WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to the top of this year’s draft board, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to how good any of the teens pegged to go 1-2-3 will be in the NBA.
While the Boston Celtics and most NBA teams have done their due diligence when it comes to scouting the top prospects, there’s a very good chance the player they see in the coming weeks will be in some ways different than the player they followed this past season in college or overseas.
LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandan Ingram are expected to be the top two picks after spending one season in college. The number 3 pick at this point looks like Croatian-born Dragan Bender who is the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November).
“There’s a lot of change that happens between now and the draft, versus the college season and March to the draft,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Especially with the young kids. There will be a lot of young kids at the top of the draft.”
In addition to the top three picks likely being teenagers, fellow 19-and-under players like Cal’s Jaylen Brown and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray who each left after their freshman years in college are also expected to fly off the draft boards within the top 10 picks.
Because of their youth and potential, there will be talk about what they can do at the next level in time.
But the calls as to what they still have to work on will be just as loud.
Ainge prefers to focus on what they can do and potentially how that translates at the next level.
“We tend to be more critical of kids and say they’re not this or not that and we see them two years later in the all-star game,” Ainge said. “I’ll reserve judgement on that now and look forward to the opportunity to meeting the kids at the top of the draft.”
As part of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade in 2013, the Celtics will receive Brooklyn’s first round pick in next month’s NBA draft that will be no worse than the No. 6 pick in the draft but could potentially be the top overall selection.
Boston will consider an assortment of options with the pick from Brooklyn, such as keeping it, trading it away as part of a package for a proven all-star caliber player, or potentially moving down in the draft and acquiring even more assets (read: draft picks) for a later date.
Regardless of what the Celtics do, there’s a growing sense that they are trying to fast-track things as to get back into the hunt among the elite teams sooner rather than later.
“There’s plenty of urgency to try and do what works, like our Plan A, Plan B and Plan C,” Ainge said. “But you really have to be careful what you do with those assets. It doesn’t do any good to put a noose around our neck and say there’s all this urgency. Brad (Stevens) wants to win, Isaiah (Thomas) wants to win … we all want to win and we all want to be contenders.”