Adam Kaufman

Whom Should the Celtics Draft with Pick No. 17?

With the NBA Draft still about five weeks away, the debate will rage on over whether the Celtics should hang onto their two first-round picks at No. 6 and No. 17, deal them both for a higher selection, or shop at least one of the two for an established veteran who can come to Boston and help right away.

Odds are, even if a trade is made, nothing will happen before Draft Night on June 26.

So, while we all deliberate, our panel of Celts insiders has decided to bring you their choices for the ideal fits with those two selections. On Thursday, they unveiled their targets with the sixth pick.

Today, we focus in on No. 17 – the pick courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets – with a much larger array of options.

[Note: You can also read here who the national experts project the Celtics to land in the opening round.]

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Gary Dzen: Stuck in basketball purgatory after leaving North Carolina due to an NCAA investigation, P.J. Hairston averaged 21.8 points in the D-League for the Texas Legends. The guard dropped 45 points in a game against Reno (below), and he's got an NBA body. The Celtics could use some scoring in their backcourt next to Rajon Rondo (you don't really think he's going anywhere, do you?), and Hairston can light it up.

Jeremy Gottlieb: It's tough to see the Celtics holding onto either of their two first-round picks in next month's draft should they make a blockbuster deal in the coming weeks. But if they only keep one of the two, bet on it being No. 17, a spot that obviously has less value than No. 6 but could certainly provide them with some depth as well as a player they can exercise more patience with in terms of development.

That being said, a name to watch here is Rodney Hood, a rangy, smooth, 6'9" two-guard from Duke who can shoot the lights out. Current shooting guard Avery Bradley is a) the embodiment of a tweener, too small to be a truly effective shooting guard but not skilled enough to play the point, b) injury prone and c) a restricted free agent. The Celtics may want to avoid paying someone who is undersized and can't stay on the court or handle the ball significant money if they wind up offering max dollars to, say, Kevin Love. Drafting Hood would allow the C's to feel a bit more comfortable letting Bradley walk while also improving themselves from the perimeter. The Celts need more consistent shooters in a big way and Hood hit from three-point range at a 42 percent clip for the Blue Devils this past season. By comparison, Bradley has shot just 36.6 percent from deep in his career.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Celts take a player like Hood even if they do decide to match any offer Bradley receives in free agency. Hood would be the third guard in that scenario (assuming Rajon Rondo isn't traded), allowing him to grow and mature more deliberately. But Bradley feels more like a liability than not from a long-term perspective and if the Celts can replace him with better shooting and more size in the backcourt in the process with a guy like Hood, they should do it.

Adam Kaufman: This one’s tricky. Ordinarily, I’d go with Michigan State’s Adreian Payne. He’s among the rare four-year college players in this draft, who would likely be a top-10 selection if not for his age (23) and may still be a lottery pick. The big man (6’10”, 240 pounds) has an improving inside-outside game, shoots well from beyond the arc (42.3 percent), he’s solid defensively, and he’s not afraid to gut it out after playing part of his senior year with a foot injury and the final few games with mono – though that went undiagnosed. However, he’s also a power forward by trade, and so is Julius Randle – the guy I’d like to see the Celtics take at No. 6. So, no need for Danny Ainge to add even more redundancy to the position.

So, the guy who makes the most sense to me is Nik Stauskas. The Michigan shooting guard was the Big Ten Player of the Year as a sophomore after making tremendous strides from a relatively quiet freshman season. Stauskas averaged 17.5 points (up from 11) in his second year while shooting 47 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from 3-point range. He’s arguably the best shooter in the draft, but has work to do defensively and he isn’t very quick. In other words, if the C’s elect to let Avery Bradley move on in free agency, this would be an interesting swap in trading out offense for defense (if and when Stauskas would be ready to start in the league).

I know what you're thinking: That’s great and all, but there’s no way he’ll be on the board at 17. Probably true, but I’ve seen some "expert" mock drafts with Stauskas falling as low as 16 so, as Kevin Garnett once yelled, “anything is possible!”

Brian Robb: T.J. Warren. This draft is deep enough where the Celtics are going to get a solid contributor if they end up keeping this pick and Warren would fit that bill quite well. Boston is in dire need of additional shot creators on the offensive end on a roster full of guys that struggle to finish around the basket. Luckily, Warren was one of the best players in college this year in that department. He can get to the rack and also has a crafty mid-range/floater game that should translate well to the NBA level.

Warren isn't without his warts, which is to be expected out of any player available at 17. He's a swingman with an inconsistent outside shot, and that's not going to help spread out an NBA offense, an attribute you need as a small forward. Still, there's room for growth here and the upside in the rest of his offensive game is enough for me to roll the dice that he'll improve his stroke at the pro level. Boston needs a sparkplug off the bench and Warren could be that guy right away.

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