Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Celtics In Position To Go On A Bender

The NBA Draft Lottery was held last night and the Celtics, who have possession of the Nets first round pick, ended up with the third overall pick and will be on the board after the 76ers go first and the Lakers go second.

Celtics fans are going to be complaining today.  Expect to hear a lot of "It's just like 1997 and 2007 when we got screwed!"

That's because this draft is supposed to be about two players at the top, LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram.

Don't get me wrong, after watching both Simmons and Ingram play this past season, I was hoping that the ping-pong balls would bounce Boston's way and one of those potential All-Stars would be wearing green for the next decade-and-a-half.  Simmons is a gifted passer who can operate as a 6-10 point guard while also showing the skill to be a 20-10 guy.  Ingram is a scorer who reminds me of a less polished Kevin Durant at the same stage of his career.

However, the top of this draft is more than just Simmons and Ingram.

There are three guards - Jamal Murray of Kentucky, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma, and Kris Dunn of Providence - that are likely to make an impact for whoever drafts them.  Marquette forward Henry Ellenson and Cal wing Jaylen Brown are intriguing as well.

There is also Dragan Bender, an 18-year-old, 7-1 forward from Croatia, who will go at the top of this draft.  While you're unlikely to know much about him, go back to the top of this post and take three minutes to watch his highlight package.

Done?  Good.  If you want more, search YouTube.  There are plenty of video highlight packages available to introduce you to all the positives of Dragan Bender.  Take a look at this column on Bender for a more in-depth look at his game and potential.

I hope you noticed his athleticism and ability to run the floor in addition to being able to finish with both hands near the basket, an ability to finish through contact, a knack for blocking shots, and - most importantly - his three-point range.

Bender played this past season for Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Premier League.  While the level of competition will be criticized, let's not forget that Simmons faced off with South Alabama and North Florida this year while Ingram played Georgia Southern and Elon.

Bender is likely going to be available for the Celtics at the third pick.  While one never really knows what Danny Ainge is going to do, drafting and developing Bender into a star should be a serious option for the Celtics.

Ainge will have many chances to trade this pick and names such as Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jahlil Okafor have been connected to Boston as potential targets of Ainge.  Players of that caliber will likely require Ainge to move the third pick.  If Ainge follows that route, I will trust his judgement.  He has constructed one championship team out of a collection of draft picks and young players so my faith tells me he can do it again.

If Ainge decides to keep the pick, there will be pressure to add a more experienced college player that can help the Celtics immediately as the prevailing opinion is that Bender will need more time to develop his body and his game.

The hope here is that Ainge, if he's keeping the pick, will take Bender.  There is certainly a chance he turns into another European bust in the mold of Darko Milicic or Nikoloz Tskitshvili but there's also a chnace he can be a Euro like Dirk Nowitski, a certain Hall of Famer who has won a championship and an MVP, or Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks rookie who established himself as a future star this past season with his shooting and defense.

Come on Danny, if it's not used in a trade to acquire a player that can do for this version of the Celtics what Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett did back in 2007-08, roll the dice on the Croatian kid who just might be the first piece to the puzzle of the next Celtics dynasty.

No comments: