2021 NBA mock draft roundup: Possible Celtics picks in NCAA Tournament

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Darren Hartwell
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NBA mock draft roundup: Players for C's fans to watch in NCAA tourney originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Celtics fans could use some reasons for optimism amid the team's prolonged struggles.

Enter March Madness.

The 2021 NCAA Tournament officially tipped off Friday, with 64 teams competing for a national title in Indianapolis. And while Kemba Walker's UConn Huskies are the only New England team in the tourney, there's still reason for Celtics fans to watch.

Several outlets have posted 2021 NBA Mock Drafts ahead of this year's Big Dance which include projections for who Boston could select in the first round.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Kyle Draper pours cold water on our Harrison Barnes hopes | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

While it's too early to tell where the Celtics will pick in Round 1 -- C's fans are hoping it's not No. 15 overall, where they currently stand thanks to their 20-20 record -- these projections give a sense of the team's needs and which players Danny Ainge may target on draft night.

Below are several players projected to Boston in recent mock drafts who are playing in this year's tournament. So, if you need another excuse to shirk your other responsibilities and watch March Madness, read on.

Ayo Dosunmu, Guard, Illinois

Mock Draft (Pick): Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report (No. 19)

First NCAA Tournament Game: Friday at 1:15 p.m. ET vs. No. 16 Drexel

Wasserman's analysis: "Dosunmu improved enough as a shooter (40.0 percent 3PT), playmaker (5.2 assists) and impact player (Illinois is No. 3 in the nation) for questions about his athleticism or natural position to raise red flags. Scouts now see a first-round pick with a solid physical profile, a well-rounded skill set and monster production (20.9 points) to back it all up."

Our Take: Rookie Aaron Nesmith has yet to make a significant impact, so perhaps Dosunmu could fill that role as a scorer off the bench.

Greg Brown, Big, Texas

Mock Draft (Pick): Ricky O'Donnell, SB Nation (No. 18) and Jason McIntyre, FOX Sports (No. 19)

First NCAA Tournament Game: Saturday at 9:50 p.m. ET vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian

McIntyre's Analysis: "The Celtics are set on the wing, but where they run into problems is against an overwhelming post player such as Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Brown is an athletic, 6-foot-9 big who can step out and hit the 3 (29 3-pointers) while being a shot-blocking presence (128th in the country in block percentage). "

Our Take: Brown is linked to Boston in two separate mock drafts, and with good reason: He'd give the Celtics frontcourt depth, floor spacing and another shot blocker to pair with Robert Williams.

Day’Ron Sharpe, Center, North Carolina

Mock Draft (Pick): Sam Vecenie, The Athletic (No. 19)

First NCAA Tournament Game: Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

McIntyre's Analysis: "I wasn’t a huge Sharpe fan, but he’s grown on me throughout his freshman season. Why? Because I think he’s used differently in college than he will be in the NBA. North Carolina almost never uses him in pick-and-rolls, where he has the potential to be terrific because of his great hands, and his feel for the game.

"Additionally, he profiles exceedingly well in short-roll settings because he’s arguably the best passing big in this class. He makes outrageous, patient reads on a regular basis for North Carolina, and his assist numbers should be through the roof. Sharpe moves really well for his size and has the strength to take up space around the basket. He’ll be attractive to teams in the back half of the first round, with his range running from 15 to 35."

Our Take: A slick-passing big man? Sign us up. As we mentioned above, the Celtics could use frontcourt depth, especially if Daniel Theis leaves in free agency.

Franz Wagner, Wing, Michigan

Mock Draft (Pick): Nick Schwartz, USA TODAY's The Rookie Wire (No. 17)

First NCAA Tournament Game: Saturday at 3 p.m. ET vs. No. 16 Texas Southern

Our Take: The younger brother of ex-Wolverines star Moe Wagner, Franz stands at 6-foot-9 and is hitting 38.4% of his 3-pointers and nearly 50% (49.3) of his field goals. He'd slot in nicely as a well-rounded role player on the Celtics' second unit.