By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Celtics entered the 2020 NBA Draft with some clear goals in mind: Add more shooting threats, do not use all four draft picks, and don’t make a trade for the sake of simply making a trade.
The Celtics believe they accomplished all of that with their best-player-available approach, a trade out of the No. 30 overall pick, and a failure to bite on a ‘not tempting’ trade market in the name of pageview-cranking fireworks.
“We were just trying to take the best players available and we felt we got two really good players,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said following Boston’s three-pick draft. “Great people, mature kids.”
“We were more looking for what we thought were the best fits at the time,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens echoed. “And we feel very good about the two picks in the first round and getting those picks here.”
So let’s take a deeper look at just who made their way to the Celtics organization on Wednesday night…
Aaron Nesmith (No. 14 overall)
After coming up just short on Tyler Herro last year, the Celtics went right for the high-scoring starpower option with their first pick of the evening, selecting Vanderbilt wing Aaron Nesmith with the No. 14 overall pick.
“Aaron is a terrific shooter, great size, and [we] felt like he was the best guy that we could get right there,” Ainge said. “We were happy with where we were. Our guy was there at 14 and we worried that he might not be there at 14.”
A two-year Commodore, Nesmith shined during a 14-game run in 2019-20, connecting on 60 of his 115 tries from beyond the arc (a lethal 52.2 percent success rate), to go with 23 points per game (seventh-most in the country). Nesmith also came through with four different efforts of at least seven makes from downtown. The only minus during that season, of course, came with the fact that he played just 14 games thanks to a stress fracture in his foot.
But the Celtics appear to be comfortable with the upside that a healthy Nesmith brings to their bench out of the gate, which is in desperate need of some added scoring pop after putting the second-fewest points per game and connecting on three-point shots at the third-worst clip in all of basketball last season.
“When 14 came up, [we] felt best about Aaron,” Stevens said. “Aaron, before he broke his foot this year, had a great year.”
Stevens also thinks there’s more to Nesmith than just his knock-down ability from deep.
“The way he can run off screens and shoot the ball, the worker that he is, the amount of time he puts in his game, his size which gives him some positional versatility as he becomes familiar with how we defend will hopefully allow him to guard a couple of positions,” Stevens acknowledged. “Those are all positives, but the shooting is his thing.”
Payton Pritchard (No. 26 overall)
With their second (and final) pick of the first round, the Celtics addressed their point guard situation, and with another notable scoring threat in Oregon’s Payton Pritchard.
A four-year starter for the Ducks, the 6-foot-2 Pritchard was undoubtedly at his best in 2019-20 with a Pac-12 leading 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game over his 31-game finale. That made Pritchard just the fourth player in Pac-12 history to finish as the conference’s top scorer and dish-man, joining a group featuring Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, and the legendary Gary Payton. (Before Pritchard, Terry was the most recent player to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1999.)
“Payton is a fun player, four-year college player, can step right in and play in the NBA in my opinion,” said Ainge. “He brings a great intensity, even as a freshman and watching his development into his senior year where he can had to carry much more of an offensive load.”
One of the things that Ainge likes most about Pritchard is his willingness to be an on-floor leader with pace, with the guard-loving C’s front office head believing that he’s the kind of presence that can force the rest of the team to pick up their speed.
Pritchard also has the personality traits to fast-track him as the next fan favorite among Celtic faithful.
“I’m just excited to be part of this organization, part of a winning culture,” Pritchard said. “I just want to bring a sense of toughness, competitiveness, and try to help a team try to go win a ring and a championship.”
Yam Madar (No. 47 overall)
If you were looking for a deep dive on second-round pick Yam Madar from Ainge, you’re out of luck.
“He’s a player that we’ve watched over in Israel quite a bit,” said Ainge. “We’ll just see how it works out.”
The good news is that the Celtics don’t need to have a read on Madar, a 6-foot-3 guard, anytime soon, as Ainge confirmed that the plan is for Madar to be a draft-and-stash talent and spend at least one more season with Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Madar has played 70 total games for the club over the last three seasons, and is off to an encouraging start this season, with 16.5 points and 5.75 assists to go with a 43.6 field goal percentage through his first three contests of the 2020-21 campaign.
“We’ll evaluate [after next season], but we’re anxious to watch his growth and development as a player,” Ainge noted.
Ty Anderson talked about the Celtics’ draft prospects (and predicted Aaron Nesmith) on the newest episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast. Listen below.