The past few NBA drafts have not yielded immediate help for the Boston Celtics. Looking at the last few drafts, it is safe to say Ainge has not been at his best lately. The 08 draft yielded nothing. The 2009 draft was probably Ainge’s worst as both J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were swings and misses. Walker would go on to be a mild contributor with New York, but hardly a score for Ainge with Walker giving Boston nothing his first year. At least Ainge flipped them for Nate Robinson and a solid NBA Finals run. 2010 would turn into a solid draft with Avery Bradley becoming a stud, but he was not ready to contribute until middle of last season. Last year’s rookies E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson got some minutes, but they hardly had an impact last year on Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals with neither man making the rotation. Once again Ainge dealt his young chips and got himself a solid player in Courtney Lee for this year. However, this trend of rookies not making an impact in Boston might end this year as Ainge has drafted some guys that could earn some rotation minutes.
Any conversation of a rookie making an impact in Boston starts and ends with first round pick Jared Sullinger. Sullinger has made quite the impression this summer to the point he has earned a spot in Doc Rivers rotation. Unlike previous rookies, Sullinger has shown to be very polished on the offensive end. He never seems rushed on the offensive end as he is patient and waits to make the right move to the basket. Once he makes that move the man can finish with some great touch on his shot and in fact he can still score despite contact. The best part about Sullinger is he has a great nose for the glass. He fights for everything and usually ends up with the ball. Sullinger has said numerous times that he will focus on rebounding all season and that is huge news for a team lacking in rebounding like the Boston Celtics were last year.
The only issue that could keep Sullinger from getting minutes is how quickly he learns NBA defense. A player must play defense to earn minutes from Doc Rivers. However, since the main compliment given to Sullinger is that he knows how to play the game and is a hard working student of his craft means that this defense learning should be no issue for the rookie.
The Boston Celtics other first round pick Fab Melo could also find his way into the rotation next season. Melo is clearly a project on offense, but he did show solid defensive instincts. Melo rotates well and seems to have a nose for shot blocking. If Melo gets some more work in with Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, than perhaps his growth will be a lot a quicker and Melo could find some minutes. If those guys can get Greg Stiemsma ready than a more talented Melo could find the rotation.
However, Melo is a long shot to play right now. He is the fourth center on the roster. KG, Chris Wilcox, and Jason Collins are all ahead of him on the depth chart. The well known fact in Boston is injuries occur to Boston centers. Since 2009, it seems every year that at least one to two big men go down. I hope the veterans stay healthy, but should they go down at least Melo is waiting in the wings.
Kris Joseph and Dionte Christmas could also make some noise for the Celtics. Christmas showed a great all around game during the summer. He showed he could defend, score, play with energy, and play defense. If he plays this hard during training camp and an injury occurs than Christmas could be in line to get a shot at minutes.
Joseph also had a solid camp. Joseph is right now the only other player on the roster besides Jeff Green that can back up Paul Pierce. Joseph has solid length and can defend. He also has a solid offensive game. If there is an injury to either man ahead of him on the depth chart or Doc wants to rest Pierce, Joseph will play.
The bottom line is Danny Ainge did a nice job infusing this team with young talent. The young legs will push the vets in practice at worst. However, a guy like Jared Sullinger could make a big impact very quick into the season. If he does than Ainge would have pulled off another steal with a late lottery pick contributing on a contender right away. Stay tuned for more on this story as it develops. Remember Go Green Or Go Home!!!!!!