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Celtics choice: Kevin Love vs. Paul George

05.26.16 at 10:39 am ET
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As the days pass leading up to June’s NBA Draft, we want to encourage the debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present, “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick to trade for Cavaliers forward Kevin Love or Pacers forward Paul George.

The case for Love

May 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Luis Scola (4) during the second half in game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 116-78. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Luis Scola (4) in the playoffs. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

At 27, one of the best pure scoring forwards in the game is in his prime. Returning from shoulder surgery, he scored 27 of his season-high 34 points in the first half of the Cavaliers’ win over the Magic in November. On Jan. 29, 2016, he had his best game since November 23, scoring 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting in a win over the Detroit Pistons. That game also marked the first time all season that Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each reached 20 points in a game. He helped the Cavaliers finished the regular season as the first seed in the East with a 57–25 record. For the second straight season, he was the perfect complement to James and Irving, after overcoming his shoulder problems that started with Kelly Olynyk in the first round of the ’15 playoffs. He finished this season averaging 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. In the first round of the playoffs, Love recorded playoff career highs with 28 points and 13 rebounds in a Game 1 win over the Pistons.

The case against Love

Consistency. Last July, Love re-signed with the Cavaliers on a 5-year, $113 million max deal. He has four years left on it. Love can have games where he shows exactly why he’s paid so handsomely. He can also go long stretches where his production drops way off. In Games 3 and 4 against the Raptors, both losses, Love was 5-for-23 with 13 points total in the two games. Starting with a Christmas Day loss at Golden State, he went a full month and scored just 20 points once in 17 games. His numbers have dropped off in Cleveland. The drop from 26 points per game to 16 a game the last two seasons in Cleveland is understandable with LeBron and Irving scoring so much. But the falloff in rebounding is more alarming, as he’s gone from a league-leading 15.4 rebounds a game in Minnesota in 2011-12 to 9.9 rebounds per game in Cleveland. Danny Ainge has always like long, athletic shooters from the wing and has been looking for one but the question is whether Love is really worth the $113 million?

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers

Avery Bradley named NBA all-defensive first team, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart honorable mention

05.25.16 at 5:22 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

The Celtics had a very good season and a good part of it was based on their improved defensive effort. 

Avery Bradley led that effort as a starter and, on Wednesday, was named to the NBA’s all-defensive first team by pro basketball media members.

Behind Bradley, the Celtics finished tied with the Clippers and Warriors for fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. Bradley was also the top finisher among guards in the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting (sixth place overall). He averaged a career-high 1.54 steals for the Celtics in their breakout 48-win season under third-year coach Brad Stevens. 

Jae Crowder just missed a selection on the second team, finishing with 47 points, including three first-team votes. Marcus Smart, who often played alongside Bradley in the backcourt, finished with seven points and two first-team votes. 

Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs won the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and finished with the most votes. 

2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM

Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total

Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), 130, –, 260

Draymond Green (Golden State), 123, 5, 251

DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers), 47, 43, 137

Avery Bradley (Boston), 62, 25, 149

Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers), 59, 30, 148

2015-16 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM

Player (Team), 1st Team Votes, 2nd Team Votes, Total

Paul Millsap (Atlanta), 11, 75, 97

Paul George (Indiana), 5 , 38, 48

Hassan Whiteside (Miami), 44, 38, 126

Tony Allen (Memphis), 44, 33, 121

Jimmy Butler (Chicago), 18, 26 , 62

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Kawhi Leonard

Celtics Choice: Kris Dunn vs. Marcus Smart

05.25.16 at 12:47 pm ET
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In the days leading up to June’s NBA draft, we want to encourage debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present, “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick on Providence College point guard Kris Dunn or keeping promising third-year player Marcus Smart

The case for Dunn

See if this sounds familiar: the Providence guard is powerfully built and physically gifted for his position, with the ability to defend multiple positions and a toughness NBA GMs like Danny Ainge love. If that sounds like Smart, it’s because Dunn shares many characteristics with the Celtics guard. Where he separates, however, is on the offensive side of the ball. Dunn is a better ball handler, passer, and scorer than Smart. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and with a 6-9 wingspan, Dunn possesses tremendous defensive instincts and court vision. He’s a terror in the open court and can finish at the rim authoritatively with either hand. He’s a true playmaking point guard who can also score (37.2 percent on 3-pointers). Just call him Smart 2.0.

The case against Dunn

In the delicate ecosystem of an NBA locker room, one malcontent can lead to disaster, and it’s fair to question Dunn’s fit when his agents are already suggesting he won’t play for a team — including the Celtics — with an established point guard. They can’t stop anyone from drafting him, but they can make it more difficult by withholding Dunn’s medicals, which is what Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski says they intend to do. This is an issue because Dunn required two shoulder surgeries during his PC career and teams will want a look before committing to him as their point guard of the future. On the court, there’s also the question of Dunn’s stroke — his inconsistent jumper includes a lot of moving parts — and his occasionally sloppy and reckless ball-handling.

The case for Smart

We have a much better idea of what type of NBA player Smart is and will be. A hawkish defender, he was often Brad Stevens’ secret weapon, shutting down opposing guards, but also spending time pushing 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis out of the post or shutting down Hawks star Paul Millsap in the midst of a 45-point playoff outburst. Smart is one of the best garbage players in the NBA, and that’s meant as a compliment, thanks to his ability to attack the offensive glass, pick up loose balls, and force mayhem on both ends of the floor. He also deserves credit for his willingness to take, and make, big shots, playing beyond his shooting percentages in pressure situations. He’s also only 12 days older than Dunn.

The case against Smart

Man, that shot. Smart’s jumper is not pretty and neither are his shooting percentages. He shot just .253 on 3-pointers last year, third-worst in the NBA. He has also demonstrated time and again an inability to score at the rim, where he’s often swallowed up by bigger players. Smart’s impressive athleticism tends to be of the horizontal variety, where his foot speed allows him to stay in front of opposing ball handlers. He’s vertically challenged, however, lacking explosiveness at the rim. There are also real questions about his ball handling, which is why Evan Turner ends up playing point guard when Smart’s on the floor. His shot selection remains extremely iffy — Smart has never met a contested 3-pointer early in the shot clock that he wouldn’t take. Then there’s the whole flopping/complaining thing.

The Verdict

The Celtics need scoring, not another athletic, defensive-minded point guard. Even accepting that Dunn will be a better pro than Smart, the C’s can do better with the third pick when they already have a reasonable facsimile on their roster. Keep Smart, use the third pick on a shooter.

Previous entries

May 24: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Blake Griffin
May 23: Bradley Beal vs. Gordon Hayward
May 20: Buddy Hield vs. Jaylen Brown
May 19: Jahlil Okafor vs. Dragan Bender

Read More: Celtics, Celtics choice, Kris Dunn, Marcus Smart

Jackie MacMullan on OM&F: ‘You can forget about [Kevin] Durant’

05.24.16 at 2:58 pm ET
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May 22, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) defends during the second quarter in game three of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant dribbles on Warriors guard Stephen Curry. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Appearing on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria program Tuesday, ESPN basketball columnist and Hall of Famer Jackie MacMullan gave Celtics fans a huge reality check when it comes to Kevin Durant.

The superstar in the midst of playoff run with the Thunder, helping them to a 2-1 series lead over favored Golden State, could become a free agent this summer. The speculation is that he would sign a one-year deal and then sign his mega-deal starting with the 2017-18 season, when the NBA salary cap is around $108 million.

Celtics fans chanted “Come to Boston” and he acknowledged, “I like the city a lot,” when Oklahoma City came to town in March and spanked the Celtics. That was the same week Philadelphia fans did the same in the hopes of luring him to their town.

MacMullan said a reality check is in order.

“You can forget about Durant,” MacMullan said. I’m not sure Durant is going to go anywhere. Suppose they win the championship, you think he’s going to leave there?

“The truth is: All these people put words in Kevin Durant’s mouth about leaving in the first place. Has he ever said that he wanted to leave? He never has. That, to me, is a bit of a pipe dream.”

Another name that’s been tossed around is Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler. He’s got four years left on a five-year, $92.3 million deal. MacMullan thinks the asking price from Chicago could be too steep, even for the Celtics.

“Jimmy Butler, what’s the price? That matters, that matters,” she added. “You can’t give away everything away for Jimmy Butler. I would love to have Jimmy Butler here.”

Then the most realistic scenario came up. MacMullan thinks the Celtics are “most realistic” contenders for Philly big man Jahlil Okafor.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jackie MacMullan, Jahlil Okafor

Lakers might have interest in Dragan Bender, meaning Brandon Ingram could fall to Celtics

05.24.16 at 11:27 am ET
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The Celtics were slotted the third overall pick in this year’s NBA draft last week, which meant to most NBA scouts and fans that Boston would miss out on the draft’s top two prospects, LSU power forward Ben Simmons and Duke forward Brandon Ingram.

However, recent reports suggest that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge may have a better chance of grabbing Simmons or Ingram than expected.

Lakersnation.com reported that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak might have interest in drafting international center Dragan Bender with the second overall pick instead of Simmons or Ingram. Therefore, if Ainge holds onto the third overall pick, one of the supposed top two players this year could be wearing a Celtics uniform this fall.

“I’m not sure there’s as dramatic a cliff as people think between 2 and 3,” Kupchak said in an interview with TNT analyst David Aldridge. “Any way you look at it, we feel we’ll get an excellent player at 2.”

Added Kupchak: “If you look at our depth chart, you can make an argument that we need a player in the frontcourt,” Kupchak said. “We need a big. … I think we’re more set in the backcourt than the frontcourt.”

If the Lakers are truly looking for a big man, they could do a lot worse than selecting Bender, a 7-foot-1, 225 pound Croatian who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel last season. At 18 years old, Bender has plenty of upside, and scouts love his ability to protect the rim and his outside shooting. With 6-foot-9 Laker Julius Randle occupying the power forward position, a true big man like Bender could provide immediate aid to a rebuilding Los Angeles squad.

It would make sense for the Lakers to consider taking Bender over the 6-foot-10 Simmons or 6-foot-9 Ingram, who play more like small forwards than true big men. Most mock drafts, like the one on nbadraft.net, have Simmons going first overall to the 76ers, suggesting that if Bender is taken second by Los Angeles, it’s Ingram who most likely will be available.

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Read More: Brandon Ingram, Dragan Bender,

Celtics choice: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Blake Griffin

05.24.16 at 6:12 am ET
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As the days pass leading up to June’s NBA draft, we want to encourage the debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick to trade for Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins or Clippers superstar Blake Griffin

The case for Cousins

Cousins is arguably, at 6-foot-11, 270 pounds, the most talented young true center in the NBA. He turns 26 this August and is coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons with the woebegone Kings. He’s gone from 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2013-14 to 26.9 and 11.9 this past season. He can give the Celtics everything they’re looking for in a true post presence, who can score and rim protect. He would instantly transform Boston’s front court into a powerhouse. He’s still got two years left on a four-year, $65 million deal, averaging $17.5 million each season, not bad for the production. The Celtics had no low post presence against the Hawks in their first-round series. Cousins would immediately change all of that. 

The case against Cousins

It’s the attitude, son. No one doubts his raw ability and production. No one also doubts his lack of maturity has greatly stunted his ability to lead in Sacramento. No doubt, being on a losing franchise year after year can wear on an impressionable kid. Having Rajon Rondo in the locker room probably didn’t do a lot to help in that regard, either. Cousins famously erupted at Kings coach George Karl last November in front of the team. He’s had many other flare-ups over his six seasons in the land NBA winners went to escape relevance. The Celtics spent much of the season building bonds and shedding tears when the season came to an end in April. Cousins could be an explosive mix to that. 

 

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Read More: 2016 NBA draft, blake griffin, Boston Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins

Danny Ainge provides some insight on where he’s headed with No. 3: Be the best ‘without selling out’

05.23.16 at 3:10 pm ET
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Jan 26, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge looks on prior to the game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Ainge has lots to consider before the June 23 draft. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)

If you’re wondering what Danny Ainge is thinking heading into June 23, think long-term instead of short-term. 

Appearing on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final Sunday night, the president of basketball operations for the Celtics suggested that there’s a lot to consider when weighing trading the No. 3 pick or holding onto it for the best player available at that spot. 

“[The pick] certainly doesn’t have the same cachet in trade conversations, in trying to get better quicker, so that sets that back a little bit. Or we’d have to give up more [talent as part of a trade],” Ainge told the show. “I think that there are good players, if we end up using that draft pick. We’re excited about the potential players.”

So, it appears that Ainge is suggesting that making any trade to bring back a reasonable piece would involve trading one of his existing pieces, not necessarily a deal it sounds like he’s ready to make, at least not yet. 

“Right now, we’re trying to become a better team as fast as we can without selling out. I guess that’s the best way to put it,” Ainge told the show.  “We want to become a more significant team this upcoming year. And, at the same time, we want to build something that’s sustainable for a longer period of time.

“I think that that’s my job in the organization. I think that ownership would like to see something happen faster. I know my coaches would like to see something faster. I know my players want to see something faster. I’ve been in their positions and I get it. I want to see something faster, too. But I just have to protect us from doing something irrational, just to get a little bit better. If it’s something that gets us to be a true championship contender faster, then I think we’re all on board. As long as it’s a sustainable formula and not a one-year quick hit that sacrifices future assets.”

There’s been plenty of speculation as to whether the Celtics would trade the No. 3 to Philadelphia for a chance to take Providence College star Kris Dunn, after presumably taking either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. 

But if the Celtics hold onto the pick, it’s not likely that they go with Dunn. Instead, names like 7-footer Dragan Bender, sharp-shooter Jamaal Murray and scoring phenom Buddy Hield are in the mix.

Then Ainge made his biggest point, something to consider whether the Celtics draft a player, sign one in free agency or acquire a player this summer in a trade. 

“A player that is going to take time to develop or a player that may not come over to the NBA for a year or two, if we really believe that player’s the best player, we have to take him,” said Ainge. “We cannot let a player slip by us just because it doesn’t fulfill our immediate satisfaction, or the objective for the fans to see something more exciting. We have to pick the best player, under any circumstance. There are just too many examples of really good players that the fans haven’t been excited about on draft day.

“Last year, I remember [Kristaps] Porzingis was drafted in New York and they were booing all over the place and you’re like, ‘Well, why would they be booing so much on Porzingis?’ When you draft players, I remember when I was in Phoenix and we drafted Steve Nash and we were booed. I remember being booed when Dan Majerle was drafted in Phoenix. You can’t base any of your decisions based on what the public thinks and based on what other people think you should do. You just really have to use our experience, our work, and our eyes, and we communicate all the time on what the best road to go is.”

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Buddy Hield, Danny Ainge
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