By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Despite the Boston Celtics’ urgent need for help in the frontcourt, much of their pre-draft interest has focused on guards and wings. Assuming Danny Ainge stands pat at No. 27 in Thursday’s draft, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if that’s the position they end up taking.
Of the players who reportedly worked out with the Celtics this spring, several of them are guards who are widely projected to go in the second half of the first round, in some cases earlier than 27th. Their prep could be related to the decisions they have to make with the guards already on the roster.
Point guard Marcus Smart is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1. Smart could sign his qualifying offer for about $6 million, but he could also end up drawing interest from another team, which could be the impetus for either an offer sheet or a sign-and-trade with the C’s. Terry Rozier is another point guard for Ainge to think about soon, as he will be in essentially the same (but probably less expensive) position as Smart is right now in a year’s time. And, of course, there’s that whole thing with potential 2019 UFA Kyrie Irving, and the fact that he’s played 60 or fewer games in four of his seven NBA seasons.
So, Ainge and the Celtics decided to work out a bunch of guards ahead of the draft. They’re not all necessarily point guards, but they all boast at least a little bit of positional versatility, which undoubtedly must have Brad Stevens intrigued. Some of them may not even be available by the time pick No. 27 comes around. But there’s also the chance that they tumble to the end of the first, leaving Ainge with some options for guards that could play a meaningful role off the bench right away and give the team some long-term breathing room on the depth chart.
Here are some of the names to know ahead of Thursday’s draft, provided the Celtics do end up staying at 27th overall:
Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova: Not only did DiVincenzo work out for the Celtics in May, he reportedly had lunch with Danny Ainge afterward. He projects as a dangerous (but streaky) shooter, with enough passing ability to play the point if necessary. He’s perhaps best known for his ability to drain shots off the dribble from anywhere on the floor, and he can also defend well against players of similar size and quickness. Ainge probably also loved DiVincenzo’s clutch performance in the NCAA title game as much as anyone.
Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland: The Celtics worked him out in May and likely still have him on their short list of players they’re interested in at No. 27. Huerter projects as a strong shooter at the NBA level and has the size (6-foot-7) to match up against wing players, but has room for improvement on defense. He’ll compete, though, and he’s also known as a guy who moves the ball well. Sounds like a Stevens kind of player.
Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova: Brunson is limited by his size (6-foot-3) and average athleticism, but he’s made up for it with offensive versatility and an extremely high basketball I.Q., billed as one of the highest in the draft. SI’s Jeremy Woo wrote last Friday that the Celtics are said to be high on Brunson, who could have the smarts and scoring ability to contribute meaningful minutes right away.
Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech: Okogie stands only 6-foot-4, but weighs over 200 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan, giving him great potential as a defender against both guards and wings. His shooting also has big potential, but his offensive game in general is mostly described as a work in progress. Ainge would be drafting Okogie on potential and the hope that Stevens can mold him, and not necessarily for him to make an immediate impact.
Grayson Allen, SG, Duke: Allen’s questionable on-court antics are well documented, but if anyone wouldn’t have much of a problem with that, it’s Ainge. Jayson Tatum’s former Duke teammate would bring scoring and energy to the Celtics bench, and Ainge probably loves Allen’s competitive fire.
One thread tying all these prospects together is they’re not necessarily limited to one position. They all have potential as either combo guards or guard/wing hybrids. Unless all of their workouts and pre-draft meetings are one big smokescreen, the Celtics can reasonably be expected to target one of them if they’re available at No. 27.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.