Celtics Draft Profile: Cliff Alexander

Cliff Alexander was the number two rated prospect coming out of high school last year, and now he's projected to go in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft. Someone is going to get an excellent prospect, and Danny Ainge might be that someone.

Cliff Alexander had a checkered season at Kansas, but he proved he could play before being removed from the team. Currently projected to go in the 40's, Alexander seems like the type of player 29 GM's are going to regret not taking. Alexander did show that he has a long way to go, but his work ethic and intensity is going to help him get better. Alexander measures in at 6'8 1/2, 239 pounds and he projects to be a power forward/center in the NBA. His long arms allow him to defend players bigger than him and also help him with his shot blocking ability. Alexander was the number two rated high school prospect in 2014 before making his way to Kansas to play for Coach Self and the Jayhawks.

Alexander is not a great scorer, getting most of his baskets off dunks, but he has skills that good teams are looking for and that will help him carve out his niche in the NBA. Alexander is an excellent rebounder, offensively and defensively, using his instincts, motor, and strength to outwork opponents for the ball. He is also an excellent defender, even on players that are taller than him. Alexander may not be a true 6'9, but he more than makes up for it with his 7'3 wingspan. Alexander does a good job setting screens, a skill that his next NBA coach will surely take advantage of. He does need to work on his footwork because he isn't going to overpower NBA players as easily as he did in high school, a fact he learned last year in the NCAA when he struggled for the first half of the season.

Alexander attended Curie High School in Chicago, Illinois, where he starred in basketball and football. Curie was considered a great football prospect heading into high school, and he had never played organized basketball. His freshman year he decided to start playing and he found his calling. Alexander didn't crack the lineup until the second half of the season, but when he did there was an immediate impact. Local scouts noticed him immediately and all of a sudden the freshman newbie from Chicago was on the scene. As a sophomore, Alexander started 24 games, averaging 13.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He led Curie to the league championship, but he struggled and they lost by four.

Heading into his junior year, Alexander was nationally recognized as one of the top prospects. Although he couldn't get his team to the finals that season, it wasn't because he was struggling. Alexander played in some historic high school games, matching up with probable top three pick Jahlil Okafor. Alexander didn't let the loss get the best of him though, coming back his senior season as physically the most dominating player in the country. He also got his team over the hump vs. Simeon, a team that had given him headaches over his four year career. Alexander was named the 2014 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2014 McDonald's All-American, and he received the high honor of Mr. Basketball USA. Alexander led Curie to the city title and had one of the most decorated seasons in Chicago history, but sadly, the championship was vacated because seven players were ineligible.

Alexander had a checkered one-year career for Kansas, playing in 28 games, averaging 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 18 minutes per game. Alexander was given opportunities, but he was so inconsistent that Coach Self couldn't trust him. Just when Alexander started to get it going and right before the tournament started, everything went wrong. Alexander's mom received a loan and they used her son's future earnings as a reference for loan approval, and Kansas decided to declare him ineligible before the NCAA got involved. Instead of coming back for his sophomore year, Alexander decided that he would be better off in the pros and declared for the draft.

Alexander has drawn plenty of interest leading up to the drafts, mainly because he is an enigma. Can he regain the form that made him the number two rated prospect in high school just one year ago? Is he too limited skill-wise to succeed in the NBA? These are the questions NBA front offices are asking, and the team that thinks they have the most answers is going to draft him. Boston did have Alexander in for a pre-draft workout, a clear sign that they are interested in the talented big man. Danny Ainge also has no issues with drafting slightly undersized power forward/centers, assuming they can do the job. Big Baby Davis, Leon Powe, and Jared Sullinger are three players that come to mind immediately, and it's also known that Ainge loves length, something that Alexander possesses. If Boston is truly interested, don't be surprised if they avoid gambling and take Alexander with the 33rd pick.


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