In recent years, the Celtics have tended to prioritize signing players with long-term potential who have plenty of room to grow.
This year, after an agonizing loss in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s possible they’ll look to fill an immediate need instead. High-ceiling players are enticing, but sometimes high-floor players are the way to go, especially this late in the draft.
Here are five prospects they should consider taking with the 35th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Adama Sanogo, UConn forward/center
You may remember Sanogo from his dominant NCAA Tournament run with UConn a few months ago.
At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, he makes up for his “lack” of traditional big man height with a strong foundation and nearly 7-foot-3 wingspan. Sanogo, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, averaged 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds this season and played his best basketball when it mattered most.
He can come in right away and make himself known. Although he averages 3 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes, it is beneficial. The Celtics really needed another big during their playoff run (yes, even Cody Zeller would have helped), and Sanogo can fill that role well.
He plays extremely hard, runs the floor decently well for his size and is a great teammate. Additionally, he has a steadily improving outside shot and is a sneaky passer. He won’t be a bust and is worth picking.
Dariq Whitehead, Duke guard/forward
Whitehead is 18 years old, but is an NBA-ready player from a talent standpoint.
The 6-foot-7 guard/forward has a unique blend of size, length and athleticism. He’s a guy who can provide instant energy off the bench next year.
At Duke, while he had a decent season with 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. fight, he didn’t really get to show his potential while dealing with injuries to a loaded roster. He was once considered a possible top-five pick, but had foot surgery last August and never quite hit his stride afterward.
Whitehead would fit in well as Jaylen Brown’s backup and would learn from him (assuming Brown stays). He plays downhill, has a great first step and has a chance to be an elite player in the NBA.
He has a high ceiling, but also has a high floor.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana forward
While it’s likely Jackson-Davis will go late in the first round, there’s a chance he’ll fall early in the second. If he does, the Celtics shouldn’t hesitate to take him.
He’s an Indiana guy, so Brad Stevens will like that. He also improved significantly with the Hoosiers, raising his scoring average from 13.5 as a freshman to 20.9 as a senior.
The word that comes to mind with Jackson-Davis is versatility. He averaged 10.8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.9 blocks, 0.8 steals and shot 58.1 percent from the field last year. He does a bit of everything, finishes well at the rim and has a special jumping ability.
He’s not a great shooter right now, but he has the potential to be a respectable one. Even if he doesn’t sharpen his shot, he still needs to stick. If he does, he could blossom into a great NBA player.
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky forward/center
The knock on Tshiebwe, like Sanogo, is that he’s “only” 6-foot-9 or so.
That said, he is an excellent – really excellent – rebounder. Tshiebwe stakes out position like few others and relentlessly pursues the ball as if his life depends on it. He averaged a whopping 15.1 boards in 2021-22, when he was the National Player of the Year, and 13.7 last season.
The Celtics need another guy who will dive the floor, keep plays alive and play with heart. Tshiebwe can be that guy. His post moves worked in college, but the next step is to develop a set of moves that will work in the NBA. He can get there.
Again, this list isn’t necessarily filled with guys who will one day average 20 points per game. match. It’s designed to highlight players who can contribute immediately and make game-winning plays on a championship team – think Christian Braun.
Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan guard/forward
OK, just for fun, here’s a long term project.
Bates, a 6-foot-9 wing who was ranked No. 1 in the country from sixth grade through his senior year of high school, was supposed to be the next big thing.
He had an up-and-down freshman year at Memphis and was later sentenced to 18 months of probation after pleads guilty for a weapons charge.
Bates, still 19, averaged 19.2 points and 5.8 rebounds last year with Eastern Michigan. The talent is still there, he just needs the right team to unlock it. The Celtics have a strong enough culture and enough hard-working veterans that Bates won’t be a distraction off the court.
His prowess on the field is intriguing, as his length, athleticism and ability to slide from point A to point B make him a first-round talent that will likely go in the second.