With Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram sitting atop virtually every mock draft, the first two picks of the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday should be free of drama.
But after that, all bets are off.
The Boston Celtics will be next on the clock at No. 3 overall, and their options are plentiful. The Celtics reportedly are trying very hard to trade the pick as part of a package that potentially could net them a young All-Star like Jahlil Okafor or Jimmy Butler. Of course, there’s no guarantee Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be able to find a willing trade partner, though. And if he doesn’t, he’ll have an equally tough decision to make on draft night.
Below Simmons and Ingram lies a tier of five NBA draft prospects, each of whom could land anywhere in the top 10: Dragan Bender, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Jaylen Brown and Kris Dunn.
Each player has the talent and/or potential to be worthy of a No. 3 pick, and the Celtics reportedly have worked out or are planning to work out every player in that group, with the exception of Dunn. But who of this quintet would fit best in Boston?
Assuming the Celtics decide to keep the third pick and don’t make any huge trades on draft night (both big assumptions), here are Boston’s best options at No. 3, ranked from worst to best:
5. Jamal Murray, Guard, Kentucky
There’s no doubt Murray can score — he averaged 20 points per game as a freshman for Kentucky this season and reportedly impressed the Celtics in a recent pre-draft workout by hitting 79 of 100 3-pointers. But the 19-year-old still is a work in progress at the defensive end, and there are concerns about his athleticism, which could hinder his ability to score at the NBA level. Boston needs scorers, but Murray might be too much of a risk.
4. Kris Dunn, Guard, Providence
Yes, Dunn arguably is the best point guard in the draft, and he could be a potential franchise cornerstone if he lives up to expectations. But another ball-handler is the last thing the guard-heavy Celtics need. If Boston goes with Dunn, it almost guarantees Ainge will make another move to blow up a backcourt that already includes All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and 2015 draft picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter.
3. Jaylen Brown, Small Forward, California
The 6-foot-7 Brown is an elite athlete and is extremely versatile, both great traits to have in head coach Brad Stevens’ system. But the Cal product isn’t a great shooter — he shot just 29 percent from 3-point range this season — and was inconsistent at times offensively during his one season with the Golden Bears. Another inconsistent shooter isn’t exactly what Boston needs, but Brown has enough upside in other areas to be worthy of consideration.
2. Dragan Bender, Center, Croatia
At just 18 years old, Bender comes with plenty of risk. But he’s exactly what the Celtics need: a 7-foot big man who can protect the rim on the defensive end and stretch the floor on the offensive end. Boston lacks both talent and depth in its frontcourt, and while Bender likely would take a few years to develop, bringing him into the fold would go a long way in balancing out the roster.
1. Buddy Hield, Guard, Oklahoma
The whole point of the Celtics trying to trade the No. 3 pick is to get a proven, go-to scorer who can take over down the stretch. The reigning Naismath College Player of the Year has the potential to be that guy. Hield is one of the best shooters in the draft, particularly from 3-point range, making him a perfect fit for a team that ranked 28th out of 30 teams this season in 3-point shooting percentage. If trading the No. 3 pick isn’t an option, Hield should be Boston’s top target.
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