The Celtics selected Croatian center Ante Zizic with the No. 23 pick of the 2016 NBA draft on Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
Zizic is one of several very good Croatian prospects in this year’s NBA draft, which also features Dragan Bender and Ivica Zubac.
Zizic, whose older brother has had a successful career in Europe, was one of the best rebounders in the Adriatic League. At 7’0", his size is a major asset, and he's just athletic enough to provide an offensive spark. His game will require some transitioning to the NBA, where he’ll have to deal with much more athletic big men.
Earlier in the first round, the Celtics drafted Cal’s Jaylen Brown and French forward Guerschon Yabusele.
Strengths: Zizic’s size, rebounding and toughness have intrigued NBA evaluators and suggest he can fill a garbage-man role. He shot 65% from the floor and 72% from the line and was one of the most prolific rebounders in the Adriatic League, which has a recent history of producing bigs. He did all this as a 19-year-old. His athleticism is solid, and he’s physical enough to have success defensively when he comes over. Zizic has the right type motor to pair with the skills, and for teams with multiple picks makes sense as a stash possibility.
Weaknesses: He could use more polish in all areas and will have to adjust to a much more physical, athletic game in the NBA, where bullying people with his size will prove a taller task. Zizic has succeeded with his natural tools and talent, but will have to couple that with new wrinkles as he makes his transition to the next level.
Explanation: The Celtics must have really loved Yabusele at 16 — they passed on Zizic, a more accomplished, stashable player at that spot and will be happy to land him here. He’s a definite talent, known for his rebounding and toughness, and will probably be staying overseas. It looks like Boston will hang on to this pick and continue to gather assets. This is a sensible option. - Jeremy Woo