Going into last night, all of the reporting on the Celtics' draft was that they were "aggressively shopping" picks because they "do not want three rookies on the team" to begin next year. Well, naturally things went opposite from what we expected based off of those reports, and the Celtics actually wound up acquiring a pick from the Sixers and making four selections. Whether the Celtics intend to start the season with all four of their selections will remain to be seen, but as things stand, the new faces in Boston are Romeo Langford (#14), Grant Williams (#22), Carsen Edwards (#33) and Tremont Waters (#51).
Before the draft, I tweeted out something along the lines of "Opinions on draft prospects differ so greatly from person to person that whoever the Celtics take tonight there will be people who love the pick and people who hate it" and I think that you'll see a bit of those clashing opinions in our draft grades. So without further ado, how do we grade the Celtics' draft night performance?
Max Lissette's Grades:
#14 Pick. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana: I’ll be honest, my uncertainty about Langford may be because he is one of the guys that I was least familiar with entering the draft. I think it’s fair to say, however, that even those who followed him the closest are probably still a bit uncertain about him. When Langford got to Indiana, he was a potential Top-5 pick in this year’s draft. He entered college as the #5 player on the ESPN 100 board, as well as ESPN’s #1 ranked player at his position ahead of Kentucky’s Tyler Herro who went one spot before Langford in the draft to Miami and was one of the most popular names for the Celtics at #14. Langford played a good portion of his lone season at Indiana with a torn ligament in his thumb, so it’s hard to say exactly how good of a shooter he is, and that probably impacted his draft stock as well. After his thumb injury healed, Langford shot above 35% on three pointers, so that gives us somewhat of an idea as to how skilled he is in that regard.
The fact that Langford played through his injury shows his toughness and grit, and it’s sort of a perfect coincidence that he shares an agency with Marcus Smart who is the definition of those qualities. Langford may still be somewhat of an unknown quantity, but his potential is enormous and the pick was very well-liked by a lot of the smartest people in the draft evaluation game, so while it wasn’t necessarily the most flashy pick, I think we should all be optimistic about Langford’s potential and wait to see how he develops before making any judgments. I kind of would have liked to see Danny take a swing on a guy like Sekou Doumbouya who was still on the board, but he didn’t necessarily play it safe with Langford either, and all I asked of Danny was to avoid playing things too safe like he did with the Olynyk pick a few years ago.
#20 Pick. Traded to Philadelphia for #24 and #33 Pick: When the Celtics made this trade with Philadelphia, I got super excited. My favorite prospect that the Celtics could realistically get in the draft, Brandon Clarke, was still available. After the Celtics didn’t take him at #14, I thought there was no way he would still be available at #20. Well sure enough, he was. When Danny made this trade, my mind instantly went to Carsen Edwards as a guy they could grab at #33, and the thought of being able to add him while still getting Clarke and somebody else at #22 and #24 made me incredibly proud of the job Danny had done with the trade. Well, the Grizzlies must have been worried that the Celtics were going to take Brandon Clarke, because they immediately followed Boston’s trade by trading up from #23 to #21 to take him. There’s no way to know whether Danny had plans of drafting Clarke or not, though the Grizzlies sure seemed to think so. If he did, this trade’s grade instantly plummets because it means Danny got overconfident, wanting to have his cake and eat it too and was essentially screwed by the Grizzlies.
I am giving Danny the benefit of the doubt, however, that if he really wanted Clarke, he would have picked him at #14 or not taken the risk of moving #20 and hoping Clarke fell to #22. As for the Grizzlies moving up from #23 to #21, I will attribute that to their own paranoia about Clarke getting taken, not any inkling they might have had as to what Boston was going to do. For those reasons, this trade was fantastic. Danny managed to get an early second round pick to use on arguably the best point guard left on the board while not really giving up much at all. Additionally, he may have used information he had on Philly’s draft plans against them. If the Sixers had made a promise to Matisse Thybulle that they would take him and Boston somehow knew about it, then taking Thybulle and forcing a trade with Philly would make this trade even more savvy.
Grade: A (C- if he wanted Clarke)
#22 Pick. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee: The back-to-back SEC Player of the Year out of Tennessee is incredibly strong (see below), smart, and generally well-rounded. Though his size at 6’8 with a wingspan less than 6’10 is a perceived weakness of his, Williams will be able to hang with NBA competition physically from day one because of his ridiculous strength. Between that and his elite defensive IQ, he will contribute immediately for the Celtics on the defensive end.
This past year at Tennessee, Williams averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3 assists to go along with 1 steal and 1.5 blocks per game. Is there a risk that he won’t ever develop an outside shot? Absolutely. He only shot 46 3PA this past year, but he hit them at a relatively encouraging clip (32.6%) so there’s at least some sort of a foundation there. If that isn’t necessarily encouraging to you, he did shoot 81.9% 7 Free Throw Attempts per game, which is a positive sign for his shooting mechanics. Where Williams does excel already, is in the post. This past year, he ranked in the 97th percentile on post-ups, and that skill shouldn’t have much problem translating to the next level thanks to his aforementioned strength. At the end of the day, Williams could be a solid pro even without developing his range, but my grading of him is reflective of my confidence in him doing so.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that in a summer where the narrative is “people don't want to play in Boston”, Grant sang the Celtics’ praises after being drafted:
#24 Pick and Aron Baynes Traded to Suns for 2020 1st Round Pick (Via Milwaukee): The Celtics’ needed to find a way to dump Baynes’ salary and they did just that. The dumping of Baynes’ salary came at a cost - swapping the #24 pick this year for the Bucks’ top-7 protected pick in 2020 - but the move cleared even more space for the Celtics as they are seemingly trying to clear as much of it as possible. Reports out of Phoenix so far sound like Baynes won’t be bought out, so I hope Danny didn’t screw over a guy that the fanbase really liked by leaving him stranded there after he had opted-in just a week or so ago. At the end of the day though, the business is the business.
#33 Pick. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue: This pick made me really, really happy. Edwards is a guy who I saw going in the late first round of mock drafts here and there, and never really slipped past the early second round in any of them. I thought for sure that the Celtics wouldn’t have a shot at him entering the night because they’d be taking him too high with the #20 or #22 picks, but wouldn’t have a chance at him with the #51 pick. When they managed to get the 33rd pick, I immediately knew Edwards was the guy I wanted, and I have a feeling Ainge did too. Edwards can score in bunches, and he proved that when he absolutely lit up the NCAA Tournament. Edwards was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional in the tournament, becoming the first player since Steph Curry in 2008 to win the award without being on the team that won the region. Additionally, Edwards set the tournament record for most three pointers made per game (7), breaking Steph Curry’s record of 5.7. His outstanding three point shooting helped him become 9th All-Time in NCAA Tournament PPG with a mark of 34.8. There is a lot to like about this pick, but his sheer scoring ability is foremost among the reasons.
#51 Pick. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU: The Waters pick didn’t necessarily blow me away. One of the biggest knocks against Carsen Edwards is his size, and Tremont Waters is even smaller. At 6’1 and 5’11, Edwards and Waters both worry me a little bit, but I suppose as a Celtics fan that watched Isaiah Thomas dominate for years, size shouldn’t worry me as much. Waters averaged 15/6/3 last year at LSU while shooting just 43% from the field and 33% from 3. There’s no telling what the team will do with Terry Rozier, so I suppose having Waters as a potential backup or third string point guard is a good thing, but I would have rather seen the Celtics add some big man depth with this pick.
Overall Draft Night Performance: A-
Cam Caldwell's Grades:
#14 Pick. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana: I really like this pick at the end of the lottery. I have liked Romeo since before his freshman season at Indiana. He is a gifted scorer who actually had a thumb injury he played with all season. He had surgery on it and all appears to be fine. He can grow into a Jaylen Brown-type scorer who has more potential in the isolation game. I believe he will be a very proficient three-point shooter who can drive the lane and get inside. This might be seen as a risky selection, but it could very well turn into a very nice pick for the Boston Celtics.
#20 Pick Traded to Philadelphia for #24 and #33 Pick: I don’t have a lot of positivity on this trade because I really liked the guy who the Sixers received. Matisse Thybulle is a defensive star who is a plug-and-play type of athlete, though he still has a lot of ways to go on the offensive end. Max broke down the ins and outs of the different nature of the optics of the trade, but all in all, it depends on who each team ultimately ends up with. I am not super high on Grant Williams, but the pick at 33 could be the one that seals the fate of this trade. We will see what happens as the season draws near, but having the chance to get a guy like Brandon Clarke at 21 and losing out on him appears to be a loss at this moment.
#22 Pick. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee: Here’s the deal. Grant Williams is an excellent person, a fearless competitor, and a guy who will be great in the locker room. The downside is that I don’t believe there is a whole lot to his game that can vastly change for the better. He mainly plays back to the basket, he is not particularly tall for a 4, and he is not very quick. That being said, he has a tremendously high IQ and is very savvy decision maker with the ball in his hands. He’s not a ball stopper, so Brad Stevens will definitely like that part of his game. Williams will need to develop a 3-point shot if he wants to survive on offense, because backing down guys like Joel Embiid and Marc Gasol at his size will probably not work. Being the hard worker that he is, I have confidence that Grant will put the hours in to take his game to the next level, but Summer League will tell the tale. I really like Williams, and sincerely am rooting for him to make it in this league because he will be a great ambassador for the Celtics brand.
#24 Pick and Aron Baynes Traded to Suns for 2020 1st Round Pick (Via Milwaukee): This one is quite simple. Boston needed to get rid of some salary to free up cap space and the guy that was chosen was Baynes. Losing the 24th pick this year might have been disappointing given that guys like Nassir Little and Kevin Porter Jr. were still available, but nonetheless this was a good move for the Celtics. Unfortunately for Aron, he will be the backup center for a terrible team. Celtics fans loved this guy and hopefully the faithful out in Phoenix will appreciate him as well.
#33 Pick. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue: I wasn’t very thrilled with this pick at first, but it has definitely grown on me since last night. He was phenomenal in the NCAA tournament and absolutely lit up defenses. He might end up having one of those Jimmer Fredette-type of NBA careers, but I certainly hope not. Not only can he light it up from 3, but if you close out too quick, he can make you pay by driving to the basket. Purdue didn’t have a lot of ball movement going on late in games, as it usually fell onto Edwards’ shoulders. He is no stranger to the big moment which is key pointing out about a player who is headed to a big city with a traditionally tough fan base and media. Again, Summer League will be fun to watch with this kid in the backcourt, as I believe he legitimately has a shot at the backup Point Guard position. He’s a guy that IF he can grow into his own, he could have a lot of chances at taking the last shot in key games in the TD Garden soon.
Grade: B- (With A Potential)
#51 Pick. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU: Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge stated that Waters “can do everything except be tall”. This might actually be an accurate description of his game. I watched a lot of SEC basketball this past season and Waters was easily one of the best playmakers in the conference. He can light it up from 3, he is very shifty and his end-to-end quickness is second to none. His downsides are that he is undersized, and that his handle is not great. The handle can improve and obviously the size cannot. Another late 2nd round pick small point guard recently led the Celtics for a couple years to deep playoff runs, but I’m trying to remember his name… No, he is not Isaiah Thomas. Yet. The skillset is there, the talent is there, he just needs to be determined to pay his dues and put in the work and the sky is the limit. At the very least, this serves as insurance at the PG spot assuming Kyrie and the circus surrounding him is out of Boston.
Grade: C (With B Potential)
Overall Draft Night Performance: B-
Max Lissette: Overall, I would have liked the Celtics to maybe take a swing on a guy like Sekou Doumbouya at #14 in fear of him being the next guy who Ainge is criticized for missing on (he got taken one spot later at #15). It would have been nice for them to grab a Center like Goga Bitadze but I'm not sure I would have been happy taking him at #14, and he got taken at #18 by Indiana anyways. With those things aside, the fact that Danny filled some of the team's needs while clearing some more cap space that will likely be used to fill out the Center position, and grabbing another 2020 first-rounder, I felt like it was a pretty good night. Here are some highlights of the guys the Celtics took in case you want to get more familiar with them:
Photo: Julio Cortez/AP