The NBA draft took place Thursday night in Brooklyn and there were a lot of expected picks. But there also were quite a few unexpected ones. A majority of these surprise picks were from the Boston Celtics and President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. With three first round picks and five second round picks, the Celtics were poised to land a few future stars in somewhat of a lackluster draft class. Ainge, despite his poor drafting record in the past, is trying to right the ship with this year’s picks, which included two international players in the first round. Let’s just say fans are not too happy with him on that one. But there is a method to Trader Danny’s madness and I’ll explain after we take a look at the picks.
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JAYLEN BROWN, SF, California
The 6’7” Small forward left Cal with a myriad of awards, including First team All-PAC 12 and PAC-12 Freshman of the year. He averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists with 27.6 minutes played per game in 34 games over his freshman year. Although his season ended in less than spectacular fashion in an upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game in which Brown fouled out early. One thing Ainge has continually said about Brown is his size and strength. He has an NBA body and is ready to play right away. He will most likely take a back seat to whoever wins the SF battle whether it is Jae Crowder or a free agent the Celtics bring in. One thing for sure is Brown will take his athleticism to the Parquet floor this season and make a positive impact.
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GUERSCHON YABUSELE, PF, France
The 19 year old, 6’8” 260 pound Frenchman also has an NBA body ready for the start of next season. The only problem is he might not be there. Yabusele is still under contract in France. Although he does have a buyout clause, the Celtics might leave him in Europe for another year to continue his development. Scouts have compared him to Draymond Green, but I like to temper expectations so I’d say compare Yabusele more to a guy like Glen Davis. He is more athletic and runs the floor better. Also, he is a great transition player with soft hands. The only knock on him is that he hasn’t faced elite competition. Until he makes an appearance against the best of the best, this pick cannot be criticized too much.
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ANTE ZIZIC, C, Croatia
The 7’0” 250 pound center from Croatia, who has a 7’3” wingspan plays well in the block and can grab a ton of rebounds on both ends of the floor. Last year in Croatia, Zizic grabbed 31 percent of defensive rebounds and an outstanding 12 percent of offensive rebounds. Zizic can bring size and inside scoring ability. Which is something the Celtics have been lacking over the past three seasons. The question of Zizic is what can he do against NBA talent, similarly to Yabusele. Also, like Yabusele, there is always the possibility he stays in Europe another year to develop.
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DEMETRIUS JACKSON, PG, Notre Dame
The 6’1” point guard Jackson excels at getting to the basket, a very athletic and explosive player with an above average ability to finish at the rim. Jackson has a strong frame and a large wingspan (6’5”). He has the potential due to his quickness and athleticism to be a great player in the pick and roll, as well as in transition and isolation. At 45 overall, I think Jackson was a steal. Although it will be tough to fight through the five other guards for playing time, if he displays his athletic and playmaking ability, he might be able to add some scoring off the bench for the Celtics this season.
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BEN BENTIL, PF, Providence
The 6’8” power forward from Providence is a local guy, many Celtics fans have seen him at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island during their home games over the past two seasons. Bentil and fellow Friar Kris Dunn (drafted 5th overall) created a dynamic duo on offense terrorizing the Big East. Especially against Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs in which Bentil had 38 points. Bentil is a great weapon on offense averaging 21.1 points his sophomore season. As a power forward, he can stretch the floor with his ability to knock down the three point shot, on top of his ability to score in the post. Bentil definitely has a place on the Celtics roster next year to add that offensive spark to the bench that they have been lacking.
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ABDEL NADER, PF, Iowa State
Nader, a 6’6” power forward, will probably translate to more of a small forward in the NBA due to his size. Averaging 12.4 points per game in his final season with the Cyclones, Nader saw his best shooting season during last season reaching almost 50 percent from the field. He will need every bit of that to make the roster as it is already tough enough to see playing time, Nader might not even crack the D-league roster.
Now you heard all you need to about these players, so what was the idea of Danny’s creative genius? Drafting internationally. That’s right, both picks that everybody was scratching their head at were actually genius by Ainge. Even if they don’t necessarily pan out how we like in the NBA. The ability to stash these players in Europe for at least another year while the Celtics own their rights still leave that extra cap space to sign TWO max free agents. Now Danny might be putting all his eggs in one basket by trying to get his established stars through free agency. But if they can attract a few stars, the Celtics are not too far off competing with the Cavaliers for the East title.
If you’re not impressed by this, Ainge traded two second round picks this year (31 and 35) for a 2019 first rounder from Memphis. This leaves the Celtics with SIX first round picks in the next 3 drafts, which are predicted to be a lot stronger than this year. Needless to say, the Celtics future is very bright no matter how you look at it.