In my mind, the NBA season is broken down into four parts: the off season, the preseason, the regular season and the postseason. Outside of our title runs, nothing gets me going like the off season where the draft, trades and free agent acquisitions flood the headlines. Today, I’m going to turn my focus on some of the potential targets the Celtics could be eying down in next month’s draft. We all know that we lack depth at the power forward and center positions as well as a dynamic wing player off the bench and I hope that Danny Ainge focuses his attention in those areas.
Chris Singleton – SF, Florida State
When the Celtics are on the clock at pick No. 25, Singleton, if still on the board, will be the pick for us. He has got tremendous size at 6’9″ and is far and away the best defensive player in the entire draft. He’s got the footwork, agility and desire to guard anyone from shooting guards to power forwards. His offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but he could come in right away and carve out some bench minutes.
We saw Danny Ainge take Avery Bradley last season. Bradley was, in the minds of the Celtics, the best defensive player in last year’s draft. If he can get his hands on another defensive stud like this then I don’t see him hesitating. I would compare him to Corey Brewer, but you wouldn’t be spending the 7th pick of the draft on him.
Kenneth Faried – PF, Morehead State
Undersized and lack of an offensive game, why would Faried be an option in the first round? If you watched the first round of the NCAA tournament, Faried led his Morehead State team past Louisville on the national stage. Faried did what he had done all season and that was rebound the basketball, hauling in 17 boards in the upset. At 14.51 per game, he led the nation in rebounding and that is a skill that translates well into the NBA.
His lack of size is made up for his great athleticism and his motor that is always running. Nobody outworks him on the floor and a team selecting in the late first round will be getting a player that will add great energy off the bench and will give you everything he’s got. Like Singleton, he most likely will be gone before the Celtics select in the first round, but if he’s still on the board at 25, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he plays in Boston next season.
Jordan Williams – PF/C, Maryland
A 6’10″ sophomore center, Williams declared early for the draft after showing growth in his game from his freshman campaign. He’s a thick kid, standing to lose some of his “baby fat”, but so wasn’t Kendrick Perkins when he came in to the league. He’s got great touch around the rim and uses his wide body to keep defenders on his hip. He’s got great hands when it comes to catching passes and hauling in rebounds. His conditioning leaves him needing rest more than you would like, but adding Williams to the Celtics bench would be a good start to looking toward the future. He’s a young kid with tons of room to grow, but already skilled enough to contribute to a team right now.
As of right now, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford as well as NBADraft.net both have the Celtics drafting Jordan Williams at No. 25. Is he ready to make a noticeable impact on a title contending team in the playoffs? Probably not, but he could be a building block for the future to pair up with Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green once the Big Three are gone.
JaJuan Johnson – PF, Purdue
The 6’10″ Johnson is an elite athlete and would add a great running mate on the fast break for Rondo. A very good college defender, his weight (listed at 220 pounds) may be a weakness at the next level. He may be too light to guard power forwards, but too slow to guard small forwards. Either way, his length and athleticism allows him to be a deterrent at the rim, blocking over two shots a game. He may not be a building block for the future like some may think Jordan Williams is, but could be a rotational big for the next six to ten years. His springs, intelligence and intensity is something we haven’t seen out of a Celtics big man since Kevin Garnett’s first season in Boston.
Marshon Brooks – G, Providence
The second leading scorer in the nation, Marshon Brooks’ name is shooting up the draft boards. A pure-scorer, he averaged 24.6 points per game while shooting 48% from the floor. He’s not an assassin from deep, but he uses his size (6’5″) to his advantage both on offense and defense. He can shoot over smaller defenders and uses his 7’2″ wingspan to grab boards (7.0 per game) and be a pest on defense (1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals per game).
Perhaps the most intriguing comments I have read on Brooks was from Chad Ford:
Within minutes of walking into the gym, it was clear that Brooks was playing at a completely different level than I’m used to seeing from college prospects. As I moved over to Grover, I began to grill him.
“Who does he remind you of?” Grover grinned. I was afraid to answer. Grover smiled and said, “There’s a little bit of Kobe in him, isn’t there?” He had read my mind.
When you consider that Grover trains Kobe, that’s high, high praise.
I understand that the Name “Kobe” is borderline sacrilegious in Boston, but you have to admit that a comparison to one of the game’s greats has got to pique your interest.
Shelvin Mack – G, Butler
After suffering back-to-back losses in the NCAA national title game, Shelvin Mack declared for the NBA draft after his junior year. During two different March Madness runs, he displayed floor leadership, defensive intensity and a knack for knocking down big shot after big shot. He’s got great range on his jumper, but may not be quick enough to get past good defenders in the league. Handles are good enough to play point guard in the NBA.
To be honest, he is not one of my favorite options for the Celtics having already drafted Avery Bradley, but there is no denying that Shelvin Mack is a basketball player that can add some positives to a team’s roster.
Keith Benson – C, Oakland University
Hardly recruited coming out of high school, Benson literally grew into one of the dominant centers in all of college basketball. He grew to 6’11″ while in college and developed into a defensive force. He has a 7’2″ wingspan and used that to full advantage. He has developed a reliable offensive game both on the block and from mid range. His biggest weakness is his weight. He desperately needs to bulk up. He may be able to slide in at the four until he bulks up enough to bump and grind with the centers of the league. People question his competition while playing in the Summit League, but he more than held his own against likely top-10 pick Tristan Thompson in the opening round of the tournament this year. He’s a second round prospect, but I don’t expect him to be available at No. 55, so buying another second-round pick would be necessary to grab him.
Scotty Hopson – G/F, Tennessee
A silky smooth wing prospect, Hopson has got the size, athleticism and handles to be a spark off the bench on the offensive end of the floor. He’s got a great jumpshot and is crafty at attacking the paint, but tends to shy away from contact. Has the tools to be a serviceable defender, but at Tennessee he seemed to consumed with the offensive end to put in much of an effort on defense. Doesn’t rebound the ball well nor dish out many assists, so he is mainly a one-dimensional player. Should be available at No. 55 and if he doesn’t make the roster, he could go play for the Maine Red Claws and former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.
Jeremy Tyler – F/C, USA
The story of Jeremy Tyler started when he decided to play professional basketball in Europe rather than play his senior season in high school and go to college for the required one season. He ended up playing in Japan after playing in Europe for a short time. He’s still very young (equivalent of a college freshman) and has ideal size at 6’10″ and 262 pounds. Supposedly, he is looking great in workouts and has been moving up the draft board into the early 2nd round. Like Benson, the Celtics would have to either move up or purchase another second-round pick.
Those are nine prospects that I think the Celtics should be giving some serious thought to selecting in the 2011 NBA draft. Who do you guys like and what other names are you hoping to hear announced with our pick?