Celtics draft guard Marcus Smart
BOSTON -- The Celtics selected Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft Thursday night and later added shooting guard James Young out of Kentucky at No. 17.
"First of all, we're very pleased that we were able to get these two guys where we got them," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "When you look at the draft, going into tonight, I had both of these guys in my top 11. At the end of the day, you can feel really good about that."
At 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, Smart owns an NBA-ready body and is known for being a physical presence at both ends of the floor. He can play off the ball but spent his sophomore season at Oklahoma State establishing himself as a point guard.
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At the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he liked Smart's fire, even after he was suspended three games for a fan-shoving incident.
"I sorta like Marcus Smart. I like his fire," Ainge said. Later, Ainge added: "I think he's a great kid, a great player and I think he'll have a bright future."
Boston worked out Smart twice, including as part of a guard-heavy session earlier this month. He was brought back this week to audition again.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said there was applause in the team's draft war room when it became clear Smart would be available at No. 6.
"Our war room is very happy with our pick," Grousbeck said. "My job is to be part of that and to be supportive. Our basketball guys are very excited and have been focusing on Marcus for several weeks. We really liked the top six or seven kids in the draft quite a bit, but I really thought he's pretty exceptional in a couple of ways and am really looking forward to having him."
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Celtics G Marcus Smart comments on his reaction to being selected by Boston with the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft, how he is perceived and more.
Later, Grousbeck added: "We think that this kid really has some special attributes. We like the fact that he's an instigator, back to Red [Auerbach]. As Red told me personally when I came in: 'You need instigators, not retaliators.' This kid is energetic. He's a bull. He's a force. When I met him, he filled the doorway. He's got that physique and that drive and that attitude that we really like around the Celtics."
Grousbeck was asked whether the pick meant anything to point guard Rajon Rondo's future with the Celtics.
"It's interesting. That wasn't in the topic of conversation," Grousbeck said. "We have confidence in Brad that he can manage a roster, but we also have confidence that, of the top-six pick, that we were going to pick the best available as opposed to try to [pick based on need]. That's a strategy that, when you're rebuilding a team, you take the best available athlete and then you let it all work out. We've got an All-Star point guard, so that's not in question here.
"I don't think this has any impact on Rajon at all."
Stevens said he envisions Smart meshing well with Rondo in the backcourt.
"I don't think there's any doubt, I think they can play together," Stevens said. "I think it will be great for Marcus to have a guy like Rondo to look up to, to learn from. Not many guys get that opportunity, especially early on in the draft like this. Marcus is another guy that I was thrilled that he was there at 6, because physically he's ready to play and he competes every single minute of every single day. That will do nothing but help your team, regardless of what position he's playing. I expect him to play some off the ball, I expect him to play some with the ball. But he's a young guy. He's going to be playing with a guy there that's been in the league for a long time, that can really help him learn about it. I think it's great. I think it'll be great for both of them."
The Celtics also owned the No. 17 pick as part of last year's blockbuster swap with the Brooklyn Nets and took Young, a 6-foot-7 swingman (with a 7-foot wingspan). He's regarded as a scoring wing after averaging 14.3 points per game as a Wildcats freshman. Young is also only 18, suggesting his game is still developing.
"[Young has] got a stroke that -- he's just going to get better and better," Stevens said. "He's a young guy. We felt like he was a very, very undervalued scoring wing in this draft. Everybody in this room had him ranked a lot higher than 17, so we were surprised he was available at 17. And thrilled that he was available at 17."
Young was regarded as a potential lottery candidate. The left-handed shooter must improve his 3-point stroke at the NBA level. He shot 34.9 percent beyond the college arc last season but offers versatility with his size on the wing.
"I've always looked and tried to say, OK, if we have a primary ball handler on the floor, 2 and 3 are pretty interchangeable in regards to actions," Stevens said. "Depending on who we are playing, we can kinda mix and match. I think he can play some 2, I think he can play some 3 against certain teams. We'll cross that bridge when we get there. But he's a player. And anybody that's a player, who can put the ball on the floor and put the ball in the basket -- we've talked about our struggles to score -- he's a guy that can create offense."
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The Celtics finished the 2013-14 season at 25-57 overall, tied with the Utah Jazz for the fifth-worst record in basketball, but lost a random drawing as a tiebreaker and landed at No. 6.
Ainge said before the draft that the team's decision to keep the picks did not necessarily suggest it is not trying to accelerate the rebuilding process.
"I think our initial goal when the season ended was to expedite a rebuilding process," Ainge said. "I don't think by taking 6 and 17 that that has ended. We've always been comfortable with 6 and 17 and knew that was the most likely scenario. But we can't rush something that's not there. We've made efforts to expedite and will continue to throughout the summer and just see what opportunities are there, but we'll try to remain opportunistic."
In the days leading up to the draft, much of the buzz around Boston was whether Kansas center Joel Embiid might slide within the team's reach. That hope ended when the Philadelphia 76ers selected Embiid at No. 3. Andrew Wiggins (Cleveland at No. 1) and Jabari Parker (Milwaukee at No. 2) rounded out the top three selections.
There were groans from the Celtics' draft party at TD Garden when Aaron Gordon went fourth to the Orlando Magic, while Australian point guard Dante Exum landed in Utah at No. 5. The Smart pick was met with some cheers as it was displayed inside the arena.
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