Celtics draft primer: Point guardcombo guards

Celtics draft primer: Point guardcombo guards
May 17, 2011, 1:23 am
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By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

When the season ends for every NBA team, their fans almost instantly go into a tizzy over what the team will do in terms of free agents, for the upcoming season.

Celtics Nation, you're no different.

So while it's fun to envision a lineup with Dallas' Tyson Chandler in a Celtics uni catching a lob from Rajon Rondo, or Denver's J.R.Smith raising up to make his third 3-pointer within his first 90 seconds on the floor, it'll be a while before the Celtics can even talk to those players, let alone recruit them to Boston.

In most seasons, the Celtics would be able to begin their recruitment spiel on July 1.

But with a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players union not expected to be agreed upon until sometime in the fall, the earliest you can expect to see the C's improve their roster is via the June 23 NBA draft.

For now, the draft has to be the Celtics' primary focus as they try to re-tool their roster after a second-round exit by the Miami Heat earlier this month.

"We just need to get more talent," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Because the Celtics have so many holes to fill on their roster, there's no need to be as position-specific as some other teams.

That's why despite having the No. 25 pick and the No. 55 pick in the second round, the C's can legitimately take the best player available who fits their needs which consists of, in part, players who have the ability to run the floor and bring an improved level of athleticism to the C's roster.

We'll spend this week examining some of the top draft prospects in next month's NBA draft.

Today we'll take a look at some of the top point guardcombo guard prospects, including those in bold that might be available for the Celtics when they're on the clock

NAME, HEIGHT, POSITION, SCHOOL

Kyrie Irving, 6-2, PG, Duke

By the numbers: 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 11 games.

Strengths: In a draft with few superstar talents, Irving is about as close as you'll find to being that kind of player. He has decent size (6-foot-2) and strength to play the point at the next level. When you tack on Chris Paul-like quickness, Irving has the potential to make an immediate impact - something few players in this draft are expected to do as rookies.

Weaknesses: Talent is not an issue, but durability certainly is. Irving appeared in just eight regular season games at Duke, which doesn't exactly sound like the kind of resume for a player under consideration for the No. 1 overall pick. That lack of experience gives NBA GMs every reason to pause when considering how long it will take for him to adjust to the NBA game.

Projected draft status: Top-5.

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Kemba Walker, 6-0, PG, UConn

By the numbers: 23.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 41 games.

Strengths: Falls under the growing list of in-bound NBA point guards with a knack for scoring the basketball. One of the nation's top scorers, Walker showed some impressive leadership skills - a huge intangible for a point guard - in leading the Huskies to a surprising run towards the school's third National Championship this past spring. Has an ultra-quick crossover dribble a la Tim Hardaway which allows him to frequently get enough space to shoot.

Weaknesses: Listed at 6-foot, Walker will have to prove he's more of a point guard than a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard. His decision-making has come into question at times. At his size, needs to improve his strength so that bigger guards can't shoot so easily over him.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick.

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Brandon Knight, 6-3, PGSG, Kentucky

By the numbers: 17.3 points, 4.2 assists and four rebounds in 38 games.

Strengths: Great first step off the dribble, allows him to get by defenders. Combine that with a knack for finishing around the basket, and you have a player who can come in and make an immediate impact off the bench. Does a nice job of shooting off the dribble, as well as from 3-point range.

Weaknesses: Only one year at Kentucky, so experience may be an issue for him at the next level. Because of that ultra-quick first step, he's used getting to the basket with little to impede his progress. Needs to develop a pull-up jumper, a shot he hasn't really looked for in the past.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick.

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Jimmer Fredette, 6-2, PGSG BYU

By the numbers: 28.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 37 games.

Strengths: Unconscious shooter, arguably the best in the college basketball this season. Known for his long-range shooting skills, but his shot selection - maybe more than his seemingly endless range - is what separates him from many in this year's draft. Is a lot stronger than one might expect, and his quickness off the dribble isn't nearly as big a hindrance as some might believe.

Weaknesses: A shooting guard coming out of high school, Fredette's play-making skills have improved but not quite up to par with what you would expect from an NBA point guard coming into the league. Strong enough to defend most point guards, but his lateral quickness is somewhat of a concern.

Projected draft status: Lottery-to middle of first round.

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Nolan Smith, 6-3, PGSG, Duke

By the numbers: 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 37 games.

Strengths: Has the kind of court awareness to play both guard positions at the next level. Having a high basketball IQ and good length bodes well for his chances at the next level defensively to at least hold his own.

Weaknesses: A solid player, but doesn't have the kind of athleticism or explosiveness that he'll be facing on a nightly basis in the NBA. He isn't a bad shooter, but he is not known for his long-range shooting skills, either. His game is essentially suited to be a long-time NBA backup.

Projected draft status: Late first round.

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Darius Morris, 6-4, PG, Michigan

By the numbers: 15 points, 6.7 assists and 4 rebounds in 35 games.

Strengths: Arguably the biggest point guard expected to be taken in the first round, Morris is a pass-first playmaker who will use his size to score over smaller defenders. When you throw in his court vision, you have a player that may be one of the biggest steals in next month's draft. Has the size, strength and lateral quickness to defend point guards and some shooting guards at the next level.

Weaknesses: Has a tendency to over-pass at times, which is why he goes through stretches in which his turnover numbers are a bit high for what you want from your point guard.

Projected draft status: Late first round.

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Shelvin Mack, 6-2, PGSG, Butler

By the numbers: 16 points, 3.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds in 38 games.

Strengths: Has shown a knack for scoring in bunches throughout his three seasons with the Butler Bulldogs. One of the nation's best at creating his own shot off the dribble, or pulling up from 3-point range. Has great strength which allows him to take hits and keep on knocking down shots.

Weaknesses: In college, spent very little time running a team which he will have to do in the NBA. That lack of playmaking skills will be the biggest challenge he'll face at the next level. He's a crafty ball-handler, but he doesn't blow you away with quickness off the dribble.

Projected draft status: Late first-round, or early second.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn