On Thursday night, the Boston Celtics will enter the 2022 NBA Draft with the 53rd overall selection. The first-round pick, which originally belonged to C, was sent to the San Antonio Spurs in the Derrick White trade in February. Coming down from the NBA Finals, there is almost no expectation that the potential Brad Stevens, who has drafted with this 53rd selection, can come in and help their list right away. This is less about preparation for need than about talent.
Nevertheless, finding someone who could play 12-20 minutes in a match next year if you get injured and they absolutely had to have their merits. Think of the choice as valuable to one of three types of players: a recruiting prospect and a hideout, a young but tall player, or a person who has a better chance of taking a few minutes off the jump.
Today we will focus on this third group, in particular the three groups with positions that our own Keith Smith outlined in his off-season start: shooting wings, real defenders and great men.
Whenever you choose 53rd place, you are at the mercy of the selections and deals that happen to you. From all the research we did on the draft – with over 70 scout video reports available online – we found that the top 40 or more tend to be quite full of wings and multi-position athletes.
This should not discourage Celtics fans from thinking that some prospects for immediate impact (at least in terms of registering a few minutes from day one) may not be available. Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed Aaron Wiggins with the 55th pick, and he scored more than 1,200 minutes as a rookie. In 2020, Kenyon Martin Jr. went 52nd in the Houston Rockets and Jaylan McDaniels finished 52nd in 2019. There is a common theme for athletic wings with some inconsistencies as scorers figure out how to get a place in the league early.
But there are rarely shooters who come in and play right away – not because they’re bad, but because they tend to stay undefeated (a la Sam Hauser) and be priority targets for a free agent. In essence, the Celtics could miss the line of these other teams and go to a position of need (shooting with a wing) at 53, as long as they do not sacrifice the defensive impact of their substitution scheme.
Some of the names we like in this area: Jordan Hall of St. Joseph, Ron Harper Jr. of Rutgers, Julian Champagne of St. John’s, Jared Rodden of Seton Hall, and Kion Ellis of Alabama. Harper and Rodin are the most flexible defenders in the group, while Ellis is a good defender, but is best served against smaller defenders and fewer physical scorers. Champagnie can present himself as the best scorer in the group. They were all longtime college players, so their age and maturity will help them make an impact earlier in their careers.
In 2022, I don’t know if there is such a thing as “pure” points. Perhaps the term refers to a pass-first guard who is more concerned with playing and setting the table for others than for himself. But in the context of these Celtics, I don’t see how such a narrow definition helps. The term implies a lack of goal-scoring – in particular a lack of ability to play outside the ball. With the lineup structure that Boston has, and two winger superstars in Jason Tatum and Jaylan Brown, the introduction of a non-shooter in the rotation of the guard only limits the distance between them.
What can be meant by the term is the need for another guard that can reliably create its own strike, especially at the edge. Current guys like Peyton Pritchard or even Yam Madara are a little more jumper-oriented, and while they fit in well with Tatum and Brown, they don’t help solve the problems that come with being a heavyweight jumper.
The draft class for 2022 is quite weak for points set to points. Two guys stand out as having the potential to record minutes right away that can put pressure on the rim – or at least be effective pick-and-roll creators. Scotty Pipen Jr. of Vanderbilt is a contact magnet, a truly physical points guard and has all the tools to be a solid goal scorer on the NBA bench. His distance from the floor leaves little to be desired, especially since he didn’t play much outside the ball in Vanderbilt. Three-year-old Vandy, Pippen and Aaron Nesmith are former teammates.
Another favorite of mine: Jamaree Bouyea from San Francisco. During the NCAA tournament, he won many fans among NBA players for his endurance and moxica with the ball in his hands. He is more skilled and smooth than he is explosive and athletic, but he shoots from depth, has an effective result at every level and does not turn the ball. At 6’1 “, he is a bit weak and is your smaller defender, but he has long arms (6’7” wingspan) and blocks nearly 30 shots this year – he can be a mean good defender.
Real Great Men
The position, formerly known as the center, has evolved to be more reflective of the unique offensive talents that go to the position. The great men who enter and defend the 5 while leaving their own skills to show off are invaluable in number. No position depth, one injury or any bad problem instantly engages your team to play a different style. This year, when Luke Cornett enters the free agent market, there is definitely a gap that can be filled in the second round.
If the Celtics decide to focus on a more immediate impact and avoid greater development, there are a few goals worth considering. If you fall by this point, Christian Coloco of Arizona is your stereotypical big man who is big, athletic, somewhat agile, and will be best served to play in Drop’s cover to protect the basket. He made a big rise this season in Arizona and will turn 22 shortly after the draft.
Kofi Cockburn from Illinois provides almost the same offensive presence, while being a little older, bigger and much bigger. Cockburn has an elite glass engine, is a wide frame that can keep almost every 1v1 down (it is the perfect defensive chess piece of Joel Embed, which you can delete when needed) and effectively ends in the offensive. Cockburn doesn’t get much noise, but he is a very reliable, joyful person and can come in right away in a few minutes if needed.
However, both Cockburn and Coloco are not helping the Celtics switching scheme. If Boston wants to preserve such an identity, we would recommend looking at Isaiah Mobley, the older brother of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley. Isaiah is very different from his brother in how he shows his athleticism, but he is also brilliant with corners, switches to the perimeter and is very good as a passer. As long as Isaiah doesn’t block a lot of punches, he can play in fall coverage and compete with edge strikes with verticality. What we like the most: he is a really good shooter (especially in the corners) and can keep alive the distance to the floor of C, while being a larger body that includes protection.
Arkansas’s Jaylin Williams provides a similar defensive impact and really good passes, but he’s not such a good shooter, nor does he have the length and size that Mobley has. Jaylin is a popular target in the second round for teams looking for mobile big men, and he may have been off the board long before the Celtics were selected.