|06.18.14 at 9:59 am ET|
As this year’s highly anticipated NBA draft creeps even closer, the Celtics continue to do their homework.
Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens are busy students, having brought in several groups of prospects to get a better look at them in person. Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart have been the headliners so far, along with local products Noah Vonleh and Shabazz Napier. Clearly Ainge and Stevens are preparing for the draft as if they will be using both of their first-round draft picks.
That’s their job, after all. Which doesn’t necessarily mean Ainge is going to use the picks. He simply has to be ready to do so.
The Celtics were very busy last feel, holding workouts with Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott, essentially everyone they would consider with the No. 6 pick.
I still believe that Vonleh, Gordon and Smart are the heavy favorites if Boston keeps the pick, with Gordon being the choice right now given the way we have the draft board playing out.
But I continue to get strong signals that the Celtics are trying hard to use pick No. 6 and 17 along with future No. 1s and young players such as Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk to persuade the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade them Kevin Love. One source close to the Wolves said that while Flip Saunders does not want to trade Love, he realizes the team likely will lose him this summer and the package the Celtics are offering is probably the best he’s going to get. Given the strength of the draft, picks 6, 13 and 17 could land them three young starters to help them rebuild their roster quickly.
As Ford implies, a trade along these lines not only makes sense for both sides, but Boston has to be considered the team with the most to offer.
|06.18.14 at 9:00 am ET|
As part of WEEI.com’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: Combo guard
School: Michigan State
Weight: 205 pounds
Key 2013-14 stats: 16.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists
Scouting report: Harris is one of the best defenders in the draft and can easily defend multiple positions despite being undersized. He’s a lockdown defender in man-to-man situations, but also is excellent off-ball, constantly displaying top-notch awareness by hitting his rotations and by sticking to players running through screens.
The 19-year-old also has complementary scoring skills on the offensive end, as he is an improving 3-point shooter and ball-handler. Some teams even project him as a “modern point guard” because he is a solid passer and tends to make the right play in pick-and-roll situations.
Harris does have his problems as a scorer, though, as he was extremely inefficient in the half-court, with only a 49.5 effective field goal percentage and a 43.1 at-rim field goal percentage, according to Hoop-Math.com. Part of the reason for those struggles is his lack of a floater or mid-range game to compensate for his finishing ability at the rim.
Overall, Harris has a lot of skill at his age and should continue to improve on the offensive end. Even if he doesn’t, his defense is still good enough for him to carve out a role as a defensive specialist.
How he fits: Harris could work as a contingency plan in case Avery Bradley can’t be re-signed or is used in a sign-and-trade deal. Harris brings a similar skill set and could potentially have even higher upside than Bradley.
ESPN Insider: Why Harris is a lottery pick
SB Nation: The big Gary Harris scouting report: The 3-and-D prototype
Video: Gary Harris pre-draft workout and interview
|06.17.14 at 1:05 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics may or may not get a chance to take Shabazz Napier in the June 26 NBA draft. But team personnel executive Austin Ainge made one thing clear his opinion Monday after Napier’s workout for the team: Napier will be playing somewhere in the NBA eventually.
“Shabazz is so clever and shifty,” Ainge said. “He is very hard to stay in front of because he really changes directions very well. He’s quick but he is even shiftier than he is quick. He’s very clever and he can make shots.
“Shabazz is not physically overwhelming, but he has toughness, intelligence and skill and that extra savvy, so he more than makes up for it. He’s going to make it is my guess. He’s a good player.”
Napier stands just 5-feet-11 and weighs 180 pounds, with a wingspan just over 6-feet-3 and a reach of 7-feet-9. But to Ainge and the Celtics, his ability to lead a winning program on the court has its own rewards in the eyes of basketball evaluators.
“It’s big. It’s big,” Ainge said. “We all can look at physical tools. But the league is full of guys that don’t fit most athletic, physical but still are successful. Shabazz certainly checks the box as to how well physically he can play.”
But those numbers certainly don’t count for everything, like winning two national championships at one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country — UConn — and staying at school and playing all four years.
“You can certainly see it,” Ainge said of Napier’s pure skill. “It’s obvious watching Shabazz. Then I think it’s measured in all the other stats. He gets assists, points in the paint and his teams win. All those things can be measured.
“In a college game you learn a lot. But in this, you learn different things. We’re putting him against NBA athletes in NBA positions. That’s probably the biggest advantage for us.”
|06.16.14 at 3:55 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Before stepping on the court for a workout Monday morning at the Celtics training facility, Shabazz Napier wanted to make sure he took it all in.
So, the former University of Connecticut star point guard — born in Roxbury and schooled at Charlestown High — came in Sunday night and took some time before an informal shootaround to just be the fan of the Celtics he was growing up.
“I came in [Sunday] to shoot a little bit,” Napier said. “For about a good 5-10 minutes, I looked around at the banners. Just a warm feeling. [Watching] the Celtics growing up, being a Boston fan and you get those chills you every time you watch those films. It took me about five to 10 minutes to realize I was here.”
Monday, Napier was all business. He took part in an NBA pre-draft workout Monday morning for the Celtics. The two-time NCAA champion guard says he may not have all the physical tools like size and length but his heart makes him an NBA leader. Napier grew up in the Boston area before leaving for UConn but says he still cheers for Boston teams like the Celtics.
One thing he wanted to get across in his meeting with reporters was his confidence that he can do in the NBA what he did at UConn — lead a team to a championship.
“I don’t have the crazy wingspan,” said Napier, whose wingspan at the combine was measured at 6-foot-3.25 inches. “I just have the heart that a lot of guys with those attributes don’t have. You put me in front of anybody I’m going to compete. That’s the biggest thing that I have gotten since I was younger. I was always the littlest guy. Those are the things I can’t worry about. Just be myself. There are a lot of guys with those attributes that can’t lead a team like I can. There’s always a reason for something. I’m definitely happy I can lead a team.
“I’ve been to six [NBA] teams so far and basketball has taken me there. It’s been a blessing.”
Napier said that he plans to work out for at least two more teams, including the Rockets this week, before sitting back and watching where his name is called on June 26.
|06.13.14 at 9:21 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Friday featured the largest pre-draft workout the Celtics have held so far. Julius Randle and Marcus Smart were the two biggest names, but there were five other guards on the floor with high hopes of hearing their names called early on draft night, too.
Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris, Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payton and Jordan Clarkson all worked out together alongside Smart. Here is some of what they had to say about their workouts.
Zach LaVine (UCLA, freshman)
On the workout:
“It was really good. I feel like I got through everything. I feel like I played really good defense. I feel like I shot the ball well. Just being with the guys, you know, it was a good overall workout.”
On what stood out:
“We did pretty much everything competitive — one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three. We also got to show our skill set and athleticism. Then at the end we got to show our heart and will. … I definitely liked this one a lot.”
Elfrid Payton (Louisiana Lafayette, junior)
Do you have a chip on your shoulder coming from a small school?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely. I’ve got to prove something every time I’m on the court, prove that I belong and that I’m one of the best. So that’s kind of my mindset coming in.”
|06.13.14 at 7:48 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Marcus Smart has high expectations.
Those expectations include a high draft position on June 26, a long, successful and financially beneficial career and the chance to compete for an NBA title.
Now, the issue is whether the Celtics help Smart fulfill those dreams. The Celtics held a pre-draft workout on Friday morning that featured six guards. The group was headlined by the 20-year-old who spent two seasons at Oklahoma State.
Several mock drafts, including the most recent on WEEI.com’s Green Street, have the former Cowboy selected between spots 4-8 on June 26. So, landing in Boston with the No. 6 overall pick is a strong possibility.
“I just came out here and competed,” Smart said of his workout, “I wanted to prove that I can play at the next level.”
Coach Brad Stevens had a strong takeaway from watching Smart work out.
“I thought he was good, he was physical, he’s a leader,” Stevens said. “[I] thought he shot the ball well in drills. He’s got a way about him that people follow. He’s a very tough guy, he competed the whole time. My expectations for him were high in that regard, but he certainly met them. He’s going to be a good player.”
Not surprisingly, one of the first questions Smart fielded was about the altercation he was involved with back on Feb. 8 when he shoved a fan at Texas Tech.
“Surprisingly, not many teams have asked me about it,” he offered, “They kind of just understand it’s the competitiveness in [me]. … And I know I’ve learned my lesson from it.”
Stevens had little concern as well. When asked if he had any concerns about Smart’s maturity, Stevens replied, “No, not at all.”
|06.13.14 at 2:56 pm ET|
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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