As good as it was, Celtics draft could have been better

As good as it was, Celtics draft could have been better
June 27, 2014, 9:15 am
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BOSTON — The night began with the Boston Celtics hopeful of landing a rim-protecting big man, even if it meant waiting around a few months or even a full season.

If not, the closest thing to a human Energizer bunny in this draft -- better known to you and I as Aaron Gordon from the University of Arizona -- wouldn't be too bad a consolation prize.

But Thursday night, like so many nights of late for the Celtics, didn't go as hoped.

So as much as the Boston Celtics will put on a smiley face and praise their selections of Marcus Smart at No. 6 and James Young at No. 17, this draft could have been better . . . a lot better.

Don't get me wrong. Both Smart and Young will come in and make the Celtics a better team. That's a given.

But this draft held the potential for more than just improvement.

There were players who could significantly upgrade Boston's roster for years to come in a meaningful, high impact, difference-making way.

Joel Embiid, the player with the most upside in this draft, was the consensus No. 1 overall pick until he suffered a fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot that required surgery and will keep him out of commission for at least four months.

After getting some additional information about his injury, the Celtics knew there was no way he would slide all the way to them at No. 6.

That's why they were working feverishly to try and move up, with the goal being to land him or one of the draft's other premier players . . . like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, who went at Nos. 1 and No. 2 to Cleveland and Milwaukee, respectively.

And Embiid was right behind them as the Philadelphia 76ers selected the 7-foot big man at No. 3.

Short of moving up in the draft, landing Embiid was long shot for the Celtics. But landing Gordon appeared very much within their reach.

However, as teams began to look closer and closer at videos of the top prospects, Gordon constantly stood out.

It wasn't his scoring, rebounding or anything tangible like that.

Gordon's effort was off the charts.

Every game.

And when a guy plays with that kind of motor along with the kind of upside he has, passing on that kind of talent -- even with his flaws, such as free-throw shooting -- is difficult.

It certainly was for the Orlando Magic, and they drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick.

And just like that, Boston's two best shots at making a significant improvement to their roster in this draft were gone.

Still, the addition of Smart and Young provides Boston with a young, dynamic backcourt of the future that will make a strong push for immediate playing time.

The questions will continue to make the rounds as far as whether drafting Smart is part of the Celtics' exit strategy for Rajon Rondo, but Smart's toughness, tenacious defense and leadership skills will go over well with Celtics Nation.

And Young (who really is young at the tender age of 18) shows tremendous promise as a shooter in addition to having the kind of length that might someday translate into an above-average defender.

There is plenty to like about Smart and Young, for sure.

But no amount of smiling or happy faces can mask the reality that while this was a good draft for the Celtics, it could have been better . . . a lot better.