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Celtics Player Preview: Jae Crowder 09.17.16 at 2:21 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

JAE CROWDER

2015-16 season 

73 games with Celtics: 31.6 minutes, 14.2 points, 44.2% FG, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals

After signing a five-year, $35 million deal in the summer of 2015, Crowder proved he was worth every penny. He emerged as one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference — a two-way wing-defender who could knock down jump shots on the other end of the floor. Crowder finished the regular season shooting 33 percent from deep, but from inside the arc — his sweet spot — Crowder shot 41.6 percent. He also was a leader in the locker room and a catalyst who helped pushed the Celtics to a 48-34 regular-season record. For his production, Crowder is a bargain. 

Projected role in 2016-17

As the Celtics’ most versatile defender, Crowder will continue to be a defensive anchor in the front court and should get more touches on the offensive end. With Al Horford’s inside presence, Crowder will get more open looks — which should help him improve on his 44.2 percent field goal percentage from last season. But more importantly, he’s proven he can guard some of the league’s best players — All-Stars like LeBron James, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Crowder’s defensive assignments against some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference will give the Celtics a fighting chance to reach the upper echelon of the conference. He also will continue his leadership role in the locker room and show his understudy — rookie small forward Jaylen Brown — the ropes.

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Celtics Player Preview: Ben Bentil 09.16.16 at 2:14 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

BEN BENTIL

2015-16 season

35 games with Providence College: 34.2 minutes, 21.1 points, 46.2% FG, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

As Providence’s leading scorer, Bentil led his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and made a name for himself as a versatile scoring power forward. As a sophomore, Bentil tripled his point average from his freshman campaign while adding a 3-point shot to his arsenal. He shot 32 percent from deep while attempting 4.5 3-pointers a night. Alongside senior point guard Kris Dunn — the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft — the duo led the Friars to a 24-11 record, the best record Providence has seen in 12 years.

Projected role in 2016-17

Bentil has a shot at making the opening night roster but will still be spending time in the D-League. He’s a project the Celtics will work on, and they demonstrated their belief in his potential by inking him to a three-year deal this summer. Bentil won’t receive meaningful minutes behind guys like Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller but will develop his defensive prowess and scoring abilities.

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Isaiah Thomas surprises Cambridge 14-year-old on ‘Good Morning America’ 09.14.16 at 12:14 pm ET
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Isaiah Thomas surprised 14-year-old Robbie McNulty for the second straight week by inviting him to an upcoming Celtics game as the two appeared via video on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

After joining McNulty for a surprise shooting session at a Cambridge park last week, Thomas stunned the teenager again by inviting him to a game at TD Garden.

“Thanks for letting me shoot hoops with you the other day,” Thomas said in a video taped at the Celtics’ Waltham practice facility. “Keep working on that jumper. I know we talked about this upcoming season, and I’d like to invite you to one of my games as my guest. See you at the Garden.”

McNulty is a diehard Celtics fan and Thomas is his favorite player. After his first day at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, McNulty went to the basketball court by himself after none of his friends wanted to join him, but he wasn’t alone for long. Thomas saw McNulty playing alone and headed toward him.

“It was just so nice of him to come over and play with me,” McNulty said. “I bet he didn’t even think it would be that big of a deal to me, but for me, like, it’s crazy. He’s an NBA All-Star and he’s just looking at you and talking to you.”

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Jaylen Brown works out with Jimmy Butler 09.06.16 at 8:56 pm ET
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Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown is gearing up for his NBA debut by working out with one of the best shooting guards in the league. 

Brown posted a video on Twitter of himself working out with Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler over the weekend. The video shows the C’s first-round pick running a leg drill with help from the Bulls guard.

Back in June, Butler complimented Brown during an appearance on Bill Simmons’ podcast, stating the young prospect reminded him of himself after playing him one-on-one back in June.  

Brown spoke to reporters in New York after the draft about the intense game he had with Butler. 

“We went tooth and nail at it. … I guess he thought it would be easy, and then somebody won the first game and then he wanted to keep going,” Brown told reporters in New York. “And so we kept going after that, then he won the second, then he won the third, then I won the fourth, and we ended up playing all the way to 21.”

Butler — who reportedly was targeted as a trade possibility by the Celtics this summer — is getting ready for a highly anticipated season with the Bulls. After winning a gold medal with Team USA at the Rio Olympics, Butler will be teaming up with new teammates Dwyane Wade and former Celtic Rajon Rondo.

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4 candidates eager to grab Celtics’ 6th man role this season 08.26.16 at 10:11 am ET
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Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart will look to fill Evan Turner’s role on the Celtics this season. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

One of the biggest questions the Celtics will have to answer at the start of the regular season is this: Who will emerge as the team’s sixth man?

 In a two-year span, Evan Turner (now with the Trail Blazers) flourished as the Celtics’ first option off the bench. He provided scoring and rebounding and was the team’s secondary ball handler. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season, and his production surely will be missed.

Turner finished fifth in voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and made game-deciding plays, so there’s certainly a void left behind. However, the Celtics have more than a few options off the bench — guys who have the potential to perform on both ends of the floor at a high rate and are very much capable of becoming the team’s newest sixth man next season. 

Here are their best options.

1. Marcus Smart 

Smart is heading into his third NBA season, and expectations are at an all-time high for him. Last season he carved out a role for himself as the team’s second-best backcourt defender (behind Avery Bradley), while also showing flashes of scoring prowess. Most notably there was a 26-point performance against arguably the best point guard in the league — Thunder star Russell Westbrook — as Smart made 9-of-14 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and led the C’s to a 100-85 win at Oklahoma City. 

An impressive showing for the young guard, but what’s often frustrating about Smart’s offense is his lack of consistency — something Westbrook (who finished with 27 points that night) reminded us about Smart after the loss:

“[Smart] had a good game. But there’s 82 games I do this,” Westbrook said.

The following night, Smart finished with four points in 30 minutes against the Rockets — a big drop-off from what was the best scoring night of his career.

Although Smart’s suffocating defense helped limit Westbrook to 25 percent shooting (5-of-20), in order for him to slide into the team’s sixth man role he’s going to have to find consistency on both ends of the floor. If he can build off Game 4 of April’s playoff series against the Hawks — another fantastic performance from Smart — there’s a strong chance that Stevens will see his backup guard reach new heights next season.

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Read More: Gerald Green, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier
Why a Ray Allen comeback isn’t best for Celtics 08.17.16 at 6:54 pm ET
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Jan 27, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics during the first half at TD Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Allen, 41, has reached out to the Bucks and Celtics about making a comeback (Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports)

Although it would be a sweet storybook ending to see the NBA’s greatest 3-point shooter donning a green and white uniform one final time, I’m afraid there’s no room for a Ray Allen comeback in Boston.

For a young up-and-coming team that continues to steadily climb toward the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are a team that’s better off without Allen.  

Allen, 41, told the Hartford Courant he’s reached out to the Celtics and the Bucks about a comeback — a report that left me torn as I asked myself: Is seeing Ray Allen back in Boston best for the Celtics or best for Ray Allen?

Only five players have played in the NBA at the age of 41 — Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo.  

Cousy, the only guard on the list, was pressed into service for seven games in an attempt to boost ticket sales while coaching the Cincinnati Royals in 1970, seven years after he retired from the Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 10 points in 22.9 minutes in his final season (1988-89), Mutumbo’s 1.2 blocks per game average for two seasons (2007-09) helped extend his career to the age of 42, and Parish scored 4.8 points in 16.7 minutes a night for the Hornets at age 41. Willis averaged 3.4 points in 7.8 minutes and eventually became the oldest player in NBA history when he retired at age 44 with the Bulls (2006-07).

If there’s anyone who could become the sixth 41-year-old and first guard to play valuable minutes for a club, it’d be Allen.

However, at this stage, this young team led by coach Brad Stevens still is predicated on developing young talent into impact players. This is the same place where Isaiah Thomas blossomed into an All-star, where Avery Bradley became an NBA All-Defensive first-team guard, where Evan Turner was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and where Jae Crowder arrived as a bench warmer from the Mavericks and transformed into one of the better small forwards in the Eastern Conference.

This isn’t the place for Allen to turn back the clock for one final hurrah.

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Can Terry Rozier build off last season’s playoff opportunity? 08.12.16 at 3:15 pm ET
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Apr 26, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Rozier has made his case for why he deserves an increased role for the Celtics next season (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

The playoffs provided a glimpse of what could be for Terry Rozier and the Celtics. 

When Brad Stevens turned to the 16th overall pick of the 2015 draft in the April playoff series against the Hawks, the 6-foot-2 rookie did not disappoint.

After averaging only eight minutes in 39 regular season games, Rozier made his presence felt in his first NBA playoff series – averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19.8 minutes.

He knocked down shots, did a stellar job on defense and most importantly, became the facilitator who Stevens could rely on for valuable minutes.

However, past performances won’t necessarily cement Rozier into the Celtics’ 2016-17 rotation. His opportunity in the playoffs was due in large part to Avery Bradley being unavailable after suffering a right hamstring injury in the Game 1 loss in Atlanta. But Rozier’s skill-set as a pure point guard will certainly increase his chances in becoming one of Stevens’ go-to options off the bench next season.

In a sixth man role, Evan Turner emerged as the team’s secondary facilitator for two years in Boston. As the secondary ball handler, Turner helped keep opposing teams at bay while the starters rested.

Now, with Turner in Portland, many expect Rozier to take on an increased role. He used the Celtics’ Summer League platform to prove why he’s ready to step up to the challenge. Rozier was the team’s MVP this summer – averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

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