clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The NBA Draft really begins when the Celtics pick at No. 3

The Celtics will have a number of appealing options in front of them at No. 3. Who is it going to be?

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Unless something wild happens, Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will come off the board with the first two picks in the 2016 NBA Draft. That'll leave the Boston Celtics with the first pick in the rest of the draft. That's where things get interesting because the Celtics can go any which way with their first of eight selections.

Plan A for the Celtics is to deal the pick, so you'll hear superstar names tossed out there as potential options. Jimmy Butler. DeMarcus Cousins. Blake Griffin. But those players will likely cost too much, if they're available at all. So, chances are Boston will end up keeping the pick.

That'll disappoint Celtics fans because they've been told it's a two-player draft class, with only Simmons and Ingram sporting superstar upside. But that's not true. There will be plenty of good players and maybe even a superstar drafted after the second pick on Thursday. There's always a chance someone other than Simmons or Ingram ends up being the best player in this class.

With only a few days to go before the draft, the Celtics are in the process of finding out which player they believe that could be.

"We've been narrowing at this point. I would say we have them in groups more than specific," Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge told reporters Saturday. "Maybe with our first pick it'll be like we've narrowed it down to at least three or four guys."

The Celtics might've revealed who those players are with their workout schedule this week. California wing Jaylen Brown was in Monday for his second workout. Dragan Bender comes to town on Tuesday. The Boston Herald's Mark Murphy reports Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray could be coming in for workouts, and they have also been trying to get Kris Dunn in for a workout.

Here's a look at how each of those five players could fit with the Celtics, and how their selection could change the outlook of the rest of the first round:

Buddy Hield, Guard, Oklahoma

Believe it or not, shooting was once a weakness for Hield. Now it's his calling card after having one of the most spectacular shooting seasons in college basketball history, draining 46 percent of his 322 threes. The Celtics rank 29th in three-point shooting over the last three seasons, so Hield could be a weapon for Brad Stevens from Day One.

Hield often gets pigeonholed as a one-dimensional shooter, but no one should assume he won't turn his other weaknesses, like ball handling and passing, into strengths. Hield has the personality characteristics often found in players that make progress, so if he's already shown progress through workouts, then the Celtics have to take a long look at him with No. 3 pick (and so should the Lakers at No. 2).

If the Celtics did pick Hield, it could change plans for the Pelicans at No. 6 or Kings at No. 8. Sacramento has reportedly been hot for Hield, according to ESPN's Chad Ford.

Dragan Bender, Big, Croatia

Bender is the conventional pick for the Celtics in most mock drafts. He's a 7-footer who can shoot threes, handle the ball, pass, protect the rim and switch on defense. There aren't many players in the NBA that can do that, other than Draymond Green. Bender often gets labeled as a "risk" but he's probably one of the safest bets to at least carve out a career as a role player.

He'd be a great fit for the Celtics for that reason, since Stevens loves playing with small-ball lineups. Some of their best success over the past two years has come when Jonas Jerebko and Jae Crowder are used at the big positions, which allows the Celtics to switch screens. Bender could take that to an even higher level once he's in his prime.

Bender going third wouldn't change much for other teams because that's who was expected to go in that spot in the first place.

Jamal Murray, Guard, Kentucky

Murray is one of the few freshman in recent college basketball history to average at least 20 points per game. Coincidentally, one player Murray compares to also made the list: Eric Gordon.

But like Gordon, Murray doesn't project as a plus defender. He's not quick laterally and gets smothered by screens. His fundamentals can improve, but he likely won't have any level of versatility. Gordon's poor defense limits him despite his knockdown shooting ability.

Murray's proven that he can make tough off-balance shots, but he's attempting those shots in the first place because he has a slow first step and lacks explosiveness. He had a season-worst performance against O.G. Anunoby, the best defender he faced all year at Kentucky. He'll be going against guys like that more frequently in the NBA.

Murray's defensive issues should make the Celtics pause, but so should his subpar athleticism. They'd be better off letting Murray fall to a team like the Pelicans, who have been rumored to have interest in him. But didn't the Pelicans already learn that things didn't work out so well with Gordon?

Kris Dunn, Guard, Providence

If the Celtics draft Dunn, everyone will assume a trade is imminent -- perhaps as part of a package for Chicago's Jimmy Butler, since the Bulls need a point guard. The Celtics already have tons of guards on their roster. Isaiah Thomas. Marcus Smart. Terry Rozier. Avery Bradley. Plus, Evan Turner could always be re-signed.

A trade is a strong possibility, but the Celtics might feel Dunn is the best player available and they'll keep him. Dunn can always be integrated alongside Boston's other guards. Thomas is arguably at his best when he's racing through off-ball screens, and Dunn's size gives him higher upside as an on-ball screen scorer. As tremendous as Smart is defensively, Dunn has greater offensive potential while still projecting as a strong defender.

The real issue with this path is the fact there's still only one ball. Smart didn't get enough developmental minutes last season as a ball handler despite the progress he showed. Never mind the possibility of them eventually acquiring a true go-to scoring talent at another position, there quite simply just aren't enough minutes to get everyone their share of touches.

Jaylen Brown, Forward, California

This is the guy that should be the choice for the Celtics if they decide to hold onto the third pick. Celtics fans already have fallen in love with Jae Crowder, and at the least, Brown projects as a similar player. Like Crowder, Brown has the ability to slide his feet to stay in front of guards and the muscular frame to exert his will against forwards.

The 6'7 freshman has a high floor because of his defensive versatility, but his ceiling is even higher because of his elite athleticism. Brown gets the paint with ease because of his ball-handling ability and explosiveness, where he can use both hands to finish with ferocious dunks. He drove into traffic too often in college, but there weren't many open driving lanes in Cal's two-big offense. That'd change in Boston, where they play four-out most of the time.

He might not be a knockdown shooter like Murray or Hield, but he isn't a non-shooter like Ben Simmons. He shot 29 percent at Cal, but he shot 39 percent from three in high school competition, per DraftExpress. Considering his past success and his natural, soft touch, it's at least possible to imagine him improving his stroke.

Brown's physical tools means he's capable of creating space off the dribble. He needs to become a player that drains the shot, but even if Brown doesn't make strides, he can still spot up and drive closeouts like Crowder does. That's where the high floor comes from.

Jaylen Brown could defy expectations and become the best player from the class when we look back years from now. If he ends up going No. 3, the Wolves could be very disappointed, since Brown fits the mold of a Tom Thibodeau style player like Jimmy Butler.

Kevin O'Connor can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA. His 2016 NBA Draft Guide can be ordered by clicking here. It has 160 pages and 100 full profiles, just like the one below of Jaylen Brown.

Jaylen Brown scouting report from Kevin O'Connor's 2016 NBA Draft Guide Kevin O'Connor's 2016 NBA Draft Guide

* * *

Opposing views on the 76ers and 'the process'