After a 2022-23 campaign filled with high hopes and disappointment, the Boston Celtics are officially in the offseason.
They were a game away from extending their playoff run into the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, but an embarrassing Game 7 performance against the Miami Heat ruined any chance at redemption. Following another year without raising Banner 18, the C’s will now have some important roster decisions to make in the coming months.
But, before any monumental moves are made, the Celtics have the 2023 NBA Draft on the horizon. The big day takes place on Thursday, June 22 and while Boston only has one pick in the second round, this year’s playoffs have shown that elite talent is everywhere. The Celtics will have the No. 35 pick and hope to strike gold late in the draft like the Denver Nuggets did when they found two-time MVP Nikola Jokić:
Jokić was really drafted 41st during a Taco Bell commercial
He’s now a 2x MVP and headed to the Finals after winning WCF MVP pic.twitter.com/QM7qeQAShc
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 23, 2023
There are already a few projected picks Boston could make that might work well, but who’s someone that could come out of nowhere? Here’s one sleeper in the 2023 NBA Draft that the Celtics should target with the No. 35 pick.
UCLA’s Tyger Campbell is the 2023 NBA Draft sleeper the Celtics need to target
Point guard Tyger Campbell was a four-year starter for the UCLA Bruins who can bring a lot to the table. Although he’s just 5-foot-11, he was an essential part of a perennial tournament team and has guard skills that should translate to the NBA.
Partially due to his size, Campbell plays much more like a true point guard than most guys coming up in this year’s draft. He averaged 4.9 assists per game over the course of his college career and always had a knack for facilitating. The Celtics have former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart as their primary ball-handler, however, he’s never really been a complete passer.
Last year, the C’s drafted JD Davison to add some point guard depth and he even played limited minutes in a handful of games. The Alabama product seems promising, yet Campbell is more careful with the ball and arguably a better scorer. During UCLA’s 2022-23 season, he put up 13.4 points per outing while averaging just 1.6 turnovers. In Davison’s one and only year of college hoops, he averaged a whopping 2.9 turnovers per game and just 8.5 points. While in the G-League, Davison stepped up his scoring but still had the same unfortunate rate of 2.9 turnovers per game. For a Celtics squad that’s struggled with turnovers and bad ball handling, someone more like Campbell could be of use.
ICYMI over the weekend, UCLA’s Tyger Campbell averaged 10.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in two @nbagleague #EliteCamp contests in Chicago.
photo by NBAE via Getty Images#GoBruins | #NBADraft pic.twitter.com/1aFO1k2wlx
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) May 15, 2023
Davison aside, Campbell is also a decent defender in spite of his stature. He averaged 1.1 steals per game over four years and can disrupt passing lanes in a similar manner to Smart. Plus, it’s not like the Celtics haven’t utilized smaller guards before, as they had a fair amount of success years ago with two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas leading the team.
Even though Campbell isn’t on a lot of draft boards, other NBA teams have shown interest in him. The Los Angeles Lakers are of course connected to UCLA, and they hosted him for a workout on Tuesday.
Today in the gym: Tyger Campbell and Anton Watson pic.twitter.com/7fdwGJ1pqY
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 30, 2023
Another UCLA Bruin in Jaime Jaquez Jr. could fall to the Celtics as well, but there’s a much higher chance of Campbell being available at No. 35. Still, Jaquez is a skilled 6-foot-7 big who can score, shot block, and rebound at a high level. If Campbell isn’t likely, Jaquez could be a solid option for the C’s as veteran center Al Horford ages and forward Grant Williams ponders free agency.
Either way, Celtics fans have a right to be disappointed in their team’s finish, yet that doesn’t mean the draft can’t be exciting. Good players come from all rounds of the draft, and perhaps Campbell could be the right diamond in the rough for Boston.
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