On Thursday night, the Boston Celtics will enter the 2022 NBA Draft with the 53rd overall pick. The first-round pick that originally belonged to the C’s was sent to the San Antonio Spurs in the Derrick White trade in February. After a run in the NBA Finals, there is little to no expectation that the prospect Brad Stevens drafts with that 53rd pick will be able to come in and help his roster right away. It’s less about writing out of necessity than out of talent.
Regardless, find someone who could play 12-20 minutes in a game next year if injuries strike and they absolutely had to have their merits. Think of the pick as valuable to one of three types of players: a draft-and-stash prospect, a young but very likely player, or a guy who’s more likely to grab a few minutes off the jump.
Today we’re going to focus on that third group, specifically the three position groups that our own Keith Smith described in his offseason manual: small forwards, true point guards and big men.
Every time you pick the 53rd spot, you are at the mercy of the picks and trades that happen above you. From all the research we’ve done on the draft, with over 70 video search reports available online, we’ve found that the top 40 tend to be pretty packed with wings and multi-positional athletes with size.
That shouldn’t discourage Celtics fans from thinking that some instant-impact prospects (at least in terms of logging a few minutes from Day One) may not be available. Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder nabbed Aaron Wiggins with the 55th pick, and he logged more than 1,200 minutes as a rookie. In 2020, Kenyon Martin Jr. went with the 52nd pick to the Houston Rockets, and Jalen McDaniels was 52nd in 2019. There’s a common theme of athletic wings with some inconsistencies as shooters figure out how to get a spot in the league early. .
But there are rarely shooters who jump in and play right away, not because they’re bad, but because they tend to be undrafted (Sam Hauser-style) and prime targets for undrafted free agents. The Celtics could essentially skip the line on those other teams and go with a position of need (side shot) at 53, as long as they don’t sacrifice the defensive impact of their tradeup scheme.
Some names we like in this area: Jordan Hall from St. Joseph’s, Ron Harper Jr. from Rutgers, Julian Champagnie from St. John’s, Jared Rhoden from Seton Hall and Keon Ellis from Alabama. Harper and Rhoden are the most versatile defenders of the bunch, while Ellis is a good defender but better served against smaller shooting guards and less physical scorers. Champagnie can project as the best shooter of the bunch. They were all multi-year college players, so their age and maturity will help them make an impact earlier in their careers.
In the year 2022, I don’t know if there is a ‘pure’ point guard. Perhaps the term refers to a first-passing shooting guard who is more concerned with creating plays and setting the table for others than scoring themselves. But in the context of these Celtics, I don’t see how such a narrow definition helps. The term implies a lack of scoring ability, in particular a lack of ability to play without the ball. With Boston’s roster build, and two wing superstars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, introducing a non-shooter to the guard rotation only narrows their space.
What the term could mean is the need for another guard who can reliably create his own shot, specifically at the rim. Current guys like Payton Pritchard or even draft-and-stash Yam Madar are a bit more jumper-oriented, and while they’re a good fit alongside Tatum and Brown, they don’t help solve the problems that come with being a jumper heavy. ready.
The 2022 draft class is pretty short on scoring-minded point guards. Two guys stand out as having the potential to log minutes right away that can put pressure on the rim, or at least be efficient pick-and-roll creators. Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. is a contact magnet, a really physical point guard and has all the tools to be a solid NBA bench scorer. His space on the floor leaves a bit to be desired, specifically because he didn’t play much of an off-the-ball role at Vanderbilt. A three-year player at Vandy, Pippen and Aaron Nesmith are former college teammates.
Another one of my favorites: Jamaree Bouyea from San Francisco. During the NCAA Tournament, he won many fans among the NBA players for his toughness and energy with the ball in his hands. He’s more skilled and smooth than explosive and athletic, but he shoots from deep, is an efficient scorer at all levels and doesn’t turn the ball over. At 6’1”, he’s a little on the skinny side and more like a small point guard, but he has long arms (a 6’7” wingspan) and has blocked nearly 30 shots this year; he can be a good cunning defender.
real big men
The position formerly known as center has evolved to be more of a reflection of the unique offensive talents that come to the position. Big men, coming in and defending at 5 while showing off their own skills on offense, are invaluable to have in numbers. Without depth at the position, an injury or any foul problem instantly commits his team to playing a different style. This year, with Luke Kornet hitting the free agent market, there’s definitely a void that can be filled in the second round.
If the Celtics decide to aim for more instant impact and avoid big development, there are a few targets worth considering. If he drops to this point, Arizona’s Christian Koloko is the stereotypical big man who is big, athletic, somewhat mobile and will be best served playing drop coverage to protect the basket. He made a big comeback this season in Arizona, and he will turn 22 shortly after draft night.
Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn provides much of the same offensive presence though he’s a little older, bigger and a lot heavier. Cockburn has an elite engine on the glass, is a wide frame that can protect just about anyone 1v1 underneath (he’s Joel Embiid’s ideal defensive chess piece to dust off when needed), and finishes efficiently in the offensive side. Cockburn doesn’t get much attention, but he is very reliable, has a cheerful personality, and can log in for a few minutes right away if needed.
However, both Cockburn and Koloko don’t help the Celtics’ trade scheme. If Boston wants to preserve such an identity, we recommend looking at Isaiah Mobley, older brother of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley. Isaiah is very different from his brother in terms of how he displays his athleticism, but he is just as brilliant with angles, changeable on the perimeter and very skilled as a passer. While Isaiah doesn’t block a ton of shots, he can play coverage and contest shots vertically. What we like best: He’s a really good shooter (especially in the corners) and can keep C’s court space alive while he’s a bigger body switching to defense.
Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams provides similar defensive impact and really good passing, but he’s not as good a shooter, nor does he have the length and size that Mobley possesses. Jaylin is a popular second-round target for teams looking for mobile big men, and he may be off the board long before the Celtics pick.