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Recapping the Draft: Meet the Celtics Rookies

Kelly Olynyk (Ben Margot/AP)

The Celtics made headlines this week as general manager Danny Ainge finally decided to blow the roster up, sending head coach Doc Rivers to the L. A. Clippers and reportedly finalizing a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Meanwhile, Thursday night’s draft has taken a backseat as far as the Celtics are concerned. With the rebuilding process well underway, it’s time now to look to the future. Let’s take a look at Boston’s three rookies, their credentials, and what role they might play in 2013-14.

The Celtics will introduce their two new draft picks to the Boston media today, let’s meet them now, along with one of their un-drafted rookie counterparts.

Round 1, Pick 13: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga

The Celtics originally held only the 16th pick in the Draft and no second-rounders. With a whopping nine first-rounders in the next five drafts as a result of the Clippers and Nets deals, second-round selections have become expendable, so Ainge traded two of them to Dallas, along with the 16th pick, to move up to number 13. There, the Celtics took Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk, a college star whose potential as a pro is still unclear.

The Canadian junior averaged 17.8 points per game for a Bulldogs team that cruised through the regular season, going a perfect 16-0 in West Coast Conference play and earning a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. The Bulldogs’ season came to a disappointing end, however, with a 76-70 upset in the second round at the hands of Wichita State. Olynyk led all scorers in that game with 16 points, albeit on a less-than-stellar 8-for-22 shooting performance.

Olynyk was a first-team All-American as well as the WCC player of the year in 2012-13, and was widely considered the best offensive big man in the draft. His defensive ability on the other hand is limited, and he averaged just 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks despite standing 7 feet tall. Olynyk took a year off from his college career as a late growth spurt forced him to reinvent himself as a center after originally being a point guard. While he successfully adapted to the low post on the offensive end, his toughness and willingness to play physically have come into question, which would seem to put him at odds with the Celtics’ typically hard-nosed style of play.

Still, Ainge has been high on Olynyk since the beginning of the scouting process. While some see him more as a power forward, the current composition of the Celtics’ roster will probably force him to play center. He’s also likely to play big minutes with Kevin Garnett leaving town and, although he fell down draft boards in the days leading up to the draft, Olynyk, who was also an Academic All-American this year, is thought to be one of the smartest and most NBA-ready among this year’s crop of rookies.

Round 2, Pick 23 (53 Overall): Colton Iverson, C, Colorado State

The Celtics acquired the 53rd pick, Colorado State senior Colton Iverson, from the Pacers for cash considerations. Like Olynyk, Iverson is a 7-footer, but he outweighs his new teammate by about 15 pounds and is more of a pure center. Iverson played his first three years of college ball at Minnesota before transferring to Colorado State, where he became a key player and put himself on NBA teams’ radars. He put up solid numbers in his only year as a Ram, averaging 14.2 points on 59.6 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds per game, all team highs.

Iverson was named to the All-MWC first team as Colorado State finished in second place in the Mountain West. In the NCAA Tournament, he pulled down a game-high 13 boards in a second-round win over Missouri, but the Rams were no match for eventual champion Louisville in the third round, where Iverson recorded 9 points and 7 rebounds in an 82-56 beatdown.

Iverson is the opposite of Olynyk in a number of ways- he’s a good finisher around the rim but doesn’t have Olynyk’s range, and he’s a much more physical player and  rebounder. A secound-rounder’s place on the roster is never guaranteed, but Iverson could benefit from the Celtics’ current state of disarray, as he and Fab Melo are the only pure centers currently on the roster.

Undrafted free agent: Phil Pressey, PG, Missouri

On Friday, the day after the Draft, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Celtics had signed Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, a move that hasn’t been made official yet. The consensus on Pressey is that he should have stayed in college for his senior year, but it was still a surprise that he went undrafted on Thursday night. As a sophomore, Pressey was second-team All-Big 12, and led the conference in both assists and steals. In 2012-13, with Missouri now in the SEC, he was an all-conference first-teamer and led the Southeast in assists. On December 28, in an overtime loss at UCLA, he tied an SEC record with 19 assists, and added 19 points.

Pressey’s decision-making was ultimately what led to him falling out of the draft altogether. While he recorded 12.1 points, 7.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game, he also averaged an awful 3.5 turnovers while shooting just 37.6% from the floor. Still, his defensive prowess and court vision make him, on paper, a good fit for the Celtics. The bad news for him is that Ainge will probably look for a veteran point guard to back up Rajon Rondo this offseason, when there will be plenty available, and that will likely make Pressey expendable.

About Nick García - @N_A_Garcia

Nick is the Celtics and college sports editor at Sports of Boston. He writes about basketball, football and anything else that comes his way. Follow him on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

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