The Celtics enter the 2020 NBA Draft with three first-round picks. That gives them the ammunition to move up the board for a player they love.
Credit Danny Ainge for putting the Celtics in an enviable position heading into the 2020 NBA Draft. Boston already has a roster capable of competing for the Eastern Conference title for years to come. They also have three first-round selections to strengthen Brad Stevens’ chance of guiding this team to an NBA title in the very near future.
The Celtics aren’t going to use all three picks at their disposal. Their roster simply won’t allow them to add three guaranteed contracts to their books heading into the 2020-21 season. That means Boston will be a team looking to make moves on draft night.
In a perfect world, the Celtics would like to move all the way up into the top five to nab another potential superstar. They don’t quite have the trade ammunition to make that happen without giving up a key member of their current squad. Instead, look for them to be a franchise that packages some assets to move up into the mid to late-lottery from their current selection at No. 14. If they’re able to make that sort of move, keep a close eye on the following three prospects.
The lottery options
1. Tyrese Haliburton, Guard, Iowa State, Big Board Rank: 11
Haliburton lacks the playmaking ability out of the pick-and-roll to work as a primary creator at point guard for a lot of teams in the lottery. The Celtics are one team that doesn’t need that sort of acumen from him right away.
Instead, Boston could draft Haliburton and give him time to develop as an off-ball guard on offense that can check either guard spot on the defensive end. That makes him a potentially great fit alongside Kemba Walker in the starting backcourt. In time, he could also develop into a lead guard that can pilot the second unit on offense.
The simple idea here is that Haliburton can be a complementary piece for the Celtics right away with the possibility of growing into an above-average starter down the road. Selecting him in the mid to late-lottery would be a deft move by Ainge and his front office.
2. Devin Vassell, Guard, Florida State, Big Board Rank: 6
There’s some chance that Vassell could fall all the way to the Celtics if they stay at No. 14. He is, however, the sort of prospect that could see his stock rise significantly as the draft process rolls along. Every team in the league can benefit from adding a wing who can guard the position credibly and shoot from distance at a high percentage.
Vassell represents a perfect fit for the Celtics because he can impact their offense without requiring much of the ball. Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown give the team plenty of shot creation. Adding a wing like Vassell who can space the floor and guard at a high level would give Boston another player capable of strengthening them in the postseason.
Vassell might never develop into a primary offensive option, but his value doesn’t depend on it. He’s a plug and play rotation guy for a team with legitimate championship aspirations. He’ll be a prime target for Boston as they look to move up.
3. R.J. Hampton, Guard, New Zealand Breakers, Big Board Rank: 16
Drafting Hampton would be a clear effort by the Celtics to add another player with star potential to their roster. Unlike Haliburton and Vassell, he isn’t remotely ready to help Boston immediately. He will require a lot of patience at the next level to see if he can reach his full potential.
There’s a lot to like about Hampton’s raw athleticism. He’s got a terrific first step to go along with above-average length for his position. He very much looks the part of an NBA player.
The problem with Hampton at the moment is that his lack of a jump shot makes him difficult to rely on offensively. It will need to be reconstructed to achieve any measure of effectiveness at the next level. Spending a lottery pick on a guy who might need a full season in the G-League isn’t a luxury most teams can afford. The Celtics are a franchise that can afford to take this big gamble if they’re so inclined.
Options later in Round 1
1. Aaron Nesmith, Guard, Vanderbilt, Big Board Rank: 25
Nesmith is arguably the best perimeter shooter in this draft. He shot over 52 percent from distance at Vanderbilt last season and his free throw percentage of 82.5 percent back up the fact that his shooting stroke is legitimate.
The downside to Nesmith as a prospect is that his lateral quickness makes him a defensive question mark at the next level. The Celtics have more than enough defensive options on the wing to compensate for Nesmith’s struggles on that end of the floor. If he slips into the 20s the Celtics could look to end his brief tumble down the board.
2. Isaiah Stewart, Big, Washington, Big Board Rank: NR
Traditional centers may not hold a ton of value in the modern NBA, but the Celtics have to be aware that they can use a big man capable of playing elite post defense in certain postseason series. Looming matchups with guys like Joel Embiid should be in the back of the franchise’s collective consciousness.
Stewart lacks above-average athleticism, but he’s got legitimate size and a motor that should help him overcome those deficiencies. His offensive game is a work in progress, but his quality free throw shooting in college portends some measure of success on that end of the floor.
The Celtics might look to acquire a veteran center this offseason, but if they don’t, selecting Stewart at the end of Round 1 could give them another useful option to deploy next season.