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2021 NBA Mock Draft: Celtics take Auburn star in ESPN’s new projection originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics are focused on building momentum in the second half of the regular season and securing a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but it’s not too early for the front office to begin thinking about the 2021 NBA Draft.

Unlike several recent drafts, the Celtics don’t own multiple first-round picks.

This is probably a good thing for the C’s from a roster standpoint because the last thing this team needs is another young player trying to earn a regular spot in the rotation. There are enough of these players — including Robert Williams, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard, etc. — already in the fold. 

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ESPN experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz unveiled their new 2021 NBA Mock Draft on Thursday, and they project the Celtics taking Auburn star Sharife Cooper at No. 19 overall in Round 1.

Cooper is a point guard listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in his freshman season. Cooper also shot 39.1 percent from the field, 22.8 percent from 3-point range and 82.5 percent from the free throw line. Some of these shooting percentages are concerning, but his 2020-21 regular season is just a 12-game sample because of an NCAA eligibility issue that kept him out of 11 games early in the season.

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The Celtics selected a point guard in the first round of last year’s draft — Pritchard at No. 26 overall — and it’s proven to be a good decision so far. Point guard isn’t the top priority for the C’s entering the 2021 draft, but it’s a position that could need more depth depending on what moves are made in the offseason.

If Cooper is still on the board when the Celtics are on the clock, they should strongly consider drafting him. His scoring ability and impressive playmaking skill would be nice additions to Boston’s backcourt.