I got a little wrapped up in the football season this year, I have to admit. Between picking every NFL game against the spread for MTAF and having one of my more successful fantasy football seasons, the sport got more than its usual share of my attention.
This has meant that I have watched the fewest amount of professional basketball games in at least 7 or 8 years. Good year to do so, though, because as I said to former sports fan Pat Hack, it’s hard to watch games where you’re actively rooting for your favorite team to lose. It’s a weird feeling. The Celtics have been such a gritty team with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, that even when you knew that they could never win a title (like last year), you still HAD to root for them to win.
Not this season. It’s a fun team with an awesome coach, but any Celtics fan whose goal is a championship is pulling for losses this year. In that spirit, I’m going to rank the 10 college players I think would have the best long term impact on the team. I’m hoping to do this at least once a month to get an idea on how much this list has changed over the season.
10. Rodney Hood – SG
Hood is generally praised for one thing – the fact that he’s a 6’8 shooting guard. I like pairing a guard like Rondo with a guard like Hood.
9. Willie Cauley-Stein – C
This is the guy I think Boston ultimately ends up with. I don’t think they can get as drastic about their tanking as teams like Milwaukee and Utah, mostly because of their head coach and point guard, so I’d bet they pick somewhere between 8-11. Perfect spot to find a defensive-minded, but soft, big man that you can plug in next to Jared Sullinger.
8. Marcus Smart – PG
There will be a few guys that Danny Ainge has to pick simply by virtue of them falling to him. If Marcus Smart falls this far, Ainge should pick him up and figure out if he can play with Rondo. Why not. Having a lock down defensive back court of Rondo, Smart, and Avery Bradley wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
7. Dante Exum – PG
I can’t write about Exum. I don’t know a thing about the guy. He’s Australian and Chad Ford thinks he’s in the mix at #1. So if he falls to 7, you take him.
6. Aaron Gordon – PF
Gordon looks and plays like Blake Griffin. Rajon Rondo would throw 34 alley-oops to Blake Griffin per game if they played together. Maybe Gordon doesn’t make the C’s a title contender, but he makes them fun as hell.
5. Noah Vonleh – PF
Here’s where it gets interesting. I love Vonleh. I think he’s the last guy on this list that the Celtics have a real shot at drafting, and I think that Ainge has the pieces to move up and grab him if necessary. He plays hard, he rebounds hard, and he defends hard.
4. Andrew Wiggins
The order of 4-1 depends on where you rate each’s major skill, I think. Obviously NBA GMs are going to consider oodles of factors I’ll know nothing about, such as the guy’s mental makeup, work ethic, and ability to overcome adversity. But for this novice observer, I see 1 major asset to each guy. For Wiggins, it’s his insane athleticism. I rate that 4th.
3. Julius Randle
Randle’s big asset is rebounding. He’s going to eat pretty much every board anywhere near him and then he’s going to clear out the defense with his elbows. Both are necessary skills to function as a low post power forward in today’s NBA.
2. Joel Embiid
Embiid’s asset is potential. Watch him once and you’ll immediately recognize the fluidity about him that you don’t see in many other raw freshmen. I like potential, but if Embiid is their guy they need to trade a 28 year old Rondo now. He’ll be 32 as Embiid is rounding into true form.
1. Jabari Parker
Parker’s been my guy since the jump. Not only have I been a long time Duke fan (Hurley, Hill, Laettner, and Hill – that team made me love college hoops), but you are not winning games in the East without size at the 3. And that’s Jabari Parker’s biggest asset.
Thank you for reading.