The Celtics have three first-round picks (14, 20, 22) as well as the 52nd choice in Thursday’s draft, and as even Danny Ainge has admitted, the Celtics have too many to use.
But now that Kyrie Irving seems intent on signing with Brooklyn, and Terry Rozier has used dynamite on his bridges out of Boston and into restricted free agency, the Celtics begin draft week with a red alert need for a point guard, though they’re more likely to fill the spot with a bargain free agent like Ricky Rubio or Ish Smith.
The Celtics won’t have a shot at the best of the 2019 point guard class without trading up, but as 2018 proved, there are occasional surprises. After Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shae Gilgeous-Alexander all went in the top 11, and played up to their draft status, a little-known Wichita State combo guard named Landry Shamet was drafted by Philadelphia at No. 26. He was sent to the Clippers as part of the trade package for Tobias Harris, and flourished once given above average minutes on a playoff team.
What follows is a rundown of the best of this year’s point guard class:
Ja Morant, 6-foot-3, 175, Murray State sophomore – This will sound like heresy to the masses fixated on Zion Williamson, but Morant may actually have the smoother transition of the two once their rookie seasons begin. If his Cadillac averages (24.5 ppg, 10.0 apg) were a bit inflated by playing in the Ohio Valley Conference, Morant showed that his star is destined for something much higher. After dropping a 17-point, 16-assist, 11-rebound triple double on Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament, he exploded with a 28-point performance that included 5-for-6 3-point shooting during the Racers’ loss to Florida State in the next game. He’s long and projects well defensively. His brilliant play in the open court had a price (4.9 turnovers), but Young, the star of last year’s point guard class, averaged 5.2 fork-overs in his one season at Oklahoma. As such, it’s the price of creativity for an exciting player who should give Grizzlies fans something to cheer up about during yet another rebuild. Indeed, Morant is not expected to get past Memphis at No. 2, increasing the likelihood that Mike Conley’s big contract is about to be moved.
Coby White, 6-foot-5, 190, North Carolina freshman – This combo guard’s greatest Tar Heel moments came in transition, where his superior quickness created opportunities for himself and, to a slightly lesser degree, others. Averaged 16.1 points on an elite college team to go along with 4.1 assists and decent 35.3 3-point shooting. Deftness with the ball especially shows itself when White creates space for his shot. Figures to be a terrific pull-up shooter off the break, but will need significant work to function as well in the halfcourt.
Darius Garland, 6-foot-2, 175, Vanderbilt freshman – The run on elite point guard talent likely stops here, with one of the most mysterious picks on the board. Garland’s quickness intrigues teams, especially in a draft as short on real point guard talent as this one. Suffered a torn meniscus five games into his freshman season, with his .478 3-point shooting drawn from a small sample size. More eye-opening, perhaps, is the fact he averaged more turnovers (3.0) than actual assists (2.6) during Vanderbilt’s early part of the schedule against mainly small schools (Kent State, a ranked Liberty team, Alcorn State, Winthrop) with USC the one outlier. But Garland is also a former McDonald’s All-American, and a year removed from being honored as Tennessee’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year. All-the-same, could be a slider, though Phoenix (No. 6), in its eternal search for a point guard, may be the team to watch on either Garland or White.
CELTICS CONSIDERATIONSTy Jerome, 6-foot-5, 195, Virginia junior – When the Celtics brought him in as part of a group workout at the Auerbach Center in early June, the same quality stood out that had throughout Virginia’s run to the 2019 national title. He’s all about efficiency, from shooting just a hair under 40 percent from 3-point range to essentially a 5/1 assist-turnover ratio. At issue is Jerome’s sub-par athleticism. Not unfair to think he’ll be a step behind anyone he covers on the next level, with potentially hazardous results against the pick-and-roll. But if Jared Dudley was able to parlay his own unathletic makeup into 13 (and counting) seasons, and Kyle (Slo-Mo) Anderson is now doing the same in Memphis, there’s always room for player capable of overcoming physical limitations with basketball IQ.
Jordan Bone, 6-foot-3, 180, Tennessee junior – He was part of the same Celtics workout as Jerome, and helped guide the Vols into the Sweet 16 with averages of 13.3 points and 3.3 assists. He shot 35.5 percent from downtown this season. Likely a second round pick.
Carsen Edwards, 6-foot-0, 200, Purdue junior – Another who may get some consideration from the Celtics in the second round, though he appears to be on the rise into the late first. A natural scorer in a little man’s body (who does this sound like?), Edwards had three 40-plus scoring performances this season, including a pair of 42-point efforts in the NCAA tournament. The second of those came in a heart-tugging overtime Elite Eight loss to Virginia. Ultimately averaged 34.7 points in four tournament games. As exciting a scorer as you’ll find, and clearly a shoot-first point guard.
Kyle Guy, 6-foot-2, 170, Virginia junior – Known more for his shot, and was better able to function off the ball thanks to Jerome. But Guy’s sweet-and-sour combination of basketball IQ and lack of size will have him crossing the draft board radar as someone with little choice but to try and fit in as a point guard.
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