Draft should rejuvenate Stevens, Celtics going forward

Draft should rejuvenate Stevens, Celtics going forward
April 7, 2014, 9:45 pm
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For the past few weeks, it seems Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spends more time talking about the latest injury report on his team, than anything else.

But if there was ever a year for an already talent-challenged squad to be so decimated by injuries, this is it.

As much as Danny Ainge wants to poo-poo on this draft class, there are some really good players that'll be around when the Celtics are on the clock in June's NBA draft.

And while many wonder what direction the Celtics will go on draft night, the beauty in this really bad season for Boston has been wherever they pick, there's still likely to be some really good, impact talent around.

But with any draft, there's always risk involved.

People still gush over all the talent that was in the LeBron James-led 2003 draft, but that's not doing the good peeps in Detroit any good when they think about all the ballers the Pistons passed on (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, ... even Kirk Hinrich would have been better) in order to take Darko Milicic with the No. 2 overall pick, a move that became one of several missteps for this franchise's demise.

And you don't think the folks in Cleveland wouldn't mind a do-over on last year's draft when they took Anthony Bennett with the top overall pick, a player who has had one of the more forgettable rookie seasons that any No. 1 overall pick has ever had.

But the Celtics are a different kind of franchise that doesn't get too caught up in the talk or hype surrounding players.

They keep it kind of simple.

Is he a good player?

Can he help us?

Does he fill a need?

Will teams be kicking themselves in a few months for not taking him?

A "yes" to those questions usually means they found their guy.

Take a look at the Celtics most recent first-round picks.

Fab Melo and JaJuan Johnson aside, you would be hard-pressed to find a player the Celtics have acquired in the first round who has yet to project as being more talented than his draft slot.

And the one time that the Celtics did have a top-five pick, they used it in 2007 to select Jeff Green at No. 5 - and immediately flipped him to another team (Seattle, now Oklahoma City) for more talent.

Boston acquired a second-round pick in the deal that turned into Glen (still a) "Big Baby" Davis.

And the player they acquired in that draft night deal already in the league was, you remember his name, right?

It's Ray Allen who was the piece that opened Kevin Garnett's eyes enough to where he too was open to being traded to Boston.

And the rest is Banner 17 history.

There's a decent chance that the Celtics will once again have one of the top five picks in June's NBA draft.

They currently have the fourth-worst record in the NBA and with that, an 11.9 percent chance of landing the top overall pick.

But the question I get more than any other of late, is what will the Celtics do when they have to make a selection?

No matter how many mock drafts you pull up on the internet or barbershop barbs you exchange with your boys, the truth is no one knows what they will do - not even Ainge.

Until the draft order is set which won't happen until May 20, everything at this point is educated speculation, at best.

As far as what the Celtics need in this year's draft, that can be summed up in one word: everything.

They could use a rim protector like Joel Embiid of Kansas.

Boston could use another athletic freak on the perimeter like Embiid's more touted teammate, Andrew Wiggins.

Don't discount Duke's Jabari Parker who might be the most NBA-ready of the 'one-and-done' players in the draft.

And maybe the player who has benefited the most from a strong NCAA tournament in bolstering his NBA stock, is Kentucky's Julius Randle who should be a top-five pick.

You can't discard Australian guard Dante Exum or Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, either.

If the Celtics stay the course and do in fact wind up with a top-5 selection, one of these guys will likely be donning a Celtics uniform next season.

And while they will surely have pressure to perform from the jump, Boston has a nice collection of players in place now that will afford whoever they draft an opportunity to grow while not having the weight of an entire franchise on their shoulders - not yet, anyway.

So as much as we all feel at least a twinge of sympathy for what rookie head coach Brad Stevens is going through this season with all the losses and lately a rash of injuries, you don't have to look far to find a silver lining for him and the Celtics.

It's called the NBA draft, a place where the franchise's efforts towards returning to relevance in the NBA, are to begin.

And that would give Stevens something else to talk about besides pulled quads, ankle sprains and sore Achilles tendons.