Chris Forsberg

Jordan Walsh scouting report: Celtics rookie is a ‘violent defender'

Walsh's college coach sees tremendous defensive potential in the 19-year-old wing.

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Violent defender.

That’s the term that Arkansas men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman routinely assigned to Jordan Walsh during his lone season with the Razorbacks. It’s a description that can’t help but promote intrigue in a player making an early leap to the pro level.

The Boston Celtics selected Walsh with the No. 38 pick in Thursday’s 2023 NBA Draft, and all the hype around the 19-year-old wing starts with the way he plays defense.

Celtics Talk: Arkansas coach offers scouting report on Celtics rookie Jordan Walsh | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I used that term last year quite often," Musselman told NBC Sports Boston. "It’s about violently jumping in passing lanes, violently going after rebounds, and rebounding the ball outside of his area. He can crash into bodies, he's not afraid of contact. And, hence, the phrase, 'Violent defender.'

"When you're gifted with great defensive instincts and then you have toughness and you have will and enjoyment in playing that side of the floor, it certainly helps. He takes great pride in his defense, both individually and then the team defensive concepts."

The selection of Walsh came the same night the Celtics formally traded longtime defensive anchor Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies to acquire Kristaps Porzingis. While it’s unfair to expect a teenager to replace any part of the defensive identity that Smart brought to the team, the Celtics are hopeful that Walsh’s style of play can help him eventually help him carve out a role on a team with title aspirations.

"Defensively, what Jordan Walsh does is he can guard a guy, individually, and take a premier scorer out of a game," said Musselman. "That’s what he did at the college level, where we could assign him to a top player on the other team and then not have to give any help. So he's a great lockdown defender, individually, and then off the ball.

"He's a great loose-ball getter. He rebounds out of his area, defensively. So it just gives you a lot of different things from a defense perspective. And, most importantly, he allows the coaching staff to have versatility in their defensive game plans because of his ability to jump passing lanes and create some offense through defense."

Check out highlights of the newest member of the Celtics, Jordan Walsh

The Celtics have had Walsh on their radar for a while and Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens saw multiple Arkansas games this past season as part of the scouting process.

Stevens isn’t bashful when detailing the potential for Walsh and his 7-foot-2 wingspan at the NBA level.

"I saw him at the McDonald's All-American practices last year as a senior. Our scouts and people in our front office had been talking about him prior to that," said Stevens. "He was one of the best high school players in the country as a senior. And he looks young when he plays, right? On offense, sometimes, he'll make an unbelievable play and get knocked off his spot or he'll hesitate to shoot a 3. But he's got a great touch. He's going to be able to really shoot the ball.

“On the [defensive] end of the floor, he's got a chance to be special. I don't say that lightly. Like, I don't reserve that for very many. His length and aggressiveness and his willingness to play that end of the floor gives him a chance. And so we'll find out if he can guard at all because our two wings [Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown] will go right through him at the start of practice."

The 6-foot-7 Walsh shot just 27.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc while averaging 7.1 points and 3.9 rebounds over 36 games at Arkansas. He saved some of his finest moments for Arkansas' tournament run that included an upset of Kansas before the Razorbacks fell to eventual champion UConn.

The Celtics introduced Walsh this week, and he immediately leaned into his defensive reputation.

"I heard that Boston likes guys who dive on the floor more than guys who dunk the ball," said Walsh. "So that guy is going to be me."

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