BY KEVIN CONWAY
This marks the second summer in a row that fans were expecting fireworks from the Celtics, only for expectations to fizzle out like a dud firecracker. I am going to look at the four main facets of the Celtics offseason: The draft, free agency, trades, and the roster as currently constructed.
The Celtics and many Celtics fans had high hopes going into the draft. The Celtics had four picks to start out the night, two firsts and two seconds (16, 28, 33, and 45).
During a predraft interview, team president Danny Ainge was so confident a move would be made that he said, “Right now, we don’t even know where we’ll be drafting or what position we’ll be in, and we think there’s going to be a lot of activity on draft night. So, stay tuned. Our draft pick may have been traded before we even make the pick.”
That optimism leading up to the draft quickly lead to disappointment as the Celtics were not able to consummate a deal to move up or trade picks for an impact player. The biggest disappointment of all had to have been when Justice Winslow, the swingman out of Duke, slipped and was available at No. 9. There have been many rumors about what the Celtics offered to Charlotte to move up from pick No. 16 to No. 9 — with some stories saying the Celtics offered as much as four first-round picks.
Nevertheless, the Hornets took Frank Kaminsky, who now really needs to perform lest the franchise look incredibly foolish for turning down that offer.
As Winslow went off the board at pick No. 10 to Miami, I considered the last remaining talent worth trading up for to be gone and the realization that the Celtics would again be stuck picking in the middle of the first round sunk in. I patiently waited as picks Nos. 11-15 were made with thoughts of a smallforward like Sam Dekker coming to mind as a possible pick due to the Celtics current roster makeup.
As pick No. 16 arrived and the commissioner announced the Celtics pick of Terry Rozier, I threw my hands in the air. Great, another combo guard who can’t shoot.
Terry Rozier: Terry was impressive in the summer league, averaging 12 points 2.8 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Rozier was billed out of college as a defensive stopper but a poor shooter who instead drove to the basket. In fact, there were rumors that other top prospects did not want to work out with Rozier because of his ferocious on-ball pressure.
Throughout the summer league however, I wasn’t that enthused about his defense seeing players routinely getting by him with a quick first step forcing a defensive rotation that potentially would lead to an easy bucket.
On the offensive side, I was impressed by Rozier, but that could have been because of the low expectations I had. In the Vegas Summer league Rozier shot 43 percent from three while shooting 33 percent from the floor overall. I would attribute that primarily due to shot selection and forcing things that weren’t there — but was impressed with the mechanics of his shot.
Hopefully in time and with a smaller role as a rookie, Rozier can cut out some of the poor shot selection that plagued him during summer league.
RJ Hunter: As dismayed as Celtics fans were with the Rozier pick at No. 16, they were happy with the Hunter pick at 28. A lot of analysts even suggested that if the Celtics had taken Hunter at 16 and Rozier at 28, their draft would been seen as much more successful by pundits rather than being plagued as having a first round reach.
Hunter is a pure shooter, which the Celtics desperately need. At 6-foot-6 he has good height for a shooting guard in the NBA, but due to his lack of strength, I question if he can make an impact on the court his rookie year. I believe coach Brad Stevens may be reluctant to play Hunter due to some defensive deficiencies off the bat. If Hunter can strengthen his body and get adjusted to the speed of the game at this level, he should be successful.
Jordan Mickey: Mickey is a guy that I really wanted the Celtics to draft and I think they took him at just the right point. While only 6-8 he has a 7-2 wingspan with solid athleticism, and really shined when LSU played Kentucky — the biggest test any big man would face in college basketball this year.
Mickey had the most successful summer league stint of any of the Celtics rookies, averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Right now the Celtics frontcourt is a bit of a logjam and Mickey will find himself competing with Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynk, David Lee and Tyler Zeller for playing time — but I do see the potential for Mickey to carve out a roll similar to Brandon Bass as a ceiling or Leon Powe as a floor.
Marcus Thornton: Naturally, with their last pick, the Celtics took another guard. Thornton has signed with a team in Australia for the 2015 season — however, the season Down Under is significantly shorter than the NBA season, and I look for him to join the Celtics’ D-League affiliate when the time is right.
Overall, I would give the Celtics’ draft a “C.” If the Celtics had failed to make the playoffs last year, they likely would have found themselves at the 10th pick and able to select Winslow (instead of the Heat).
The Celtics did make the playoffs, however, and while useful to give experience to young players it left the team’s options limited on draft night. Once the deal for Winslow failed to materialize, the Celts’ chance of getting an immediate impact player went downhill — and they instead had to take flyers on guys that all had some type of deficiency.
Hopefully, Coach Stevens can work these guys into his system a little during the 2015 season, but I won’t be holding my breath for any immediate benefits from this draft class.