA Championship game.
He’s got the ability to contribute in all facets of the offense, whether it’s in transition or the halfcourt. His outside shooting isn’t where it needs to be, but the potential is there. Randle was also one of the best rebounders in the country for his size. That skill has a strong history of translating well to the NBA, making the former Kentucky Wildcat a sure thing to help Boston right away in that department.
If the Celtics make this pick, they probably aren’t going to be anything more than a borderline playoff team next year at best. That means they should draft a young player that can develop. At the six spot, Randle would be that guy.
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