The Celtics hold the No. 45 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, a change from the recent trend where Boston owned a top-15 pick in four of the past five years. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens shipped off the team’s No. 16 selection to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Kemba Walker, leaving them with the lone second-rounder. So, with less than 10 days until the draft, what should Boston be looking for at 45?
Some fans were upset by the Celtics getting rid of their top-20 pick, but Boston’s previous stockpile of first-round selections led them to a position where they didn’t necessarily need another first-round rookie on its roster. Now, the Celtics shift their focus to second-round prospects and undrafted free agents ahead of NBA Summer League. Let’s go through some realistic targets.
Quentin Grimes, Wing, Houston
Grimes fits the mold of a prospect who the Celtics’ previous front office would have been all over. He was a highly-touted high school recruit whose college career didn’t go as planned, an archetype that the Danny Ainge-led regime targeted numerous times in recent years. Despite the bumpy road, Grimes presents solid value in the second round. The 21-year-old is a big, strong wing who can confidently shoot, rebound and plays his tail off on both ends. His size and footwork could easily make him a plus defender at the NBA level.
Grimes had a good showing at the NBA Draft Combine and showcased his shooting versatility during the five-on-five scrimmages at the end of the week. That is a more accurate representation of his game than his initial struggles with the movement shooting drills early in the week. Creating off the dribble would add an intriguing dynamic to his skill set, but for now, Grimes seems like a good second-round option as a projectable 3-and-D wing.
Grimes had a good workout with the Celtics shortly before the combine, according to a source.
Joe Wieskamp, Wing, Iowa
Wieskamp impressed me at the NBA Draft Combine last month in Chicago, showing off an increasingly well-rounded game. Wieskamp’s reputation is that of a marksman, which is still the case — he’s arguably the best shooter in the class — however, there are other projectable areas to his game.
Wieskamp struggled to defend at times during Big Ten play last season, but he showed flashes at the combine of someone who could be able to defend at the next level in the future. During the five-on-five scrimmages, Wieskamp battled inside on the glass and stayed with quick opponents along the perimeter thanks to surprisingly good lateral movement. Can he stick with NBA wings? That remains the biggest question mark. He also can run pick-and-rolls if needed, giving him some additional versatility. His measurables were very impressive at the combine, emphasizing the athleticism that was often overlooked at Iowa.
It’s the shooting, however, that makes him so valuable in the second round. A 6-foot-5 knockdown shooter with a 6-foot-11 wingspan is a player any NBA team can use to space the floor.
Wieskamp worked out for the Celtics before last month’s combine.
Herb Jones, Forward, Alabama
Jones is one of the most intriguing second-round prospects. At 22, he’s older than some of his counterparts, which will push some evaluators away. But Jones’ four seasons at Alabama showcased a nice development trend for the 6-foot-6 forward. His perimeter defense is incredibly impressive for his size thanks to great footwork and versatility. Simply put, Jones is a really smart defender with fantastic physical tools.
His limited offense is the reason he’ll likely fall into the second round. Jones averaged under eight points in 20-plus minutes per night during his first three seasons at Alabama before posting 11.2 points per game last year. That was aided by his improved shooting numbers and a much smoother set of mechanics. Jones does have good vision and passing abilities for a player his size, which is a nice plus.
If he can just become an average shooter, Jones will be a steal in round two, considering his defense is about as good as any player in this class. The developments of the last year or so are encouraging, which is why I would be willing to bet on Jones in the second round without thinking twice (especially at No. 45).
Austin Reaves, Wing, Oklahoma
Reaves’ combine performance was very impressive, to say the least. In talking with folks in Chicago last month, it was clear he opened some eyes with his output throughout the week. He can serve as both a playmaking and scoring guard, whose work ethic sticks out among other strengths. Reaves is a gamer, and he’ll win over fans wherever he lands.
His shooting numbers at Oklahoma leave you wanting more, but a lot of that has to do with his poor shot selection. Reaves has good mechanics and a nice touch, meaning it’s easy to project him as a consistent shooter at the next level. His shooting performance at the combine would support that, as he knocked down an array of shots, both off the dribble and off the catch-and-shoot. He didn’t skip a beat on the perimeter, with or without the ball.
Who he guards in the NBA is a difficult question, but his toughness and smart defensive activity will aid him if his impressive offensive skill set keeps him on the floor. There’s a good chance he’s available at No. 45, and if Boston is looking for a scorer, he should be toward the top of its list.
Reaves has significant league-wide interest but has yet to work out for the Celtics, per source.
Daishen Nix, Guard, G League Ignite
Nix looked out of shape with the G League Ignite, which created some serious concern around his draft stock. The 19-year-old showed up to the combine looking slimmed down and constantly emphasized his focus on conditioning and eating right during his interviews, a positive that was immediately noted by everyone in attendance. There were some on-court struggles, however. Nix’s lack of shooting and athleticism really stuck out during the five-on-five scrimmages. He would have benefitted from one more season in the G League program, but now has the look of a second-round project. That was evident while playing in front of NBA front offices at Wintrust Arena.
Still, there remains a case for taking a shot on Nix. At 6-foot-4, he has good size for a point guard, which pairs nicely with his court vision and passing. He’s up there with some of the best passers in the class and has great patience and touch in the pick-and-roll. Nix’s body control and toughness allow him to finish inside as well, which helps to make up for his shooting.
Nix met with Stevens and the Celtics during the combine last month.
Aamir Simms, Forward, Clemson
Simms has been a bit overlooked during the pre-draft process, but he was one of my biggest winners at the G League Elite Camp. He has a great combination of size and skill at 6-foot-7 with a wingspan just north of seven feet. Simms shot 40% from deep as a senior to go along with an 82.5% clip from the free throw line. He also averaged 5.6 assists per 100 possessions during his senior season.
There certainly are things to like with Simms game, and teams have given him strong feedback throughout his post-combine workouts, according to sources. (The Celtics have yet to work him out, per source.) He’d be a reliable option off the end of a bench almost immediately if given the opportunity. Simms isn’t projected to get selected on many boards, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that changes on draft night. If not, he’ll be a great option as an undrafted free agent.
Brandon Boston Jr., Wing, Kentucky
If Boston somehow falls to No. 45, which I doubt he will, the Celtics should take a chance on him. He has a significantly higher ceiling than any of his second-round counterparts and is undoubtedly worth a shot this late in the draft. Boston had a rough time in his one season at Kentucky, something we’ve seen before from NBA prospects in the Wildcats system. He isn’t as good as evaluators thought he was when he was projected as a lottery pick, but he’s almost certainly better than he looked last season. If he slides down the board, he’s worth the pick solely off of his upside.
Potential Summer League targets:
Matt Coleman, Guard, Texas (Read more about Coleman here.)
Duane Washington Jr., Guard, Ohio State
Yves Pons, Forward, Tennessee
Trendon Watford, Forward, LSU
Aaron Wiggins, Wing, Maryland
John Petty, Wing, Alabama