How Celtics have fared with mid-first-round picks in recent years

Sam Cohn
June 19, 2019 - 9:53 am
Categories: 

The Boston Celtics head into Thursday’s NBA Draft with three first-round picks. They have selections at Nos. 14, 20, and 22 with hopes of adding depth to their roster, adding assets to package into a future trade, or creating trade leverage for a draft-night move. Whichever they choose to do, Boston definitely has experience drafting around the middle of the first round. Let's take a look at their recent history in the 14-22(ish) range:

2010

In the 2010 NBA Draft, the Celtics selected Avery Bradley with the 19th overall pick. Bradley was Marcus Smart before Marcus Smart. He was a nightmare on defense, fought for every loose ball, and could shoot the three well enough that defenses couldn’t forget about him. He was recognized twice on the NBA All-Defensive team during his time with the Celtics and helped keep the team afloat during the rebuilding period. The summer of 2017 marked the end of Bradley’s tenure in Boston after he was traded along with a 2019 second-round pick to Detroit for Marcus Morris.

2012

The 2012 NBA Draft brought Jared Sullinger (No. 21) and Fab Melo (No. 22) to Boston. Sullinger was a starter for four seasons but was heavily criticized for being out of shape and not being able to get up and down the floor. He was an example of a guy that played a big role during a few weird rebuilding years. Melo, on the other hand, had problems with academic ineligibility at Syracuse then spent most of his career in the developmental league before he passed away in February 2017.

2013

The Celtics had the 16th overall pick in 2013 and used it to select Lucas Nogueira before immediately trading him to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, who had been taken with the 13th pick. Olynyk served four seasons for the Celtics, averaging 9.5 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. He was a solid role player with a rebuilding team before becoming a starter for a 7-seed playoff team. Two of his most memorable moments were inadvertently dislocating Kevin Love’s shoulder in the 2015 playoffs, and dropping 26 points in a Game 7 win in the second round of the 2017 playoffs. Olynyk went on to take his talents to South Beach and has spent the last two seasons getting quality minutes for the Miami Heat.

2014

In 2014, the same draft that landed Marcus Smart sixth overall, the Celtics chose James Young out of Kentucky with the 17th pick. Smart has proven to be a gritty defender and crucial member of the Celtics embodying everything it means to be from Boston. Young, however, was forced to miss the summer league, most of training camp, and the early part of his rookie season in 2014. He spent some time in the developmental league with the Maine Red Claws and got a handful of opportunities to dress with the pros through 2016 before becoming a free agent and signing with the New Orleans Pelicans in the summer of 2017. Young was never able to make the jump to a full-time roster spot and needless to say, didn’t make much of an impact with the Celtics. His career high 13 points came in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets in 2015.

2015

The Celtics' 2018 playoff run partly has the 2015 NBA Draft to thank. Boston stole Terry Rozier at the 16th pick and found their overqualified backup point guard. Rozier spent a fair amount of his rookie season with the Red Claws before earning a roster spot in 2016 and he hasn’t looked back. With Isaiah Thomas stealing the hearts of Celtics faithful, Rozier spent some time in his shadow. When Kyrie Irving came to Boston it was more of the same for Rozier. Kyrie was forced to miss the latter portion of the regular season and couldn’t come back for the playoffs, which gave Rozier an opportunity to showcase his talent. There were rumors of his increased trade stock leading to a potential move that would make him a starter elsewhere and bring in a new piece, but he was happy (at the time) to stay in Boston and contend for a title. A sub-par year the following season led to an ESPN tour where he laid out all of his frustrations. His future with the team is still up in the air.

2016

The ping pong balls in the 2016 draft lottery landed the Celtics the third (via Brooklyn), 16th (via Dallas), and 23rd overall picks. The Celtics turned the Nets pick into Jaylen Brown, who has turned into a reliable part of the Celtics' rotation, with still more room to grow. At 16, they took Guerschon Yabusele, who played professionally in France and Shanghai before being drafted in 2016. Yabusele signed with the Red Claws in March 2017 before officially signing with the Celtics four months later. He hasn’t been in the league for long, but he wants to be with the Celtics and if he shows improvement he may turn into a serious role player moving forward. With the 23rd pick, the Celtics selected Ante Žižić, who was traded one year later in the package that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston. Žižić averaged 18 minutes through 59 games in the 2019 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers as a role player for the 14-seed in the east.

Selections with pick Nos. 25-30

Once you get to the late first round, the Celtics haven’t had an abundant amount of success finding contributors. The Celtics selected MarShon Brooks 25th overall in 2011 and he was immediately traded to the Brooklyn Nets for the 27th overall pick that gave them JaJuan Johnson. Brooks made his way back to Boston for a year in 2013 and spent a couple years as a role player before making his way overseas. Selected 28th overall in the 2015 draft, R.J. Hunter spent a year with the Celtics, appeared in three games with the Bulls, and has since been in the developmental league. The Celtics picked Robert Williams 27th overall in the 2018 draft and he doesn’t have a huge sample size to measure his success with the team, but he swatted two Anthony Davis shots in the same game and appears to have some upside.

From drafting the last decade in their post-2008 championship era, working through some rebuilding years, getting back to being a major contender in the East, and now possibly looking at another at least partial rebuild, it’s clear the Celtics have not let any top picks go to waste. Picks between 12-24 have serious potential to bring in strong role players or the occasional starter. That’s the range Boston is working with in the 2019 draft so it’s not crazy to say the Celtics could call the name of player we’ll hear about for years to come.

Related:

Comments ()