College Basketball season is upon us, and for Celtics fans that means evaluating prospects that they hope the Celtics will take in the upcoming NBA Draft. Right now, it’s too early to evaluate the crop of young prospects. It will take a few months on collegiate games before anyone would really be able to give any in depth analysis of what kind of player these prospects can really be. This time last year we were wondering if Skal Labissiere would go #1 overall. So, keeping in mind that all this is subject to change, these are the 7 players Celtics fans should be watching in the early months of the college basketball season.
Josh Jackson - Kansas
Josh Jackson feels too good to be true. He’s Andrew Wiggins with a motor. Back when Wiggins was in college the biggest knock on him was that he didn’t have the competitive drive, and that he didn’t want to be ‘the guy’. Josh Jackson wants to be ‘the guy’. He isn’t afraid of the moment like some speculated Wiggins was. I tried to find anything I could knocking Jackson. Somebody who was calling him a taller O.J. Mayo. Anybody trying to tell us that Josh Jackson isn’t as good as the world thinks he is. I found nothing. This kid has got amazing skills. On top of his amazing physical talent, Jackson might be the most intelligent player in the NBA as soon as he’s drafted. It only takes 60 seconds of listening to Josh Jackson talk to realize he’s a genius. He will be the NBA’s Richard Sherman. A guy with skill and smarts like Jackson is rare, and that's why he’s the #1 guy to watch. He could be special.
Harry Giles - Duke
When you think of Giles, think of Joel Embiid. Not in terms of skill set, but in terms of draftability. Embiid was drafted 3rd overall despite a disastrous injured foot. Something similar will likely happen to Giles despite his knees. Giles knees’ are made of glass. In October, Giles underwent his 3rd procedure on his knee in 4 years. His injury history is brutal, but damn can he play. When I first saw Giles… he reminded me of a power forward that should seldom be named in this context. I can only hope that Celtics fans know the power forward I’m talking about. LB. Lenny Bias. Before Bias became a tragic folktale, he was incredible. He could do absolutely everything, and had the perfect body for an NBA power forward. Nimble enough to blow by any defender guarding him, and strong enough to bully any defender in the post. There’s some of that in Giles. We can only hope Giles’ knee injuries don’t stop what can be an amazing career. Alas, we can only hope.
Ivan Rabb - Cal
Rabb isn’t viewed as highly as most members of this draft class. Although some have gone as far to compare him to Chris Bosh, he currently ranks only 10th on the NBADraft.com big board. He is returning for his sophomore season at Cal, so we do know a little more about him than we do about the other top prospects. Regardless of ranking, Rabb could be a very nice player for the Celtics. He has a good skill set, and plays power forward, the Celtics biggest position of need. He also fits all the criteria for a potential fit as a Celtics power forward. He’s regarded as a great rim protector, averaged 11.9 rebounds per 40 minutes last season, and has a good mid range jumper that could be expanded to 3 point range. I’ll be honest, he does (unfortunately) bare many similarities to a prospect from a few years ago named Jared Sullinger, but that doesn’t mean that’s what he’s gonna end up being as a player. Hopefully he can show that he’s more than that during this years college campaign. I don’t think I could go through the low ups and the low downs of the first 4 years of Sullinger’s career again.
Dennis Smith - NC State, Lonzo Ball - UCLA, Markelle Fultz - Washington, Jayson Tatum - Duke, and Jonathan Isaac - Florida State
All 5 of these players are extremely talented and deserve their own individual analysis, and they’ll get one later in the year, but I lump them together for one reason. Picking anyone of these players puts the Celtics in a peculiar position. The players I went over individually either play power forward where the Celtics are weak, or are named Josh Jackson, who I think is so talented that it doesn’t matter what position he plays, it will not affect his status in the rotation. However, for some players it will matter. If the Celtics are put in a position where they have to or should take one of these players, it could lead to confusion on the roster. With Avery Bradley taking his game up to another level, he doesn’t seem to be as expendable as he was once thought to be, he’s a fringe all-star caliber player now. With 2016 All-Star Isaiah Thomas also on the roster, taking a stud guard like Smith, Ball, or Fultz could present somewhat of a dilemma at the guard spot on the roster. Asking Thomas, Bradley, or Draft Prospect X to come off the bench would be a hard pill to swallow for any one of them. The other two players, Tatum and Isaac, are both small forwards. The Celtics just took Jaylen Brown with the 3rd pick last year. Taking Tatum or Isaac would not only anger certain members of the fan base, but could also kill the confidence of a developing Jaylen Brown, who might feel he’s already being replaced. Who knows, maybe one of these players will emerge as a ‘Jackson-esq’ prospect come January or February, but until then they don’t make sense for the Celtics.