Despite their recent two-game skid — and a particularly bloated injury report — the Boston Celtics have clearly figured some things out after a rough start to the season. Particularly on the defensive end, where the team ranks fourth league-wide in D-rating (108.0) since the NBA trade deadline.
Still, it has become clear that the Celtics need some fresh faces in the mix before they can hope to reclaim a spot among the best clubs in the Eastern Conference.
To that end, much of the offseason chatter among fans will likely center on the trade market and free agency. However, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will also need to make the most of his draft picks.
While he’ll likely have his work cut out for him — the Cs are neither good enough to make major noise in the playoffs nor bad enough to lock down a high draft pick — Ainge may still have an opportunity to bring in a top-notch prospect.
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Bleacher Report: Ziaire Williams Is a “Realistic” Target
On Tuesday, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman compiled his list of three realistic draft targets for every team in the Association. Headlining the Celtics’ trio was a player who was once considered one of the 10 best high school recruits in America.
Specifically, Stanford wing and former McDonald’s All-American Ziaire Williams.
“General manager Danny Ainge has a history of valuing RSCI rankings and high school scouting, and not putting too much stock into freshman stats or inefficiency for one-and-done prospects. Williams, a 5-star recruit, didn’t shoot well at Stanford, but for a 6’8″ forward, he has a smooth, projectable jumper and an ability to shoot off the dribble, handle in pick-and-rolls and cover ground (and different positions) defensively.”
In his lone season with the Cardinal, Williams displayed a versatile skill set, averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and nearly one steal per contest. However, he connected on just 37.4% of his shot attempts and 29.1% from three-point range.
He also had one of the lower free throw rates on the squad and led Stanford in turnovers, with 2.9 per contest (or 6.0 per 100 possessions).
Still, he’s a plus athlete with a wingspan approaching seven feet.
Ainge Has Hit on Prospects Like Williams Before
Wasserman’s assessment that Ainge has leaned on scouting over underwhelming freshman statistics rings true. And that strategy has definitely paid off in the past. Case in point: Jaylen Brown, who was the picture of inefficiency during his lone season at Cal.
Playing as the Golden Bears’ No. 2 to combo guard Tyrone Wallace, Brown put up a cool 14.6 points per contest as a frosh. However, he did so on just 43.1% shooting from the floor, 29.4% from distance and 65.4% from the charity stripe.
Based on his freshman performance alone, one could have looked at Brown and discerned that he was a non-shooting athlete with high bust potential.
Fast-forward to now and Brown is an All-Star and arguably the most efficient scorer on Boston’s roster. This season, he boasts an effective field goal percentage of 56.5 and is scoring a healthy 1.3 points per shot attempt.
Williams may not have the same strength or overall upside that Brown had as a 19-year-old, but he could develop some similar traits in the Celtics’ system.