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Celtics Choice: Dragan Bender vs. Kevin Love

06.07.16 at 4:24 pm ET
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In the days leading up to June 23’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: Using the third pick on Croatian big man Dragan Bender or trading it as part of a package to land Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.

The case for Bender

In a word, potential. Seven-foot-1 athletes with 3-point shooting range and the quickness to defend inside and out don’t come along very often, and the immediate success of Kristaps Porzingis in New York will undoubtedly have an NBA team hoping lightning can strike twice with Bender, who spent the season playing limited minutes in a reserve role for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel’s top professional league. That kind of experience against veteran competition should only help Bender transition to the NBA, but even the most optimistic assessment doesn’t have him making an impact for at least a couple of years. NBA scouts love his lateral quickness, 9-foot-3 reach, and feel for the game. He’s considered a gifted passer with the kind of shooting stroke that suggests he’ll have NBA range in due time.

The case against Bender

In a word, potential. While Bender could end up being Porzingis or (best-case scenario) Dirk Nowitzki, he could also go the route of Darko Milicic. No one knows for certain how he’ll handle NBA competition, if he’ll add enough strength to compete on the boards, if he’ll take his game to another level. There’s also his lack of playing time in Israel this year, which has produced modest stats (5.5 points, 3 rebounds per game). Still only 18 years old, Bender is a mystery even to teams that have scouted him extensively overseas. He will require time to develop when he arrives, and a team like the Celtics, with an ownership and fan base that expects to win now, might not have the stomach to endure the inevitable growing pains. There’s a chance he gets completely swallowed up by the strength of NBA players at the point of attack, leaving him as a Brad Lohaus-type, which definitely isn’t worthy of the third pick.

The case for Love

In a word, experience. There are no mysteries about Cleveland’s third wheel. He’s a proven All-Star in the NBA with the ability to lead an offense as an elite scorer — he twice averaged over 26 a game in Minnesota — and he can score in any number of ways. A traditional post presence early in his career, Love has since added legit NBA 3-point range to emerge as one of the best stretch-4s in the game, even if he hates that term. He made just 2-of-19 3-pointers as a rookie in 2008-09, but saw those numbers increase to 190-for-505 during his final season in Minnesota before joining the Cavaliers last season. Add tremendous rebounding ability (11.5 per game lifetime), excellent vision to pass out of double teams, and the title of the game’s best outlet passer, and Love is a legit superstar.

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Read More: Celtics, Celtics choice, Dragan Bender, Kevin Love

NBA draft prospect profile: Louisville C Chinanu Onuaku

06.07.16 at 3:42 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.

CHINANU ONUAKU

Position: Center

School: Louisville

Age: 19 (turns 20 on Nov. 1)

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 245 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-3

Key 2015-16 stats: 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 62.0 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Onuaku is a true center, but he’s a tad undersized to play that position in the NBA. However, he’s just 19 years old, so there’s certainly a chance that he could grow another inch or two. On the plus size, he has a good wingspan and is build solidly — and knows how to use his physicality, creating problems in the post, rebounding well and setting wide screens. He showed promise in the pick-and-roll at going to the basket, using his good hands to haul in passes and finishing with confidence, but he did not do as well in the pick-and-pop, as he does not display good range.

Onuaku showed strong improvement this past season as a sophomore, seeing the floor better, but his decision-making needs to get better. He impressed at the NBA combine scrummages, protecting the rim and playing solid team and individual defense. Not a great shooter nor someone who can create offense, Onuaku could be a solid role player in the NBA. He’s expected to go in the middle of the second round.

Last month Onuako underwent a medical procedure to correct a heart issue known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, in which a person can have periods of abnormally rapid heart rate. “After an extensive physical with the NBA doctors over the last few days, they noticed a situation that will require a minor procedure that will keep me off of the court for approximately 7 to 10 days,” Onuaku said in a statement from Louisville. “After the 7-10-day window, I will be ready to start my workouts again in pursuit of my NBA dreams.”

Notes: Onuaku helped the U.S. team win gold at the U19 World Championship last summer. In the championship game, a 79-71 overtime victory over Croatia, he recorded six points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in 28 minutes. … A 55 percent free throw shooter, Onuako resorted to shooting underhanded in February. … His brother Arinze played at Syracuse from 2005-10 and has had three brief stints in the NBA. Arinze played last season for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and then for the Meralco Bolts in the Philippines.

Related articles:

SI.com: Exploring Louisville center Chinanu Onuako’s NBA draft decision

WAVE3.com: Chinanu Onuaku to undergo heart rhythm correction procedure

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Chinanu Onuaku,

NBA draft prospect profile: Baylor SF Taurean Prince

06.07.16 at 12:52 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.

TAUREAN PRINCE

Position: Small forward

School: Baylor

Age: 21 (turns 22 on Aug. 22)

Height: 6-foot-7

Wingspan: 6-foot-11

Weight: 220 pounds

Key 2015-16 stats: 16 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists

Scouting report: Prince is most known for his description of how Yale outrebounded Baylor after the Ivy Leaguers’ upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but the 21-year-old is ready to move past his postgame soliloquy and into the NBA. At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Prince is built with all the physical attributes to have an immediate impact in the league. His size will be most helpful on defense. His height and weight allow him to guard big men in the post, and his athletic ability and quickness allow him to stay on perimeter players. Quickness combined with sharp defensive instincts make Prince capable of swiftly switching on screens as well.

On the offensive side of the ball, Prince lacks the ability to use post moves to create a quality shot, and a slow first step can make it easy to defend him. Prince shot 38 percent from the field and was able to create separation on his shot, but he has been critiqued for his shot selection.

Some GMs are projecting Prince to become a role player, but if put in the right situation Prince could become something more. He is predicted to be drafted in middle to latter part of the first round.

Notes: Prince was named to the All-Big 12 first team this year. In 2015 he was All-Big 12 second team and he was the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. He was a member of the U.S. team that won a bronze medal at the Pan-Am Games last summer. He originally was a point guard in high school, but he grew 11 inches and became a center.

Related articles:

CSN Philly: Baylor’s Taurean Prince proving more he’s more than a viral moment

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Fansided: Taurean Prince: The Big 12’s most intriguing NBA prospect

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Taurean Prince,

Report: Celtics to work out Croatian draft prospect Dragan Bender

06.07.16 at 12:33 pm ET
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Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

According to a published report, the Celtics have scheduled a workout with Croatian big man Dragan Bender, whom they could potentially select with the third overall pick.

Bleacher Report’s David Pick reports via twitter that Bender will visit the Celtics, Suns, and Timberwolves in the U.S.

The Celtics have already scouted Bender in Israel, where he’s playing professionally. Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said watching him in a practice environment and playing one-on-one against his younger brother, Ivan, a Maryland recruit, provided a better look at his skills.

“We had a 1-on-none and a 1-on-1 type of workout with his brother,” Ainge told reporters. “Actually, [Ivan] will be playing at Maryland next year. He’s a 6-10 kid. And then we watched [Dragan] in a full-team practice, which we actually thought was better than a game because we’d seen all his games. 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.”

The 7-foot-1 center is considered a project because of his age and experience, but he’s also one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, thanks to his shooting ability and athleticism. While there had been rumors of the Lakers’ interest at No. 2, which would’ve upended the draft, Pick recently reported that L.A. will stick with Duke’s Brandon Ingram at No. 2.

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Celtics, Dragan Bender, No. 3 pick

NBA draft prospect profile: Spain F Juan Hernangomez

06.07.16 at 9:24 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.

JUAN HERNANGOMEZ

Position: Forward

Country: Spain (Estudiantes)

Age: 20 (turns 21 on Sept. 28)

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 220 pounds

Wingspan: n/a

Key 2015-16 stats: 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 35.8 3-point field goal percentage

Scouting report: Hernangomez had a solid season in 2015-16 that catapulted his draft stock. Playing in the highly regarded Spanish ACB league, he displayed impressive numbers for a player his age. He sometimes struggled to defend in the ACB, but he was facing older opponents who had physical advantages. He also played a lot of center, while he’s projected as more of a stretch four or perhaps even a small forward in the NBA.

Playing on one of the ACB’s weaker teams, Hernangomez took advantage of his opportunity for playing time, demonstrating an ability to hit the outside shot but also showing excellent mobility. He was especially effective in the pick-and-roll, either popping out for a jumper, driving to the basket or distributing the ball. He averaged 5.6 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, a solid average for a big.

Critics point to Hernangomez’s sometimes questionable decision-making — throwing risky passes and trying to do too much offensively, while gambling too much on defense — and question whether he projects to be anything but a role player in the NBA.

Hernangomez is projected to go late in the first round or early in the second. With the Celtics having picks to spare, he’s exactly the type of gamble worth taking — a promising youngster they can stash in Europe for another year or two while he continues to develop. His contract with Estudiantes is up, so he has the option of heading to North America now (likely starting in the D-League) or staying in Europe and perhaps signing with a stronger team for a year or two.

Notes: Hernangomez’s father, Guillermo Hernangomez Heredero, was a power forward in the ACB in the 1980s, and his brother, Willy, is a 6-foot-10 backup center for Real Madrid who was selected 35th overall last year — by the 76ers, who then traded him to the Knicks — and is expected to head to the States in the next year or two. Hernangomez was named to the all-tournament team at the U-20 European Championships last summer.

Related articles:

SB Nation: Juan Hernangomez will find a role

CBS Sports: Getting to know the top 10 international players

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, 2016 potential celtics, Juan Hernangomez,

Brad Stevens sings praise of Avery Bradley: ‘You could make a strong case for him to be defensive player of year’

06.06.16 at 6:18 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

WALTHAM – If Brad Stevens has anything to say about it, Avery Bradley and his $8 million per year salary isn’t going anywhere this offseason. 

The Celtics coach spoke for the first time since the star defensive guard was chosen first-team NBA all-defense last week. 

“I think it was clearly deserved. I think that you could make a strong case for him to be Defensive Player of the Year or in consideration for that because he is so versatile in his ability to defend guards,” Stevens said after the second of two pre-draft workouts Monday in Waltham. 

The Defensive Player of the Year award went to the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who won the honor for a second straight year. 

But that didn’t keep Stevens from pointing out that Bradley could arguably be placed among the best defensive guards in basketball. 

“I think if you polled the guards in the NBA, really 1 through 3, Avery’s name would come up a lot,” Stevens added. “So, obviously it’s against great competition. The guys who got honored all deserve it. But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying there’s one Defensive Player of the Year when you have somebody of Avery’s caliber and his ability to impact the game.”

Stevens said that he has been in contact with Bradley, and that rehab on his right hamstring is coming along after straining it badly in Game 1 against the Hawks, forcing him to miss the rest of the playoffs.   

“I don’t have an update on where he is in the physical rehab part, but obviously after he won the award we communicated, and he’s getting better,” Stevens said. 

Bradley’s name could come up in trade talk at some point this summer, as he is not only considered one of the more underrated guards in the league, he is affordably priced. Bradley is entering the third year of a four-year contract totaling $32 million.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,

Brad Stevens says ‘there’s seven or eight guys’ targeted for the No. 3 pick

06.06.16 at 4:51 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  The Celtics are beginning to narrow down their potential choices for the No. 3 spot in the draft. 

Brad Stevens acknowledged Monday that he is watching video clips of all the possibilities and discussing their strengths with his staff. 

“I’ve got a good idea when I talk to Danny and the front office about who they are really targeting and focused on, as far as, again, there’s seven or eight guys,” Stevens said after Monday’s doubleheader workout that involved 12 players from college and Europe.

The names that come to mind most frequently after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown (who worked out last Wednesday), Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn and Jamaal Murray. 

But what Stevens made clear is that, with eight picks overall, including five in the second round, the Celtics have to be ready to pick wherever and whenever, depending on what deals may or may not be made. 

“We’ve got so many picks that you can’t stop there,” Stevens added. “Whether you’re watching clips, individual clips or highlight films or whatever the case may be, what I like to do is I like to watch full-game footage, and specifically end-of-game footage on a lot of different guys. We have so many picks, any game you turn on, almost might include somebody, so it’s pretty good.”

Austin Ainge joked that Stevens asked, as part of his new contract, that he not have eight rookies to coach next season. Stevens, appreciating the humor, said the number of picks doesn’t make the job any easier in terms of evaluation.

“I don’t know about easier. I think it’s hard any time you’ve got the volume of potential picks that we have and all that goes with that. I think that, again, my job is just to give an opinion when asked,” Stevens said. “So those guys have been watching all year. Those guys know what they are looking for, who they are looking at. Again, these workouts, I think, sometimes help validate some things for them. They are probably more beneficial for our staff because we haven’t seen guys as much, specifically we haven’t seen guys live.”

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
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