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NBA draft prospect profile: Croatia C Ivica Zubac

06.02.16 at 3:46 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

IVICA ZUBAC

Position: Center

Country: Croatia (Mega Leks)

Age: 19

Height: 7-foot-1

Weight: 265 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-4

Key 2015-16 stats: 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists

Scouting report: The most impressive thing going for Zubac is his size. With his towering frame and ridiculous wingspan, the big man often had his way during his time with Mega Leks. His soft hands help him play above the rim, and he has the post moves on par with big men in the NBA.

What may drag Zubac down is past injuries. He suffered from a broken foot in 2015 and an injured knee in 2015, so the possibility remains that Zubac is injury-prone. On the court, Zubac lacks athleticism, forcing him to rely too much on size and length. He is not an offensive threat unless he’s in the post, and his lateral quickness will need improvement in order to keep up in the NBA.

Zubac is eager to prove his worth in the United States, telling Sportando.com, “If I get drafted, I would like to go to the NBA right away. NBA has always been my dream. I can’t wait to play there and prove myself on the biggest basketball stage in the world.”

Draft projections vary for Zubac, with predictions that he will be selected anywhere from late in the first round to midway through the second.

Notes: Zubac won a silver medal for Croatia at the U19 World Championships in 2015. A teammate of fellow NBA draft prospect Timothe Luwawu at Mega Leks, Zubac was the starting center and led the team in blocks (1.6) and ranked third in rebounds (5.1).

Related articles:

Sportando.com: Ivica Zubac says he would love to go to the NBA next season if drafted

Eurobasket2015.org: Zubac bounces back to turn heads

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Ivica zubac,

NBA draft prospect profile: USC PG Julian Jacobs

06.02.16 at 12:34 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

JULIAN JACOBS

Position: Point guard

School: USC

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 180 pounds

Wingspan: n/a

Key 2015-16 stats: 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists

Scouting report: Most likely a late second-round pick, Jacobs is coming off a strong junior season after two subpar seasons with the Trojans. He was a do-everything kind of athlete for the team, shooting 50 percent on 2-point field goals and averaging 1.2 steals per contest. He also led the team in assists and was third in both scoring and rebounding. Jacobs can both get into the lane and create scoring looks for his teammates, and scouts were impressed with his leadership last season.

However, Jacobs was snubbed an invitation to the NBA draft combine, suggesting that he isn’t on many team’s radars. He has a shaky jump shot, and he averaged 2.7 turnovers per game in the 2015-16 season. With Jacobs already 22 years old, his ceiling may not be very high, a red flag for NBA teams.

Notes: Jacobs made the All-Pac-12 first team after leading the conference in assists (168). He helped lead USC to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

Related articles:

Los Angeles Times: USC’s Julian Jacobs, Nikola Jovanovic snubbed from draft combine

NBCSports: USC’s Julian Jacobs to sign with an agent, turn professional

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Julian Jacobs,

Celtics Choice: Al Horford vs. DeMar DeRozan

06.02.16 at 11:14 am ET
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In the days leading up to June’s NBA draft, we examine what the Celtics could do with the No. 3 overall pick and how they should approach this pivotal offseason. In that spirit, we present “Celtics choice.”

Today: Signing free agent big man Al Horford of the Hawks, or targeting free agent scorer DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors

The case for Horford

Did you watch the playoffs? The Hawks dominated the Celtics inside and even though he didn’t have a great statistical series, Horford was a big reason why. He’ll never be the focal point of an offense, but he does many things well that the Celtics value, especially on defense, where he’s capable of checking shooters on the perimeter on pick-and-rolls before retreating to defend the rim. He’d also provide a legitimate post presence and he’s an excellent inside-out passer. He’s a four-time All-Star for a reason and he’s selfless, which fits the Celtics’ model perfectly. He’d probably be good for 15-8-3 a night, conservatively, and he’s considered a winning player. If you’ve ever wondered what he’d look like in a Celtics uniform, an NBA2K16 player made that trade in the video below.

The case against Horford

He turns 30 on Friday and at times it looks like an old 30. He has suffered tears of each pectoral muscle during his career, limiting him to 11 games in 2011-12 and 29 games two years later, though he played all 82 this season. There’s also the philosophical matter of giving a max contract to a player on the wrong side of 30 who doesn’t exactly fill up the scoresheet. In a vacuum, any team would take Horford. But considering the money it will take to sign him, it’s hard to argue he’s worth it, particularly since the Celtics are looking to add an A-1 option to slot ahead of Isaiah Thomas. Horford isn’t that guy … unless he’d somehow get them Kevin Durant.

The case for DeRozan

The Celtics need scoring, and that’s basically all DeRozan has done since arriving out of USC with the No. 9 pick in the 2009 draft. He averaged a career-high 23.5 points a game this season and led the Raptors to their first Eastern Conference Finals, where they managed to deal the mighty Cavaliers their only two losses of the postseason. DeRozan is a classic scoring wing, with an excellent turnaround game in the post and the ability to get to the rim or get fouled almost at will. The majority of his points come from within 12 feet, but points are points. He finished second in the NBA in free throws made (555) and third in attempts (653), good for a career-high 85 percent from the line. He’s also a solid perimeter defender who doesn’t turn 27 until August. There’s the added bonus that signing him would rob a division rival of its best player. He’s a two-time All-Star.

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 NBA free agency, Al Horford, Celtics

NBA draft prospect profile: Turkey SG Furkan Korkmaz

06.02.16 at 9:17 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

FURKAN KORKMAZ

Position: Shooting guard

Country: Turkey (Anadolu Efes)

Age: 18 (turns 19 on July 24)

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 185 pounds

Wingspan: n/a

Key 2015-16 stats: 2.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, 42.3 3-point field goal percentage

Scouting report: Despite playing less than nine minutes per contest last season, Korkmaz has shown enough to be labeled a natural scorer, and is projected to be selected in the top half of the first round in most mock drafts. His best offensive skill is his shooting, as indicated by his outstanding shooting percentage from deep. He can create his own shots, and his athleticism is on par with the average NBA guard. Korkmaz also has a work ethic and a knack for leadership that NBA coaches dream of. At only 18 years old, Korkmaz also has the potential to become even better on the offensive end.

As strong as Korkmaz is offensively, he is held down by his defense. The potential is there, but Korkmaz often is unable to cover stronger guards. He needs to increase his physicality and build up his somewhat-wiry frame if he wants teams to take a chance on him.

“My weakness is defense,” Korkmaz acknowledged to The Vertical in February. “It is hard in the Euroleague. Everyone is quick. Everybody is fast. Sometimes it is hard to guard them. Maybe that is the reason [for my inconsistent playing time].”

Notes: Korkman was selected for the all-tournament team at the U19 World Championships after carrying his team to a bronze medal. In the Euroleague, he also helped his team to a 13-11 record in limited playing time.

Related articles:

Bleacher Report: Breaking down future of Turkey’s Furkan Korkmaz

Yahoo Sports: Getting to know Furkan Korkmaz

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Furkan Korkmaz,

Danny Ainge raves about ‘excellent workout’ with Jaylen Brown, plays it close to vest on Dragan Bender

06.01.16 at 11:45 pm ET
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March 18, 2016; Spokane , WA, USA; California Golden Bears forward Jaylen Brown (0) moves to the basket against Hawaii Rainbow Warriors guard Aaron Valdes (32) during the first half of the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

California Golden Bears forward Jaylen Brown (0) moves to the basket against Hawaii Rainbow Warriors guard Aaron Valdes (32) during the first half of the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Count Danny Ainge among those impressed with Cal prospect Jaylen Brown. 

The Celtics executive responsible for pulling the trigger on the No. 3 draft pick (assuming the Celtics keep it) saw the 6-foot-6 swingman in a workout Wednesday before the press conference to announce the contract extensions of Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens. 

“So Jaylen, I thought he looked very good in a workout,” Ainge said. “It was an excellent workout. We had a lot of players in this morning – I don’t know what our number’s up to now, 40 or 50. And we’ve been around the country, traveling and watching all the players around the country, and agent workouts and so forth.”

Brown was among eight players who worked out for the Celtics in Waltham Wednesday. 

Ainge said his expedition, along with son Austin, through Europe and Israel last week were beneficial. Among the elite players the Ainge saw work out was Croatian center Ante Zizic. 

“We just got back from a weeklong trip to Croatia, Serbia and Israel,” Ainge said. “And those trips were excellent also. It’s just good to get to know the players that we’re considering in the draft. It’s good to watch them in their environment. But I think more importantly just getting to know them, and seeing some of their strengths and weaknesses, and where they are at this stage of their careers.”

 It was in Israel that Ainge saw the much-ballyhooed Croatian talent Dragan Bender in person. Bender is playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv. 

“We had a 1-on-none and a 1-on-1 type of workout with his brother,” Ainge said. “Actually, [Ivan Bender] will be playing at Maryland next year. He’s a 6-10 kid.”

But then Ainge quick put the focus back on Dragan, whom the Celtics wanted to work out in person since his recent game action has been limited by his age (18) and experience. 

“And then we watched him in a full team practice, which we actually thought was better than a game because we’d seen all his games,” Ainge said. “We’d seen him play in person in games, and because he’s not playing a major role as an 18-year-old in a tough Israeli league, we were able to watch him practice. And we thought that was more beneficial than what we’d seen in games.”

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown

Wyc Grousbeck says Red Auerbach ‘would be very happy’ with Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens

06.01.16 at 5:47 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Back in the day, Red Auerbach did the job Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens do now and won nine NBA titles, including a remarkable eight straight. 

Obviously, the NBA world of today is significantly more complicated and involved and it takes two people like Ainge and Stevens to try and win just one championship. 

Still, these are the Celtics, and anytime you talk long-term goals, as was the case Wednesday with the extensions of Ainge and Stevens, you go back to Auerbach for a reference point. That’s what owner Wyc Grousbeck did Wednesday at the press conference at the Celtics practice facility. 

“These jobs – the president of basketball operations and the head coach of the Boston Celtics are storied positions. Both were held by the incomparable Red Auerbach,” Grousbeck said. “I personally believe that Red would be very happy. This is the right thing for the Celtics, you represent excellent and Celtic pride on and off the court. These are the exact people we want to run the Celtics.

In signing Ainge and Stevens long-term, Grousbeck believes the team is setting a foundation for years to come.

“It’s the principal job of ownership to find the very best people, to run the basketball side, to find them, recruit them, bring them in and offer them all the support and encouragement we can and retain them – create an environment where they want to stay. These conversations happened recently, very forthrightly,” Grousbeck said. “There was great interest on both sides. They were easy conversations. It just represented a great re-commitment from Brad and Danny to the Celtics.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, NBA

Danny Ainge on unified Celtics with Brad Stevens: ‘Great things will happen in Celtics history’

06.01.16 at 5:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics sound like a unified group heading into what co-owner Stephen Pagliuca called the “most complex” offseason the franchise has had in the 13 years of the current stewardship. 

In announcing the contract extensions of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens, the common theme Wednesday afternoon was one of unity and commitment. 

“This foundation we have is very unique in the world we live in — pressure-packed, public world in pro sports,” Ainge said. “The fact we have such great unity with ownership I think is unique. I value that premium. It’s a great working environment, I have a great relationship here, stronger trust, year in and year out. As we work together I believe great things will happen in Celtics history.”

Perhaps most intriguing about Ainge’s opening comments Wednesday was his admission that it really didn’t take much to get him to sign on the dotted line to extend his current contract, which owner Wyc Grousbeck acknowledged expired before that of Stevens, who still had three years left on his initial $22 million deal signed in 2013. 

“To tell yoju a little bit, our negotiation was basically Stay, and I said Wyc, do you want me to stay? We had a 10 or 15 minute negotiation, and then our focus turned to Brad,” Ainge said. “It turned to what we need to do. We all understand it’s emotional and very challenging, him with two kids at home and all you have to manage. I’ve been there. We’re lucky to have Brad and Tracey with us in a long term situation.

“They don’t have to answer any more questions about Indiana and Butler, and Duke, North Carolina. We’re very excited to have Brad. Who he is and what he does on the court is unmatched. We’re grateful he wants to stay with us. In the three short years he’s been with us, and it’s good he’s making a long-term commitment to us as well.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, Indiana
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