Where former Louisville stars Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell are concerned, mock drafts and expectations were thrown out the window in Thursday's NBA Draft.
Rozier went perhaps a tad earlier than expected at No. 16 to the Celtics, while Harrell surprisingly fell all the way to the Rockets at No. 32 overall. Nevertheless, congratulations are in order for both as they found good NBA homes with teams that are ready to compete in their respective conferences. You can't count Rick Pitino as one who's concerned with Montrezl's slide to the second round.
Rick Pitino on Montrezl Harrell slipping to the second round of the NBA draft pic.twitter.com/4QuiDEOMSM— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) June 26, 2015
Now that Rozier and Harrell are on their way to Boston and Houston, respectively, let's take a look at the teams they'll join and talk about where they fit in.
Terry Rozier, Celtics
We talked about this before the draft, but Boston has a lot of options at the guard spots, and they're all young. Rozier joins fellow draftee R.J. Hunter, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and James Young as another budding guard on Brad Stevens' squad.
So why would Danny Ainge load up his head coach's backcourt even more? For one, not all of those aforementioned guards are guaranteed to be in Boston when training camp rolls around later this year.
Whispers getting louder that the Celtics are willing to surrender prized guard Marcus Smart if it gets them in upper reaches of lottery— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 25, 2015
That particular scenario didn't play out Thursday, but it would make sense if the Celtics use one of their existing guards in a deal elsewhere this summer. Speaking of Ainge, don't look for him to deal Rozier if a trade does happen down the line.
Stevens on Rozier: "He's a favorite of Danny's. We think he's a really special talent. I'm excited about Terry. You'll enjoy watching him."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 26, 2015
Anyway, how will this work if everyone stays? The answer isn't simple, but here's one way to look at it:
For starters (heh), in this season's playoffs, Stevens went with a backcourt of Smart and Bradley alongside swingman Evan Turner, who also is under contract for next season.
Thomas served as an excellent bench spark in the postseason, averaging 17.5 points in almost 30 minutes per game. He also played a bench role after joining the Celtics during the regular season, so Stevens could stick with that formula heading into 2015-16. Boston was swept by the Cavs in Round 1, but this particular look bothered Cleveland for all four games.
One thing Thomas isn't, though, is a defensive ace. At 5-9, 185 pounds, there's only so much he can do. Rozier's added length, tenacity and tutelage under Pitino could help him find minutes immediately in Boston's rotation, perhaps next to the defensively-challenged Thomas.
Stevens likes willing defenders, and Rozier will give him that. In that sense, any guard combination of Rozier, Smart and Bradley would make the Celtics stout on the perimeter when they need it.
While there's certainly room for Rozier's defense and ability to create offensively depending on who's with him on the floor, there's also no denying that the guard situation off the bench is crowded. Young and Hunter will need run too, and while they're best off the ball as wing players and could easily play as forwards in smaller, shooter-heavy lineups, there are only so many minutes.
Coach Stevens has a lot to figure out, and for his sake, it would help tremendously if the Celtics' brass made some of those decisions for him in trades later this summer. Regardless, it will be fascinating to watch the Boston guard situation play out next season.
Montrezl Harrell, Rockets
Like Rozier, Harrell joins a roster with strong options already at his position.
The Rockets' big men currently under contract heading into next season are Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Kostas Papanikolaou (who's more of a small forward), Clint Capela and Joey Dorsey. Josh Smith, who was acquired in a mid-season trade with the Pistons, is an unrestricted free agent, but would like to return to Houston. They'd probably like to have him after the way he played in the postseason.
That sounds like a lot, so where do all of those players fit together? Well, thanks to injuries to almost all of those players last season, it's hard to figure out exactly what Kevin McHale likes to do with his frontcourt rotation in an ideal world.
What we do know is that Howard and Motiejunas started together when healthy, and once Smith showed up, he replaced Motiejunas in the lineup more often than not. Assuming Smith comes back, Motiejunas figures to be the first big off the bench if healthy, and will likely get some considerable minutes given his shooting ability and change of pace from Howard. Jones played very well in Motiejunas' absence in the playoffs, so he too will likely be an obstacle for Harrell.
Joey Dorsey was the next big off the bench for the Rockets last season, and while he's a big body with the ability to play tough defense and rebound, this is where Harrell can be a major upgrade. Harrell has much more offensive ability than Dorsey, and if he brings the tenacity we all watched at Louisville, he'll be able to play defense and rebound, too.
Harrell may find himself with limited minutes in the early going, but has the tools (the ever-important motor, athleticism, rebounding and shot blocking) to work his way into the fold ahead of the likes of Dorsey and Capela and into smaller lineups in a short amount of time. The Rockets, who were second to only the Warriors as far as pace goes last season, will want to find a way to use his athleticism and ability to attack the rim sooner rather than later.