It’s hard to ignite a barroom debate when all the bars are closed, but we’d like to try our best. Colleague Gary Washburn and I decided to hold our own Celtics draft in which we split the organization into two parts and tried to assemble the best 11-person groupings.
The rules were simple: Each team had to include eight current players — two-way-contract guys were eligible — as well as one coach, one front office member, and one future asset.
The draft order was determined in a secure, scientific manner: I found an arcade game token sitting on a shelf, called Gary, and told him to pick heads or tails and trust that I was telling the truth. He called tails and it came up tails, and I briefly wondered what the most diabolical NBA general managers would do in this situation. But I wilted and acknowledged to Gary that he had won the first pick.
The makeup of the Celtics roster instantly gave Gary a clear advantage. Coach Brad Stevens has made it abundantly clear all year that he has five players who are a level above the rest. Now Gary would be able to choose three of them. I knew I would have to get creative to keep up with his squad.
Here’s how it played out from our respective war rooms.
Gary: Jayson Tatum
The third-year player was enjoying his best stretch of basketball before the season was suspended, and he is almost guaranteed to sign a maximum contract extension in the offseason. Tatum just turned 22 and has all the tools to be a perennial All-Star. A franchise cornerstone.
Adam: Kemba Walker
Walker has been slowed by left knee soreness for much of this season, but this extended break should have him feeling like new whenever he returns. It seems like ages ago that he was selected to start in the All-Star Game for the second year in a row.
Gary: Jaylen Brown
Brown’s only nemesis is injury. He was out before the league suspension with a hamstring problem but was turning in his best season because of his improved ball-handling and ability to score from mid-range. He was likely just a few votes short of making his first All-Star Game.
Adam: Gordon Hayward
After two mostly lost seasons, it’s been a bounce-back year for the former All-Star. The Celtics are outscoring opponents by 8 points per 100 possessions with Hayward on the court; that trails only Tatum among Boston’s starters.
Gary: Marcus Smart
The most indispensable Celtic, Smart is a glue guy on any team and he has improved his offense, especially 3-point shooting. Defensively, he is a Player of the Year candidate and shows the fiery emotion that has made him a popular figure in Boston.
Adam: Daniel Theis
The obvious five were gone, but Theis, the starting center, was an easy choice with the sixth overall pick. He is averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 56.5 percent from the field, and he is an essential cog in Boston’s fourth-ranked defense.
Gary: Robert Williams
This is a potential pick because Williams has missed most of the season with a hip injury. But he showed the ability to be a defensive game-changer when healthy, and this team won’t need him to score much, just defend and block shots.
Adam: Coach Brad Stevens
OK, this is where things got a bit tougher. There is a sizable talent dropoff, and Gary already nabbed three of the top five. So I decided to pivot to a sideline leader. Despite a host of player injuries, Stevens has this year’s team on pace to win 55 games. He thrives with undermanned squads, too.
Gary: Romeo Langford
This pick is more for the future. Langford was expected to spend most of the season in the G-League but has become a reliable defender off the bench and has shown the capability of attacking the rim and hitting the 3-point shot. He has proven to be a keeper for the long term.
Adam: Grant Williams
Yes, Williams is foul-prone and his 3-point shooting has been an adventure. But he has a good grasp of the Celtics system and has emerged as a versatile defender who can hold his own against bigger opponents.
Gary: Enes Kanter
Kanter is still a productive player, especially on the offensive boards, and he is one of the rare Celtics who can consistently get to the free throw line.
Adam: Brad Wanamaker
I feel pretty good about my all-old-school-Big East backcourt. Wanamaker is good value here. We’re hoping for some of his February production, when he made 45.1 percent of his shots, 60 percent of his 3-pointers, and 96.2 percent of his free throws.
Gary: Tremont Waters
There are teams around the NBA that believe Waters can be a quality backup point guard and eventually a starter, so he is a valuable commodity and likely will assume a bigger role next season.
Adam: The Grizzlies pick, 17th overall
The Celtics were certainly hoping this pick would end up being more valuable. And there’s a chance it still could if the season resumes and Memphis trips over its brutal closing schedule. But we’ll be getting a key contributor for our nine-man squad.
Gary: Semi Ojeleye
A staunch defender and tireless worker, Ojeleye may never be a star in the NBA, but he can be a reliable role player and capable 3-point shooter.
Adam: President of basketball operations Danny Ainge
Once again, we decided to zig while Gary zagged. Sure, Mike Zarren is the numbers guy, but Danny has an excellent eye for talent, and he’s the deal closer.
Gary: Assistant GM Mike Zarren
He’s the guy walking around TD Garden in a circa 1985 Celtics Starter jacket but is a salary-cap mastermind and the man behind the rebuilding of the franchise in the past 13 years. Zarren could be a GM for many clubs, but he is comfortable in his role in Boston.
Adam: Javonte Green
The Celtics envisioned Green snagging a Tony Allen-like role this year. He slipped out of the rotation after having a regular role in December and January, but we saw enough in those stints to trust him.
Gary: Celtics’ first-round pick, 26th overall
This is a deep draft but not as star-studded as last year’s, so the Celtics could get a solid player at 26 or use this pick to move up or trade for a veteran on draft night. This pick should bring some options, and Danny Ainge loves options.
Adam: Carsen Edwards
Gary, Ainge is leading my team, not yours. Anyway, remember when Edwards hit eight 3-pointers in one quarter of a preseason game against the Cavaliers? We do, too. Let’s get back to that.
Gary: Assistant coach Kara Lawson
Lawson doesn’t say much, but she has become popular with the players because of her work ethic, and she has a bright future in NBA coaching. She will rise soon in the coaching ranks.
Adam: Tacko Fall
Sometimes you just have to make a pick for the people. Tacko does have the best defensive rating on the team. So what if it was built over 24 total minutes?
Here are the teams. Tell us: Which would win?
|Rd. 1||Jayson Tatum||Kemba Walker|
|Rd. 2||Jaylen Brown||Gordon Hayward|
|Rd. 3||Marcus Smart||Daniel Theis|
|Rd. 4||Robert WIlliams||Brad Stevens|
|Rd. 5||Romeo Langford||Grant Williams|
|Rd. 6||Enes Kanter||Brad Wanamaker|
|Rd. 7||Tremont Waters||Grizzlies' 17th overall pick|
|Rd. 8||Semi Ojeleye||Danny Ainge|
|Rd. 9||Mike Zarren||Javonte Green|
|Rd. 10||26th overall pick||Carsen Edwards|
|Rd. 11||Kara Lawson||Tacko Fall|