How Will The Boston Celtics Approach The 2021 NBA Draft?
The Boston Celtics sent their lone first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Kemba Walker last week, leaving president of basketball operations Brad Stevens with just one selection mid-way through the second round. So what does this mean for Boston’s approach ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft?
Boston parted ways with the No. 16 overall pick, but that was a likely scenario entering this pre-draft process anyway. As their roster stands right now, the Celtics don’t need another mid-first round draftee. The goal is to make life easier for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and another draft pick won’t do that right away. With that in mind, Boston’s willingness to attach the No. 16 pick to Walker in last week’s trade made sense. Parting ways with that package means increased financial flexibility moving forward, something that will allow Stevens to bolster the Celtics support cast.
The NBA Draft Combine and G League Elite Camp now take on a bit of a different meaning for Stevens and the rest of the front office. The focus is no longer on late-lottery and mid-first-round prospects. While Boston will continue to keep an eye on players projected in that range, it will keep a closer watch on second-round prospects and potential undrafted free agents. In addition to the No. 45 pick, the Celtics will have to fill two two-way slots for the upcoming season now that Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall have completed the maximum length of time on their respective two-way contracts. Boston will likely bring in potential two-way players to summer league and training camp before ultimately locking up those spots.
While this year’s class has much more hype to it than the 2020 rookie group, much of that is concentrated at the top. Depth was a strength of the 2020 class despite a lack of star potential, and the 2021 class presents the exact opposite profile. That will make things a little tougher on the Celtics, but it isn’t do-or-die when dealing with second-round picks and undrafted free agents.
A few players have stuck out early in the NBA Draft Combine, some of which the Celtics should have their eye on. Let’s go through a few of those prospects.
David Duke Jr., Providence, Guard
Right now, it’s safe to project Duke in the range of pick Nos. 35-45, but he could see his stock rise following the NBA Draft Combine. He measured in at 6-foot-5 with a wingspan just under 6-foot-9. A point guard with size, length and athleticism is a profile that every NBA team wants, and Duke very clearly fits that mold.
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He can score and sees the floor well enough to run the offense, and his body control pairs nicely with the aforementioned athleticism in transition. Duke shot 40% during his last two seasons at Providence, but his shot form could use a little tweaking as it’s slightly rigid in its current form. Despite the latter point, his shooting is projectable, and that’s a positive.
Let’s not overthink this, though. Duke is a big point guard who can create on offense and shows good activity on defense. Yes, he’s an older prospect at 21, but he likely has a higher floor than some of his second-round counterparts.
Neemias Queta, Utah State, Center
Queta’s measurables were eye-popping when they came in Wednesday morning at the draft combine. He came in as the class’ tallest player at 6-foot-11.25 without shoes and a wingspan of 7-foot-4. That size is incredibly intriguing, and Queta’s upside will draw the attention of plenty of NBA front offices.
He’s a very good passer for his size and showed some promising scoring flashes from the block over his career at Utah State. His defensive impact is a major plus. Even though Queta is a raw prospect, he already boasts a good feel on that end of the court, which should project nicely at the NBA level. He’s one of the more appealing project picks that could go in the second round this year.
Josh Christopher, Arizona State, Wing
It’s more than likely that Christopher will be off the board at No. 45, but if he does slide, he’d be a second-round steal. Simply put, he’s a scorer. If he’s able to improve his shot a bit, he’ll become a real threat with the ball, but the concern comes when he’s off the ball. His lone season at Arizona State was rather disappointing, but his base skill set is a good one to build off of. Keep an eye on Christopher if he slides into the mid-second round, which could happen due to concerns about his all-around game.
Joe Wieskamp, Iowa, Wing
Wieskamp has good size on the wing and can shoot it with the best of them. In his final season at Iowa, the 21-year-old knocked down 46.2% of his 3-pointers at 5.1 attempts per game. He showed off his athleticism Tuesday at the combine, posting a 42-inch max vertical jump with the first group of the day. If he continues to impress during his pre-draft process, Wieskamp likely will become a second-round lock, and a good one at that. He’d be an ideal player for Boston to develop in Maine for a year before using him as a shooting wing with size to help space the floor.
Austin Reaves, Oklahoma, Wing
Reaves really impressed me during day one of on-court work at the combine. His defensive activity was effective and his shooting clearly stuck out early among the first few groups. The versatility of his shot was eye-opening, as he didn’t skip a beat on or off the ball. That’s something a lot of prospects can struggle with, but Reaves seems to already have that perimeter versatility many teams look for. Out of all combine prospects early in the week, he is my biggest riser, and if that continues, he won’t be available when Boston is on the clock at 45.