COMMENTARY | Now that Doc Rivers has been named the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Boston Celtics can finally focus on the 2013 NBA draft this Thursday, June 27.
With uncertainties abound, including the futures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, one thing is for sure: the Celtics have entered full rebuilding mode.
And one crucial factor to a rebuilding mode is young talent. Boston goes into the draft with holes at multiple positions, with many potential avenues to explore at pick No. 16.
Now it's just a matter of deciding which players will make the biggest NBA impact, be the best fit for the Celtics, and remain available in the middle of the first round.
Here are the three players that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should strongly consider selecting.
1. Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
With Rajon Rondo still nursing his anterior cruciate ligament back to full health, the Celtics desperately need help at point guard. Never was this more clear than in their first-round exit at the hands of the New York Knicks, in which Avery Bradley struggled mightily and had nowhere to run or hide.
Enter Shane Larkin, a small but very confident 20-year-old whose court presence already appears NBA-ready. He may be undersized at 6'0", 171 pounds, but he displays an abundance of talent.
It's not a stretch to say Larkin can do a lot of things very well. For starters, he has a smooth stroke from nearly anywhere on the court. As a sophomore last season, he shot 47.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from three-point range.
Even better, Larkin can handle the ball with the best of this draft class. The Celtics don't have a guard with an excellent shooting touch and superb ball-handling abilities. This kid provides both, with Rondo-like awareness and court vision. He could be a huge impact right out of the gate (maybe the Damian Lillard sleeper-type of this draft).
Beyond that, he's got blazing speed and quickness. He plays with aggressiveness on both ends of the court, racking up steals with solid man defense and sprinting down the floor for transition opportunities. He's unbelievably athletic, and runs the pick-and-roll almost as well as anyone presently in the league.
Where Larkin and Rondo (as well as Lillard) differ is in penetration. Because of Larkin's small build, he doesn't absorb contact well, and therefore avoids confrontation in the lane. When he does penetrate, he rarely draws fouls, underutilizing the blinding quickness that should be getting him to the line. He won't get the kind of separation he enjoyed at the college level, so unless he bulks up, he could get beat up.
Even though his closest link in Boston has departed (he's known Rivers and his son Austin since he was eight years old), Ainge probably still has his eye on this standout. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Bucks do as well, and they pick directly before Boston at No. 15.
2. Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
If Milwaukee selects Larkin, the next-best point guard will likely be German Dennis Schroeder. Often compared to a young Rondo, Schroeder's rewards definitely outweigh his risks.
Also a tad undersized (6'2, 165 pounds), Schroeder shares Larkin's speed, quickness and ball-handling. He dazzled coaches and scouts during the Nike Hoop Summit, dribbling by fellow prospects and scoring with ease.
Among point guards in this draft, Schroeder might be the second-best penetrator next to Michigan's Trey Burke. Like Rondo, this kid can slash to the hoop and score on anyone, utilizing his aggressiveness as well as his huge wingspan (Schroeder's is 6'8", Rondo's is 6'10").
Unfortunately, he also posseses negative attributes similar to Rondo. His jumper goes on cold streaks at times, possibly due to his freakishly-long arms. He can be difficult to coach, and a bit selfish. This could be troublesome with a transitioning organization.
Still, don't be surprised if you see him donning a green hat on draft day. Ainge typically goes for the best player on the board, and if Larkin goes ahead of him, Schroeder would likely be the best point guard and player in general.
3. Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville (if not Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh)
Two weeks ago, Steven Adams of Pittsburgh would be in this spot. The 7'0", 255-pound big man has been coveted by Boston since workouts began, but apparently seems to have sparked other teams' interest levels since then. That's not surprising, considering he looks like an NBA center already. He can rebound, defend, run the floor and bang down low. He's No. 1 on Ainge's wish list for centers.
No. 2 on that list is likely Gorgui Dieng of Louisville. Dieng also has size, standing 6'11", 230 pounds. He plays defense like a young mixture of Dikembe Mutombo and Serge Ibaka, utilizing his 9'4" reach and 7'4" wingspan. He also provides the kind of physical presence on the glass that Boston has missed since the Kendrick Perkins trade in 2011.
Don't let his looks deceive you, though: Dieng isn't a one-dimensional big body. He also passes very well, even in traffic out of the post. And he has developed a jump shot within the past year, as evidenced by his strong March Madness tournament. He still needs to hone his skills with his back to the basket, but he's a worthwhile work in progress.
So there's your 2013 Celtics NBA draft wish list: Larkin, Schroeder, Adams and Dieng. Of course, anything can happen between now and the moment commissioner David Stern approaches the microphone. The New England sports scene remains unpredictable at the moment, so expect the unexpected.
Sloan Piva has lived in New England for 28 years and covers the Boston Celtics. His freelance work has been published in multiple publications locally and nationally. Catch him on Twitter @SloanPiva.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Celtics
- Rajon Rondo
- Danny Ainge
- Shane Larkin