A friend wrote: So, any thoughts on the Celtics’ draft choices? Talking Heads are not thrilled…
So . . . 7th power forward and 4th center taken, how high can expectations be? Neither projects to be a super star, or even a star, but nobody out of the top 10 ever projects as such. Rondo might just be the best 21st pick ever, so Danny has a pretty good track record with picks from the early 20′s (Delonte West, Perkins, Tony Allen). The problem is that Garnett returning or not, we are into the post-Big-Three era; and avoiding that no-man’s-land of mediocrity will be difficult–as it always is unless you just plain suck for a long time (see Bulls, Chicago), or forever (see Clippers, LA). I wanted to break up the band at the trade deadline in 2010, but you have to admit that D&D made a run (derailed by injuries) in each of the last two years. Now you are starting the “next” phase with almost no assets–kind of like 2003 all over when Danny came in as GM. Actually maybe a bit better since I consider Bradley a real weapon as well as Rondo, certainly a better Robin than “Wiggle” Walker to Pierce’s Batman.
But you asked about the picks. I don’t watch college basketball much so I’m just going from write-ups on Draft and DraftExpress and anything else I can find, when I say I liked Nicholson and Moultrie as PF’s and Royce White as a stretch three (although it is questionable whether he has the quickness to play that position.) White and Nicholson were gone, as was Evan Fournier who I thought they might take with the second pick and leave in Europe if this year was a final Big-Three run and roster space was limited. As for center, any 7-footer still on the board at 21 has either peaked (lowly) or is a project, by definition chancy.
As for what they got, Sullinger might be able to contribute this year. The question, aside from the back, is if his post game is going to translate to the pros. It seems varied and he has long arms but lengthy defenders seem to have stymied him in college, and in the pros they are all long and strong. Still, more than any pick in recent years, he could be really good if his back holds up. He doesn’t have McHale’s height but I’m hoping his back-to-the-basket game will become similarly robust with such a dazzling array of moves that longer defenders are “frozen” to allow him to get his shot off. If he really emerges as a low-post threat, then he will give the Celtics an option to play inside-out that they haven’t had since Parrish and McHale a quarter of a century ago.
As for Fab Melo, I think his name alone will bring a cascade of endorsements–romance novel book covers anyone? Undeveloped, yes, but I’ll take “soccer jock, late to pick up the game” over “just doesn’t get it.” It is encouraging that he has made such dramatic strides in the past year. If he progressed similarly in the next twelve months we might be seeing him play meaningful minutes next May. While his soccer background employs an entirely different skill set, foot not hand, it is perhaps the game most like basketball in its ebb and flow. Passing lanes, court awareness, defensive angles, offense/defense transition, mis-direction, anticipation, defensive help, and ball movement all have similar roles in the two sports. His standing reach, a more important measurement than height IMHO, is better than Meyers Leonard, Tyler Zeller, or Andre Drummond, the three centers taken ahead of Melo. While his strength, speed, and quickness trail all three, it is reasonable to hope for better as his movement improved over the past year as he has worked on his shape and conditioning. He is reported to have good hands. All in all, his deficits are in areas amenable to coaching while he excels in the facets that can’t be taught. Sounds like a workable project to me.
Finally, the second round pick, always a long shot to even make the roster. Once again Danny’s record is sterling with an amazingly high percentage of his second rounder’s still in the league. Kris Joseph sounds eerily like a young Mickael Pietrus. We should be so lucky. If that really is an apt comparison, then Ainge will once again have struck second round gold. Joseph is athletic, has good length, is a marksman from distance, but has a better handle than Pietrus. Defense is hard to judge due to college zone but his effort and focus are solid and that augers well. About as good as one could hope at 51. Me, I would have gone for a foreign big man who might or might not pan out in 2015.
Predictably, the optimists are buoyed, the pessimists crushed, and the realists waiting to see. At the very least it means that mid-July will have us Celtic-philes glued to the TV watching the subpar images of summer league and cringing at the tedious, trivial, and annoying announcers but unwilling to mute in fear of missing some “critical” tidbit accidentally tumbling from their mouths. And then poring over the recordings of those meaningless games for two or three months during the basketball wasteland of late summer. Alas we are left to grasp at ethereal tendrils of positive signs as if by will alone we can improve the lot of our cherished Green in the upcoming season.
Boston, and all points beyond