The Celtics have generally not drafted players based on need, instead leaning toward the best available options. But last month president of basketball operations Danny Ainge hinted that perhaps this year Boston would aim to fill noticeable holes.
“Typically, you want to draft the best player and not worry about positions,” Ainge said. “We’ve all heard the rhetoric before and that’s true. But there are times when you need to draft for specific needs, especially when we’re drafting in the positions that we’re drafting this year, and with the draft that we have this year.”
Ainge did not specify, but the Celtics' lack of bench scoring — particularly 3-point shooting — was glaring at times, especially in the playoffs. And it did not help that Tyler Herro, who was taken 13th overall in last year’s draft, one spot before Boston took Romeo Langford, carved up the Celtics by hitting 15 3-pointers in the Eastern Conference finals. (Langford, meanwhile, connected on just 18.5 percent of his tries last season over 32 games.)
The Celtics were hoping that second-round pick Carsen Edwards could be that catch-fire scorer off the bench, and maybe there is still time for that. But his rookie season did not offer encouragement. Aside from Jayson Tatum, R.J. Hunter was the only other pure shooter the Celtics have selected during the Brad Stevens era, and he played in just 45 NBA games over four NBA seasons and connected on less than 30 percent of his tries before washing out of the league.
Ainge has clearly placed a high value on versatile, athletic wings, and the roster is now stocked with them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But perhaps he was hinting that this will be the year Boston puts an emphasis on long-range marksmanship.
The Celtics own the 14th, 26th, 30th, and 47th overall choices in this year’s draft, which will be held Nov. 18. When selecting much higher than that, drafting for need is usually a mistake. But this range makes that approach more reasonable.
Of course, the Celtics will not add four rookies to the roster, so look for them to get creative with these selections. Regardless, here are five shooters the team could potentially target in the draft.
▪ Aaron Nesmith, 6 feet 6 inches, forward, Vanderbilt — Nesmith is a long, versatile wing, but most of the intrigue surrounds his marksmanship. As a sophomore last year, he attempted 8.2 3-pointers per game and connected on a scorching 52.2 percent. A stress fracture in his foot limited him to 14 games, however, and he shot 33.7 percent on 3-pointers during his lone full season as a freshman. If Nesmith is available at pick No. 14, the Celtics might have a hard time passing him up.
▪ Saddiq Bey, 6-8, forward, Villanova — Like Nesmith, Bey also fits the mold of a classic Ainge player. He is a bit bigger and likely a better defender, though. Bey made 45.1 percent of his 3-pointers on 5.1 attempts per game last season. He could receive consideration at No. 14 and would likely be snatched up quickly if he falls to No. 26.
▪ Desmond Bane, 6-6, guard, TCU — Bane would be the latest Indiana native to join the Celtics. He was a four-year player for the Horned Frogs and is just a year younger than Tatum. Bane connected on 43.3 percent of his 3-pointers over his career. Last season, he finished in the top 10 in the Big 12 in scoring, assists, and rebounds, but shooting will be his NBA skill that translates. He could be in the discussion for one of Boston’s later choices.
▪ Tyrell Terry, 6-2, point guard, Stanford — Terry played just one season at Stanford and connected on 40.8 percent of his 3-pointers, but he could have as much upside as anyone on this list. He has reportedly packed on 15 pounds of muscle since last season ended, which would be a huge plus because he was listed at just 160 pounds and does not have an NBA-ready frame. He could get a look at No. 30.
▪ Isaiah Joe, 6-5, guard, Arkansas — After making 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman Joe hit just 34.2 as a sophomore, but that was on 10.6 attempts per game. To put that lofty figure in perspective, Tatum averaged 7.1 for Boston this season. Joe has deep range. He won’t be a first-round pick, but could be a good two-way contract candidate if Boston uses its second-round choice on him.