While the Boston Celtics may have been hoping for bigger returns, their haul at the 2015 NBA Draft could pay dividends at some point in the near future. Danny Ainge turned heads when he selected Louisville guard Terry Rozier with the 16th pick of the first round, but while that move was deemed a reach by many draft pundits, Ainge redeemed himself by grabbing Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter with the 28th pick. He rounded out his draft class with LSU’s Jordan Mickey with the 33rd pick and William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton with the 45th pick, although Thornton signed in Australia for this upcoming season.
Rozier, Hunter and Mickey all bring some intriguing skills to the Celtics. While Rozier at the time seemed like a reach at 16, he could ultimately find his way on the court due to his defensive nature. Mickey had an impressive Summer League stint, but Boston’s frontcourt is already crowded with veteran options.
Then there’s Hunter, who was cast as a potential lottery pick by some experts leading up to the June draft. Many teams may end up regretting that he was still available for Boston with the 28th pick. Hunter’s peers understand his talent and they voted him as the second-best steal in the annual survey of NBA rookies. That’s a list that interestingly enough also included Rozier, who tied for sixth.
Hunter brings a good mix of skills to the table, but it’s his elite shooting that make him the best bet to have an immediate impact on the 2015-16 Celtics. The Celtics were 27th in the league in three-point percentage last season, so giving Hunter some minutes seems like a logical solution to that problem. His presence on the floor alone would be something that opposing defenses will have to account for, and that was an option that last year’s team simply didn’t have. Brad Stevens was able to get a lot of mileage out of the Celtics’ offense last season with not a lot of options, but the addition of Hunter and more minutes for second-year wing James Young could have a profound impact in opening up the offense.
One thing that could make the transition easier for Hunter is that he isn’t just a shooter. Like most NBA rookies, he needs to get stronger and improve his body for the rigors of an NBA season, but he has a high basketball IQ and projects to be a decent enough defender to warrant playing time. He’s the son of a basketball coach and doesn’t figure to have any problems understanding what Stevens will want from him on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. At this point, Hunter looks like he’d be a great fit to slot in behind Avery Bradley as the team’s backup shooting guard. If he’s able to play under control and knock down shots, then he could end up being a big factor for the Celtics next season.
Boston made big strides last year under Stevens, and this group of rookies should help advance that. Stevens recently lauded their work ethic, and that should carry over to training camp where there will be a lot of competition across the roster, which is always a good thing for a young team.