Game of clue is about to begin
Draft will indicate Celtics’ approach
The first step in what will likely be a long summer for the Celtics comes tomorrow, and in all likelihood, the way they approach draft night will be the first clue as to how they’ll approach the rest of the offseason.
Will their primary focus be finding an immediate substitute for Kendrick Perkins, who will be nursing the knee he shredded during the Finals? Will they brace themselves for the possibility of losing Ray Allen to free agency?
They’ve spent the past three seasons passing over young talent as they chased championships, but this year they’ll need to make a selection that will be a part of their future.
A look at how the draft shapes up for the Celtics, who have the 19th pick:
TEAM NEEDS ■A big man who can score and rebound: The need was there even before Perkins’s injury. The Celtics expanded Perkins’s role offensively coming into the season, but after starting off the year hot (11.7 ppg in November, 12.7 in December), his numbers declined (11.2 in January, 8.0 in February, 7.9 in March, 8.3 in April). He sat out the fourth quarters of Games 4 and 5 in the Finals, with coach Doc Rivers choosing Glen Davis’s offense over Perkins’s defense and rebounding (7.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks).
■A point guard to back up Rajon Rondo: Over the past three seasons, the alternatives have been Sam Cassell, Gabe Pruitt, Eddie House, Stephon Marbury, Lester Hudson, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and in a pinch Tony Allen. Not a true point guard in sight. Rondo led the Celtics in minutes this season (36.6 per game) and was 26th in the league, and even though he didn’t complain about it, having a viable backup would help keep their new cornerstone fresh.
■An insurance policy for Ray Allen or Paul Pierce: The Celtics will likely try to bring one if not both of them back, but should they lose either of them, the draft will give them some options, from Xavier Henry to Eric Bledsoe to Jordan Crawford.
OTHER PLAYERS AVAILABLE ■Solomon Alabi: The 7-foot-1-inch forward decided to leave Florida State after his sophomore season, so the rap is that his game is raw. Still, he swatted an ACC-best 2.3 shots a night, and shot-blocking gives him instant value in the NBA.
■Hassan Whiteside: Another one of the 74 early entries, Whiteside will make the jump after averaging 13.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and a ridiculous 5.4 blocks in his only year at Marshall.
■Damion James: One of the few seniors you can expect to see taken in the first round, James can score (18 points per game at Texas) and rebound (10.3 per game) from the small forward position. According to an NBA source, the Celtics took a long look at him yesterday in a workout at their Waltham facility.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY The Celtics shipped J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, the two young wings they picked up in the 2008 draft, to New York to bring in Robinson. Walker, of course, went from scoring 8 total points in eight games for the Celtics to averaging 12 points a night in 27 games with the Knicks. They took Hudson with their second-round pick last year, but waived him by January. The only player drafted by the Celtics still on the roster since they took Pierce in 1998 is Tony Allen, the 25th pick in the 2004 draft. Rondo, Perkins, and Davis all came via draft-day deals.
NO. 19 ■Last year’s 19th pick: Jeff Teague, Atlanta. He was the second of four straight point guards taken from 18 to 21 (Ty Lawson, Teague, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison). Collison made the biggest splash, filling in for an injured Chris Paul with the Hornets. Teague averaged 3.2 points and 10.1 minutes in 71 games with the Hawks.
■The last 19th pick to be named an All-Star: Zach Randolph. Taken by Portland in 2001, Randolph bounced around the past three seasons (Knicks, Clippers, Grizzlies), but he put up a career year in Memphis (20.8 points, 11.8 rebounds), making his first All-Star team.
■The best player taken with the No. 19 pick: John Paxson. A three-time NBA champion with Chicago, he averaged 11.6 points and 5.8 assists for his career and hit the 3-pointer that clinched the Bulls’ first three-peat. Also, a nod to Rod Strickland (Class of 1988), never an All-Star, never an NBA champion, but perhaps one of the best true point guard of the ’90s. No one taken with the 19th pick has ever made the Hall of Fame.
■The last time the Celtics had the 19th pick: 1993, when they took 6-10 center Acie Earl out of Iowa. Two years later, they offered him up in the expansion draft, and the Toronto Raptors scooped him. Two years later, he was out of the league.
Gary Washburn of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.