The 8 Most Intriguing 2014 NBA Draft Prospects for Boston Celtics

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent IMay 2, 2014

The 8 Most Intriguing 2014 NBA Draft Prospects for Boston Celtics

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    Tuesday, May 20 will be the most nerve-wracking day that the Boston Celtics fans have experienced in quite some time.

    The range of emotions is as vast as the possible results. Boston could wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, which has a 10.3 percent chance of happening, and New England would rejoice. The Celtics could wind up with the No. 8 pick, and television remotes and flat screens everywhere will need hospitalization for fractures.

    On that day, it will all come down to the pingpong balls. After that, though, it is up to President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and his staff to evaluate those young prospects and choose the best one that is available whenever those table-tennis gods say the green will be drafting.

    The 2014 draft class has no shortage of big names, and depending on where it picks, Boston could come away with one of those potential stars. If that isn't the case, there are still a handful of intriguing options that could fit Boston in 2014-15 and beyond.

Dante Exum

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    Australian product Dante Exum is one of the more intriguing products in the entire 2014 NBA draft.

    For the Boston Celtics, however, he holds special intrigue. He is a combo-guard who is capable of running the point and distributing and has a fiery first step and ability to get to the rim and the line. His jump shot isn't there yet, but since he turns 19 in July, that is something that can come along.

    What is eye-popping about Exum is his blend of size and speed. The former is what is so attractive for Boston. The Celtics' predicted starting backcourt, should Avery Bradley re-sign, is less than 6'2", with Rajon Rondo checking in at just over 6'0". While both are not under guaranteed contracts, Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey could potentially back them up, and neither brings much height.

    Exum checks in at 6'6" with a wingspan of more than 6'9". You can't teach or learn those types of measurements. He has enviable length that Boston severely lacks in the backcourt. 

    Drafting him early on could open a lot of doors and possibilities for Danny Ainge. If Exum is good enough right away, losing Bradley to free agency isn't a disaster. If the Celtics bring him back, Exum gives them the opportunity to mix and match, which would allow the rookie to play some point behind Rondo as well as alongside the All-Star.

Nik Stauskas

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    Like Dante Exum, Nik Stauskas brings some height to the intrigue equation.

    The Michigan sophomore led the Wolverines in scoring and helped them to an Elite Eight berth this spring. He posted 17.5 points per game while shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc and 47 percent overall.

    Those numbers were fairly consistent from his freshman year through that sophomore campaign. His shot should translate into the NBA. However, that likely won't be enough to sustain a lengthy career.

    Plenty of guys in the league can stroke it from downtown. Only a few make real money and a real mark upon the NBA. That is the difference between Stauskas becoming Jason Kapono or Kyle Korver.

    Stauskas has shown a tendency to be fearless, which should help him greatly in adjusting to the NBA game. It will be interesting to see if he can develop a defensive identity like Korver has been able to do, by using intelligence to make up for overmatched athleticism.

    Drafting Stauskas would possibly give head coach Brad Stevens a chance to work some of the magic he did with Gordon Hayward in college. That is an intriguing option and a much cheaper one than bringing in Hayward via free agency.

Joel Embiid

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    We can beat around the bush all we want, but Joel Embiid is still the most intriguing prospect for the Boston Celtics to look at come June.

    Boston's biggest need remains in the middle of the frontcourt, where it couldn't find an answer all season. The Celtics were able to throw a handful of solid rebounders on the floor, but the interior presence just wasn't there. Opponents never once thought twice about entering the paint and attacking the rim at TD Garden.

    That is what Embiid is predicted to supply at the NBA level. At 7'0" and 240 pounds, he is an intimidating presence who could have an immediate impact with the Celtics. There is plenty of playing time available on a team that is packed to the gills with power forwards.

    A back injury held him out of the NCAA tournament and may force him out of the No. 1 overall slot in June's draft. However, the Celtics appear to have snaked Jared Sullinger late in the first round due to a back injury, so they are keen to taking that kind of risk.

    The further Embiid drops in the draft, the better it will look for Boston. With every team that passes on him, Boston's chances of getting that pick in the May 20 lottery increase.

Jabari Parker

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    The two biggest names of this 2014 NBA draft class are probably still Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. To get either of them, a lot is going to have to go right for Boston on May 20.

    However, if the Celtics somehow wound up with a choice between the two of them, aka a lottery gold mine, Parker should be the more intriguing choice. While there is no wrong answer, his versatility should speak to what Boston is trying to do under head coach Brad Stevens.

    Stevens spent last season pushing Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk to work on their perimeter games. While he was forced into playing a lot of small ball with no feasible center on the roster, there was a definite plan and perhaps even method to his madness.

    Parker isn't too big or clunky to play the small forward at the NBA level, like some of his contemporaries may be. However, his size and strength would still allow him to play the 4 legitimately at the next level.

    There are a fair amount of Carmelo Anthony comparisons flying around. While talent-wise that is a stretch for now, looking at size and potential versatility, that is a legitimate opinion. Parker has the ability to create for himself on the perimeter, but with continuing coaching could develop a killer inside game.

    That would potentially allow him to play with Sullinger or Olynyk in a small-ball frontcourt or do a bit of show-running from the wing.

Isaiah Austin

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    The Boston Celtics will be looking to draft more than just their lottery pick this June. While that is definitely the most intriguing thing to talk about, they could pick up value in the draft at other spots.

    One of those chances for value could be Baylor center Isaiah Austin. A relatively disappointing college career, after being highly touted out of high school, has left him on the outside looking in on draft talk this spring.

    However, 7'1" with a 7'3" wingspan doesn't come along on a consistent basis. His positive attitude and work ethic are also things that can stand out in individual workouts. Right now Austin is on the first-round bubble, but if he is able to inch his way up due to solid workouts and a complete lack of a center class, Boston should keep an eye on him.

    He isn't a terribly impressive rebounder, but he can block shots with the best of them. With coaching and a stable situation, he could be a late-round steal.

    With Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, the Celtics have plus rebounders at two of their starting positions. That could alleviate some of the pressure on Austin in that regard.

    The hype won't be there, but the substance could be.

Marcus Smart

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    One major thing stands out when looking at Marcus Smart as an intriguing choice for the Boston Celtics. 

    Depending on the source, he is anywhere between 20 and 45 pounds heavier than Avery Bradley. Granted, he does have an inch or two on Boston's starting shooting guard, but that is an incredible figure. Bradley is hardly a slight figure, leaving the conclusion that Smart is just ridiculously ripped.

    That caliber of strength in the backcourt, as well as his 6'4" height, should translate into the NBA with minimal difficulty. On both the offensive and defensive end, Smart has the potential to be a load. He averaged 18 points and 8.1 free-throw attempts per game last season. That went along with impressive strength numbers like 2.9 steals and 5.9 rebounds per game.

    With some refined skill, he should have a lengthy career in the league. His ability to create for both himself and others (4.7 assists per game) makes him an intriguing candidate to either play third guard with Rajon Rondo and Bradley or attempt to replace the latter altogether.

    If he can match Bradley's effort level, the athleticism should cancel out. Then you are left with a plus in scoring, distributing and size. Bradley averaged 2.1 assists per game in college and has proved unable to man the point even for brief stretches.

    If Bradley is asking for too much money, Smart is the smart choice.

Aaron Gordon

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    Aaron Gordon is a popular mock-draft pick for the Boston Celtics in that second-tier range.

    The big man from Arizona has Jabari Parker's size but not his ability to play with the ball in his hands. That could hinder his ability to transition into more of a full-time small forward from his college position at the 4.

    The intriguing part is that Boston doesn't need a wing who can play with the ball. Obviously that would be a major perk, but if Parker is unavailable, already having Rajon Rondo makes Gordon sensible.

    The defensive potential should be what makes him enticing. Obviously the high-flying athleticism is nice, but ultimately that won't be enough in the NBA. There is a big difference between Brandan Wright and Blake Griffin, though both are incredible dunkers in Gordon's size range. With a wingspan nearing 7', he'll have the potential to become a terror on the defensive perimeter.

    Boston's small-forward corps consists of Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace. Grabbing Gordon in the lottery would possibly free up Danny Ainge to make a move with Green, who has some trade value after a decent statistical year.

Gary Harris

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    The Boston Celtics still have to face the very real possibility that Avery Bradley has played his last game in green.

    Whether that is the case or not, Gary Harris is an intriguing option in the draft. Coming out of Michigan State, he is a high-quality two-way player. If Bradley is gone, sliding in Harris would somewhat hedge what a young Bradley was able to do. Going from an elite defender with questionable offensive skills to a more well-rounded player could be good for the Celtics.

    Harris has decent range, hitting 35.2 percent of his three-pointers and attempting 6.6 of them per game last season. As a freshman, he took a few less but hit 41.1 percent of them. He was also able to get to the rim 4.1 times per night and average 16.7 points.

    He is also listed at 6'5", which gives him a height advantage over Bradley. Whatever drop-off there would be in defensive athleticism, the extra length could make up for it.

    A sophomore, Harris has a bit more experience than some of these potential lottery picks, which is something that Boston could be attracted to. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both spent a couple of years honing skills at the college level and were able to step in and have an immediate impact in the NBA.

    Harris also seems to be a rather intelligent and grounded player. If Boston's lottery doesn't land it where it wants, Harris should be a safe option, even as a third guard to replace Jerryd Bayless behind Bradley and Rajon Rondo.