The Boston Celtics’ rise to contention did not happen overnight. It took Danny Ainge sleepless nights to form the core of the team, which now consists of All-Stars and promising players. And while free agency and trades brought in the likes of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Gordon Hayward, the draft also played a major role in Boston’s newfound success.
Sporting News writer Sean Deveney feels the Celtics can add another piece to their championship with another great find at the 2018 NBA Draft.
There’s no bigger proof of the Celtics’ draft brilliance than the pair of wing prodigies Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who were both taken No. 3 overall in the last two NBA Drafts. Brown almost doubled his production from his rookie season, as he nicely filled the shoes left void by Jae Crowder as a two-way impact player. Tatum produced right out of the gates, adding another dimension to the team with his versatility and a surprisingly reliable three-point stroke.
Ainge’s uncanny ability to find prospects that fit the Celtics’ system will be tested again this year. With the Los Angeles Lakers 2018 first-round draft pick likely to be conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets pick going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston finds themselves without a lottery selection for the first time in three years.
The upcoming crop of draft hopefuls doesn’t present a lot of can’t miss prospects beyond the top 10, so picking the right talent is going to be a challenge for Ainge and his team.
In a recent podcast with Adam Kaufmann of Celtics Beat on CLNS Media, Deveney agreed that finding a gem between 25th to 30th overall will be a brutal task given the lack of depth in the draft. Addressing their frontcourt need will be a priority for the Celtics’ front office this summer, and this coming draft presents several skilled big men.
The Celtics won’t be getting any of those unicorn bigs (DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Miles Bridges, and Jaren Jackson), but Deveney believes there’s still some real talent in the late 20s’ of this year’s draft.
He thinks Michigan Wolverines’ big Mo Wagner would fit well with the Celtics because of his size, mobility, and ability to stretch the defense with his nice outside game.
“The kid from Michigan I like, the German kid Wagner. I like his game and I think he would fit pretty well with the Celtics. I think he will be around for a late first-round pick.”
The 7-foot German put up career numbers in his third year with the Wolverines, averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 27.5 minutes per contest. He also shot 52 percent from the floor and 39 percent from beyond the arc throughout Michigan’s campaign this season.
Wagner, who also powered Michigan to a Big Ten tournament championship this year, is projected to be taken somewhere around late first round to early second round. In the latest Mock Draft by Big Ten’s blog site Land of 10, Wagner is slated at No. 27 and coincidentally selected by the Celtics.
Of course, it’s too early to determine Wagner’s landing spot in the NBA. There’s even the possibility he might end up in the mid-first round, especially if he puts up another big performance against Villanova in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game. But no matter what happens on Monday, Wagner has already punched his ticket to the NBA with his inspired Big Ten tournament run along with that monstrous 21-point, 15-rebound game against Chicago Loyola in the Final Four.