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Julius Randle gets some sage advice from Rajon Rondo: ‘Just enjoy the process’

06.13.14 at 2:56 pm ET
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WALTHAM — After one year at Kentucky, forward Julius Randle feels he’s ready to take on the NBA.

Friday, following a pre-draft workout for the Celtics, the 19-year-old showed just how ready he is by answering a non-stop stream of questions from reporters about the state of his right foot, which had a pin placed in it in his senior year of high school to help heal a break.

There were reports Thursday that some NBA general managers believe the foot did not heal properly and that it could be an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“My foot is fine,” Randle said. “Everybody has their opinion on what [I] should do but I’m pain-free. There’s no pain before, during or after. I’m fine.”

Randle said surgery has not been considered to this point.

“It’s never been considered,” he said. “I’ve met with my own doctor and talked to specialists, some of the best doctors in the world and they said they wouldn’t do anything with it. [I] broke it back in high school. I have a pin in it. I guess some people may think they want to put a different one in. I don’t know. I have no clue. It’s the draft and they want to know about it.

Where did he get the advice on how to handle the barrage of questions that he knew would be coming? Another Kentucky product — Rajon Rondo — spoke with him before his workout and gave him some advice.

“I talked to him a little bit today and yesterday,” Randle said. “We kind of have that Kentucky connection. Rondo is a great guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. He’s a great guy, competitor. I’d love to play with him.

“Just be myself, just enjoy the process. A 19-year-old kid going through this can be a lot. Just really enjoy the process, have fun with it, and don’t let outside distractions take away from your joy of the process. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, that’s what my family has told me to do and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

The media hype Friday over a pre-draft workout in Boston gave him a little taste of what to expect in the NBA, especially if he’s selected by the Celtics.

“It’s a little bit of the same. Kentucky prepares you a lot for things like these,” he said of playing for John Calipari for just one season. “At Kentucky, this is all they know, Kentucky basketball. So, it really prepared me from an expectation level. The fans of Boston, city of Boston has great expectations for their team. This is a winning organization, a championship organization. Kentucky is the same way. Our season is a lot shorter, they don’t expect to win maybe two games at the most.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Julius Randle, Kentucky Wildcats, NBA

NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: UConn PG Shabazz Napier

06.13.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of’€™s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.


Position: Point guard
School: Connecticut
Age: 22
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 175 pounds
Wingspan: 6-foot-3

Key 2013-14 stats: 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists

Scouting report: Napier, a Roxbury native, ended his collegiate career in spectacular fashion by winning his second national championship with UConn. Yet he’€™s only projected as a late first-round pick because of his small stature and limited upside.

A 40.5 percent 3-point shooter, Napier was one of the most dynamic and clutch scorers in college basketball last season. He gets his shots off so quickly and can score with a hand in his face, which bodes well for his potential in the pros. He can attack closeouts and pull up from mid-range, and he’€™s a fantastic ball-handler who can get anywhere with the ball.

But everything boils down to two things with Napier: his size and passing skills. Even though Napier battles hard on defense, he’€™s small, so he’€™s limited and will get burned by larger guards in the pros. This hinders his ability to start, as teams may be able to exploit him.

And Napier’s not exactly the most skilled passer, with a relatively average 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. He misses a lot of open teammates because he’s so focused on scoring, but it’s difficult to tell if he’s just a product of his environment (he’s told to score) or he’s actually unable to properly read the play. If it’s the latter, there are concerns about a coach’s ability to trust him running an offense.

Despite that, there’s a chance that Napier is being underrated by the masses, since elite scoring comes at a premium in the NBA. He was an elite college scorer, and his shooting will certainly translate to the pros. It may not matter that he might not be able to pass at a high level, because his role will be to come off the bench and score.

How he fits: Danny Ainge has employed a sparkplug scorer off the bench virtually every year in his tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations, and Napier could fill that role quite well as a pro.

Related articles:

CelticsBlog: Gunslingers of the future

Boston Globe: UConn’€™s Shabazz Napier proud to be from Roxbury

Video: Here is a video of Napier’€™s senior year highlights.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA. His 60-page 2014 NBA Draft Guide is available for download here.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Boston Celtics, NBA, Shabazz Napier

Irish Coffee: Doug McDermott, Aaron Gordon and Celtics philosophy

06.12.14 at 6:05 pm ET
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As the Celtics begin welcoming a revolving door of NBA prospects into the their practice facility, two of the more intriguing options found their way to Waltham on Thursday, offering an interesting dichotomy for the C’s front office.

On the one hand, you have Creighton’s Doug McDermott, 22, the NCAA‘s Wooden and Naismith award winner best known in Boston for recreating Larry Bird‘s famous Sports Illustrated cover. The 6-foot-8 senior also happens to be a scoring machine, averaging 26.7 points on 64.4 true shooting this past season. A stat geek’s dream.

For the record, McDermott downplayed the Bird connection, as he should. Dougie McBuckets is no Larry Legend.

“œIt’€™s really not fair,” he told reporters after his workout. “I don’€™t think you can compare anyone to Larry Bird. There’€™s just not going to be another one. œIt’€™s good to have a guy like that for everyone to look up to, all these young guys, myself included. That’€™s the best of the best right there — him and Magic [Johnson] and Michael [Jordan], those guys. You can’€™t compare guys to those three, I don’€™t think. I just take pieces of his game and try to apply it to mine.”

On the other hand, you have Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, 18, the youngest player in the draft and best known in Boston for falling asleep on the T while in town for his sister’s Harvard graduation a couple weeks back. The 6-foot-9 forward is shooting challenged, but uber-athletic, versatile and defensive-minded. A talent scout’s dream.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it? While McDermott models himself after Bird, Gordon is more of a Magic man.

“I loved how he could control the game,” Gordon told the media following Thursday’s Waltham workout. “He kinda broke the foundation of what basketball is really about — how guards have to be little and bigs have to be big. I like how creative he was with the basketball. He kinda brought a lot of flash to the game.”

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, Doug McDermott, NBA

Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v3.0

06.12.14 at 9:50 am ET
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2014 has brought us one of the most unpredictable NBA drafts in years. The only guarantee that we have just two weeks out from draft day (June 26) is that there are no sure things.

If we know one thing, it’€™s this: Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will be the first three names called (in no particular order). But all three still have as legitimate a shot to go No. 1 as they do No. 2 or 3.

This is going to be the type of draft where mocks will be changing all the way up until draft night when we find out what actually happens. Here is my latest crack at trying to break it down in my mock draft 3.0, picks 1-17 pick as usual.

1. Cavaliers, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) — No changes here. Embiid is going to work out for the Cavs and show them what he can do on the court. But more importantly, he will have a physical done on his back to make sure it is healthy. With Embiid’s NBA potential, it feels like only a poor medical report can keep him from being the top selection.

2. Bucks, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) — I don’t see there being a debate as to whom to take between Parker and Wiggins, but many teams do. In this scenario, the Bucks make the right call. Parker is going to be a star, and could be just the building block the Bucks need to rebuild. Parker is the best player in this draft right now. He should have the inside track at Rookie of the Year no matter where he lands.

3. 76ers, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) — The 76ers have the easiest pick in the draft. Simply take the leftover top-three pick that Cleveland and Milwaukee pass on. Although I don’t see Wiggins reaching his ceiling, he is going to be a solid player. Michael Carter-Williams and Wiggins would create one of the biggest, fastest and most athletic backcourts in the game.

4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) — Last mock I wrote that Exum going fourth to the Magic was about as sure a thing as we had in this draft. Well, over the last couple of weeks Smart has been climbing and Exum has been slipping, combining to change this pick to one of the least certain picks in the draft. Exum could still be the pick, but the Magic are just much more familiar with Smart right now. So let’s try this again. The most certain pick in the 2014 draft will be that the Magic take either Smart or Exum. There, that works.

5. Jazz, Dante Exum (Australia) — Exum falls into Utah’s lap here, and the Jazz get a great fit. With their frontcourt in place, the Jazz get a dynamic guard to put next to Trey Burke. The real question would be if Exum goes to Orlando. Would the Magic go big with Vonleh? Or stick with a guard in Smart?

6. Celtics, Aaron Gordon (Airzona, freshman) — Sorry to be boring, but reports that Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon make it tough to go with someone else here. However, nothing is written in stone. Gordon would immediately become the Celtics‘ best athlete if he were the pick. He is not the only guy who will be working out in Waltham before the draft, though. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, Doug McDermott and Smart either have worked out or are scheduled to pay a visit so the Celtics can get a closer look at them.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid

NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Bosnia C Jusuf Nurkic

06.12.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of’€™s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.


Position: Center
Country: Bosnia
Age: 19
Height: 6-foot-11
Weight: 280 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot-2

Key 2013-14 stats (Adriatic League): 11.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 34.6 PER

Scouting report: Only 19 years old, Nurkic is one of the most dominant players in the talented Adriatic League. He only plays 15.4 minutes per game, but produced a 34.6 PER during that time this season, which is why he’€™s a projected first-round draft pick.

He may be chubby, but Nurkic has some of the quickest feet of the bigs in the draft, giving him potential as a rim protector. Using his long 86-inch wingspan, Nurkic is able to quickly hedge on the pick and roll and get back to the paint in time to protect the rim. He doesn’t block a lot of shots since his vertical is underwhelming, but he’s able to deter shots due to his presence.

But Nurkic’s offense is arguably the most appealing. He’€™s young and has a savvy post game, including a virtually unblockable spin into a jump hook go-to move. He has outstanding footwork and does a great job “finding the blue sky,” even if he’€™s not dunking over defenders.

Nurkic’s warts as a player stem from mental mistakes; he’s extremely foul prone (7.9 per 40 minutes), since he jumps at the sight of any movement and carelessly hacks opponents. He also seems to get down on himself and overreacts to bad calls by complaining to the referees or ignoring his coaches. Will Nurkic be able to endure the trials and tribulations of the NBA? If he can, he may turn out to be a steal on draft night.

How he fits: Drafting Nurkic with the No. 17 pick would give the Celtics a true center prospect they could draft and stash for two years as he develops his skills.

Related articles:

CelticsBlog: Adriatic League final four analysis

Fansided: Is Jusuf Nurkic the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili?

Video: Here is a video scouting report of Nurkic.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Boston Celtics, Jusuf Nurkic, NBA

NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Oklahoma State G Marcus Smart

06.11.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of’€™s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.


Position: Guard
School: Oklahoma State
Age: 20
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 227 pounds
Wingspan: 6-foot-9

Key 2013-14 stats: 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists

Scouting report: Smart is one of the best perimeter defenders in this year’€™s class. He’€™s a total bully on-ball and rarely allows ball-handlers to get by him. It’€™s a virtual lock that NBA teams will be able to assign him to an opponent’€™s best player with the mission of locking them down. Smart also racks up steals at a high rate because of his intelligent off-ball defense, on-point rotations and instincts.

Smart’€™s bulldog mentality also applies to the offensive end, where he powers his way to the rim with the ball and draws fouls on over half of his field goal attempts. He’€™s so skilled at finding space and scoring near the rim, but there are concerns about his perimeter jumper. He has a bit of a clunky form and may struggle shooting at the beginning of his career, but his penetration skills may be good enough to compensate.

In terms of position, Smart can clearly defend point and shooting guards, but where he’€™ll play on offense is up in the air. He lacks the true point guard skills in that he’€™s an average passer, but that’€™s the case for so many point guards in today’€™s NBA. Since he’€™s only 6-foot-3, he’€™ll probably mostly play point and flourish.

How he fits: Drafting Smart would give the Celtics “time.” How’€™s that? They wouldn’t be forced to make a decision between Avery Bradley and Jeff Green the way they might if they draft a wing. Bringing Smart to Boston allows him to slide in behind both Bradley and Rajon Rondo, giving the Celtics front office time to make a decision on Rondo’€™s future with the team.

Related articles:

Dean On Draft: Marcus Smart vs. Andrew Wiggins: Who was the best Big 12 perimeter defender?

Fansided: NBA Draft 2014: Forget Dante Exum, what about Marcus Smart?

Video: Here is a video of Smart’€™s pre-draft workout.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA

NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Kansas G/F Andrew Wiggins

06.10.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of’€™s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.


Position: Wing
School: Kansas
Age: 19
Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 200 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot

Key 2013-14 stats: 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists

Scouting report: Of all the players in the 2014 NBA draft, none have been more scrutinized than Wiggins. The 19-year-old forward was expected to be the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but he didn’€™t flash that potential at Kansas. However, it was unfair to set the bar that high, since no scout thought he’€™d be that in the first place.

Wiggins did exactly what teams expected him to do, showing off his godlike athleticism, smooth shooting and defensive potential. He’€™s one of the best athletes in the draft, with long arms and a reportedly insane 44-inch vertical.

But he also has skill as a shooter, often displaying an effortless 3-point shot. He needs to improve his consistency, but his ability to drain perimeter jumpers off the catch and the dribble automatically gives him potential as a role player — at a minimum.

The main concerns with Wiggins are his high dribble and playmaking ability. Wiggins’€™ dribble is high, which means he tends to get so loose with the ball that defenders are able to strip him. His upright stance doesn’t allow him to change directions very quickly, so that limits his ability to create offense for himself and others.

How he fits: It’€™s unlikely we’€™ll see Wiggins in a Celtics uniform next season, but he’€™d provide the team a highly athletic player with elite upside on both ends of the floor.

Related articles:

ESPN: Top draft choices for tanking teams

Yahoo Sports: Kevin Durant says Andrew Wiggins has ‘Hall of Famer, All-Star’ potential

Video: Here are highlights from the best game of Wiggins’€™ college career.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Andrew Wiggins, Boston Celtics,
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