BOSTON — The Boston Celtics loaded up on backcourt depth in the NBA draft on Wednesday night, picking Vanderbilt shooting guard Aaron Nesmith and Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard in the first round.
The Celtics used the No. 14 pick on Nesmith, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound sophomore who was averaging 23 points and shooting 51 percent before a foot injury ended his season 14 games in. Some analysts called him the best shooter in the draft.
“The shooting is his thing,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “When you can put the ball in the basket, that certainly is a benefit.”
Nesmith called himself an “absolute sniper” and said he wanted to make life easier for Celtics veterans like Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown. He described himself as “a guy that’s always going to be there, work hard and earn his stripes.”
“I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be the best player I can be, so that includes defense.”
With the 26th overall pick, the Celtics selected Pritchard, who was the Pac-12 player of the year after leading the conference with 20.5 points per game and 5.6 assists. Stevens praised his toughness.
“It should be fun to watch all these guys battle it out for playing time,” Stevens said, noting that the pandemic has scrambled the offseason schedule. “It’s come and get ready for real basketball in a couple of weeks. That should be a big challenge for all these guys.”
Boston traded the No. 30 pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, who used it to take Desmond Bane from Texas Christian. The Celtics added Israeli point guard Yam Madar with the 17th pick in the second round.
“The plan will probably be to keep him overseas for at least another year and watch him over there,” basketball boss Danny Ainge said.
Ainge had been working in the days and hours leading up to the draft to package the picks to move up in the first round. But he was unable to find a deal — no one did in the early part of the first round at all, in fact.
“It was not as eventful as we thought,” Ainge said. “We did have some discussions about moving up and moving back. We just hung in there and we’re fortunate we got our guy.”
Still looming for the Celtics: an opt-out deadline for Gordon Hayward that the sides agreed to push back to Thursday.
“It’s their option. It’s their choice. They get to do what they want,” Stevens said, adding that he didn’t need to pitch Hayward on staying. “I’ve talked to those guys all year long. … As they get closer to those deadlines, I say ‘If you need me, let me know.’ He knows us, he knows me and this entire situation.”
Story by Jimmy Golen.