The Boston Celtics have plenty of directions they can go in with their pick during the 2013 NBA Draft.
Do the Celtics select based on what the team needs the most? Or does Boston simply pick by which player is the best available, regardless of position?
Either way, recent events surrounding the team make this an even tougher decision.
As it stands, the Celtics hold the No. 16 pick in Thursday’s draft. It will be the team’s only selection all night. So it’s imperative that GM Danny Ainge makes it count.
It becomes even more important given the fact that Boston seems headed into a rebuilding period.
According to ESPN Boston’s Jackie MacMullen, the Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers have reached an agreement to a deal that would send Doc Rivers to the west coast. Los Angeles would pick up the remaining three years and $21 million on Rivers’ contract, while Boston receives an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick.
But that’s just the beginning.
As Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports, the Celtics are also currently shopping captain Paul Pierce around. It all points to Ainge clearly wanting none of Pierce’s full $15 million contract. If Boston decides to part ways with the 35-year-old by June 30, the team is only responsible for $5 million.
Given all that, the likelihood that Kevin Garnett remains in green is looking almost slim to none.
The Celtics are readying the next generation. That makes this draft pivotal to ensuring that the process is a quick one.
With that said, there are three prospects who stand out as perfect picks for Boston.
3. Gorgui Dieng (Louisville, C)
If Garnett were to leave during the offseason, the Celtics would be left in a bind. They would most likely try to address that issue by drafting a center who could match the defensive intensity of Garnett.
Dieng could quite possibly be that guy.
The 23-year-old center was vital in helping the Cardinals capture the NCAA national championship this past season. He averaged 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks over 31.3 minutes per game. Dieng also connected on 53.4 percent of his attempts from the field.
With a 7’4” wingspan, the 6’11” center has been an intimidating presence inside the paint. Whether it’s blocking shots, grabbing rebounds or delivering hard fouls, Dieng has made opponents hesitate before driving into the paint. Not surprisingly, he was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
The only downfall in his play is that Dieng isn’t really known for his offense.
However, what he lacks in offense he more than makes up for defensively. To a team that values defense as much as the Celtics, they would surely overlook Dieng’s offensive shortcomings in favor of his talent on defense.
2. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA, SF)
With every passing day, it’s looking more and more likely that Pierce will leave Boston. Sure, the team has Jeff Green to lock down the small forward position. But a young backup at the position would be nice.
In 31 contests for the Bruins, the 20-year-old averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds over 30.8 minutes per game. He also shot 44.3 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Muhammad was critical in helping UCLA win the Pac-12 outright. He was also voted co-Pac-12 freshman of the year.
An aggressive shooter, Muhammad will hunt for shots. He can hit the three-point shot, while also relying on his 212-pound frame to get him inside the paint. This dual-threat ability makes him a pain to guard for opponents.
At the same time, Muhammad is one of the better offensive rebounding small forwards in the class. He pulled down an impressive 2.7 offensive boards on the season. Draftexpress.com has him ranked as the second-best offensive rebounding wing player in the draft.
Originally slated as a lottery pick, Muhammad’s stock has taken a hit lately. It didn’t help that he was involved in a scandal regarding his age back in March.
If Muhammad falls to the Celtics at No. 16, they’d be hard-pressed not to snatch him up.
1. Ricky Ledo (Providence College, SG)
Initially unknown to the majority of fans, Ledo could prove to be the sleeper of the draft.
After dominating the competition during his high school years, ineligibility issues prevented Ledo from seeing any time on the court for the Friars. Instead, he was demoted to simply practicing with his teammates.
However, the fact that Ledo’s name is still brought up as a potential top-20 pick speaks volumes of his work ethic.
With the ball, Ledo possesses tremendous ball-handling skills. He has the ability to create shots for himself or set up a teammate with an open look. This versatility allows him to play either the point guard or shooting guard positions with relative ease.
Having received porous contributions from the backup guards on the depth chart, Boston could benefit from a player of Ledo’s ability.
Offensively, the 20-year-old is a proficient outside shooter. He can convert off the dribble, spot up or catch-and-shoot. Ledo could easily be the type of player that can come off the bench and provide a boost to his team within minutes.
While his lack of experience may provide a question mark, there’s no doubt that Ledo has tremendous upside. He could be just what the Celtics need as they look to enter this rebuilding period.
Summing It All Up
Rebuilding is a process no team wants any part of. However, it is a necessary step to be taken if a team wants to ascend to title contention.
This draft can provide Boston with one of those necessary steps.
Any of these players will give the team a tremendous piece to add to its arsenal. They might not be successful from the get go, but there’s no doubt they each would grow into a vital contributor for the Celtics.
As Ainge continues to make moves to dismantle the core of the team, time to grow doesn’t seem to be an issue. Nor should it be.
Sometimes, you’ve got to take one step back before you can take two steps forward.