Grading the Celtics 2017 draft class

Jayson Tatum//Forward//Duke – Third Overall (A-)
The Celtics traded the top pick in this year’s draft to settle for Tatum at number three while also picking up a future first round pick in the process. Maybe you don’t agree with the trade, maybe you do. But you have to separate that when judging what Boston could have done with this pick once they were on the clock.

You really can’t find any faults at all with this pick. It came down to Tatum and Kansas small forward Josh Jackson. If you polled the general managers of all 30 teams, you might get 15 who would have taken Tatum and another 15 that would have taken Jackson. There were some late whispers that Florida State power forward Jonathan Isaac was in the mix as well, but he never really seemed that serious of a candidate.

While either players would have been an acceptable choice for Ainge to make, Tatum should be able to come in right away and make his impact felt. The Celtics have an offense built around Isaiah Thomas right now but the majority of role players that Ainge has brought in over the past few years have been defensive first guys such as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. Tatum might have some shortcoming on the defensive end of the floor – especially at first – but he might be the most gifted offensive player in this draft and that will be a change of pace compared to a number of the other role players on this team, especially if they lose Kelly Olynyk in free agency.

Semi Ojeleye//Forward//Southern Methodist – Thirty-Seventh Overall (B)
Picking Ojeleye was very interesting. He was the best player left on the board according to many analysts as a lot of people pegged him as a late first round pick when the night began. One concern that people could have with this pick is the fact that there might not be a role for Ojeleye when he shows up. All the talent is there for him to outperform his draft slot, but the same thing was said about guys such as Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson in each of the past two drafts.

Boston made Mickey the highest paid second round pick in league history after he was taken 33rd overall in 2015 only to give Jackson a bigger contract one year later. Neither player had done too much for the Celtics so far, but they entered the league as second round picks on a deep roster and it’s been almost impossible to even get an opportunity. Combo forwards like Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Tatum could force Ojeleye into that same role. It probably means that Crowder’s days with the Celtics are numbered, especially if they go after Gordon Hayward in free agency. All of this makes the Ojeleye selection very tough to judge right now, because we still need to see if there is a bigger plan behind it all.

But any roster concerns aside, there is still a ton to love about the reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. The kid shot 48.8% from the floor last year to go along with a 42.4% clip from beyond the arc, attempting 4.9 three pointers per game. He’s also one tough son of a bitch who got himself to the free throw line an average of 6.3 times per game.

Ojeleye played two years at Duke but had limited minutes so he transferred to SMU where he became a star right away. His connections to legends like Coach K and Larry Brown show you he’s been around great basketball minds for years now.

Kadeem Allen//Point Guard//Arizona – Fifty-Third Overall (B-)
The D-League has rebranded as the G-League thanks to a new sponsorship deal with Gatorade and some rules have changed as well; this is a pick that will likely introduce Celtic fans to these new rules.

It was never like minor league baseball where you’d have to send somebody down to call another player up. NBA clubs set their 15-man rosters at the end of the preseason and those were the 15 guys you had, no matter how many players you wound up assigning to the D-League. Teams like the Maine Red Claws would then fill their rosters independently. The Celtics wouldn’t have been allowed to “call up” somebody like Abdul Nader from Maine last season without first releasing somebody from their 15-man roster into free agency, it’s not like they would have been able to send a guy like Demetrius Jackson down to bring somebody else up.

Rosters are now expanding to 17-players starting next season, with the two new spots designated as “two-way contracts.” These players will be allowed to spend up to 45-days in the NBA during the regular season before you have to find a way to give them one of the 15 full time spots, and that could very well turn out to be what Allen is.

It was a weird pick. Allen is a 6’3″ point guard out of Arizona who isn’t much of an offensive threat, although many people didn’t project him to get drafted at all. The upside is that he is one of the better defensive players from this draft class and that could make him a solid niche player who has a long professional career. There will be a big learning curve though and that’s where this new two-way contract system can be of service to the Celtics.

A guy like Abdul Nader wasn’t allowed to affiliate himself with the team at all last year when signed with the Maine Red Claws. He was picked by the Celtics in the second round last year but was “stashed” in the D-League and Maine had control over him, they even could have traded him to another team within the league if they wanted too while still keeping his draft rights with the Celtics. Allen will be able to get playing time in Maine while coming up and using some of his 45-days in the NBA on possible practice days, just so he can learn the game from Brad Stevens and an NBA coaching staff. He’ll also be allowed to be at training camp this fall; something that Nader was not allowed to do.

There is a risk to taking a player who only has a ceiling as a niche defensive stopper off the bench, and hopefully he can develop enough to make an impact at the NBA level. Luckily for Ainge, he’s built a deep enough team where he can afford to take niche players who might not pan out with late second round picks.

Jabari Bird//Shooting Guard//California – Fifty-Eighth Overall (B-)
With all due respect to Rick Pitino, Bird IS walking through that door!

It might just be the summer league door though. Here’s another guy who wasn’t on every draft board out there, but with the 58th pick you’ll very rarely find a guy that everybody saw getting drafted anyway.

Jaylen Brown’s former college teammate shot 37.0% from beyond the arc during his four year career with Cal and he’ll need a strong summer league showing to help him secure a future with the Celtics. The two-way contract in the G-League will be an option for him just like it will be for Allen, but you only have two spots to designate and you might get into a situation where the best you can do for Abdul Nader is to give him one of those deals as well.

He might wind up getting fully stashed in the G-League or an international league like Nader was a year ago. There have also been recent second round picks made by Boston who were stashed right away and never heard from again such as Colton Iverson and Marcus Thornton. This is also a real possibility for Bird.

But again, this was the third to last pick of the entire draft. It’s hard to say Boston could have done better at this point.

 

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