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Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agents to watch in ’15 05.14.14 at 11:02 am ET
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In my last column, I wrote about some free agents who potentially could catch Danny Ainge‘€™s eye this summer. However, if you expect a 2007-ish rebuild to happen overnight again, I’€™m afraid your expectations are too high. The Celtics are going to take a couple of years to build back up, making 2015 an equally important offseason.

A lot can happen between now and next summer, but a strong free agent class is anticipated. Much like the last column, not all of the names may look like fits now, but under the right circumstances could be in the future. Following is a handful of names that should be on Ainge’€™s radar for 2015.

Brook Lopez First and foremost, Lopez needs to prove he can stay healthy. He’€™s had serious foot issues so far in the NBA, but he also is one of the best scoring centers in the league when healthy. Lopez is a legit 7-footer, something Ainge is looking for in his next big man.

Lopez signed a four-year extension in 2012, but 2015-16 is a player option, so he could choose to opt out if the Nets begin to fade from contention. The Nets have the potential to implode over the next couple of seasons due to age and bad contracts. Even as players begin to come off the books, Brooklyn still should be over the cap for years to come, making the team’s future a delicate situation.

This signing would be a risk, but if the price is right, Lopez could be the perfect fit next to Jared Sullinger … on offense, that is. Defensively Ainge still would need to find a solution. That said, a frontcourt that features and healthy Lopez and Sullinger is scary for any team to face.

Robin Lopez – For twin brothers, Robin and Brook sure have different games. Robin is much more of a low-post defender and shot-blocker than his brother, but he is nowhere near as developed on offense.

With the scoring ability of Sullinger, Robin would be just as good a fit as his brother in Boston. Robin would not be leaned upon to score, allowing him to do what he does best — defend and rebound. He has had a ton of success in Portland this season playing alongside scorers, including in the playoffs. The more I think about it, despite Brook’€™s All-Star appearance; Robin is the Lopez brother to watch in 2015.

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Read More: Anderson Varejao, Brook Lopez, Danny Ainge, Kenneth Faried
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agent possibilities for Celtics this offseason 05.01.14 at 12:33 pm ET
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After a flurry of draft-related news, we finally have reached a standstill. The date for underclassmen to declare has passed, and as expected all the big names are in. So what do we have to look forward to?

The draft combine will take place in Chicago from May 14-18, and it’s something Celtics fans will want to keep an eye on. Many of the top prospects will attend, a great way to gauge how each player looks on the exact same measuring stick. Much of the Celtics‘€™ destiny relies on May 20, when the lottery reveals what pick Boston will hold. Of course, June 26 is the actual draft date, when everything will come to a head.

But the draft is not the only way to acquire talent this summer. Whether Danny Ainge decides to use or trade his draft picks, there is a solid free agent pool that Ainge will not be able to ignore. Trading for Kevin Love is the sexy solution to Boston’€™s problems at the moment, and it’€™s not all that unrealistic. Other stars are bound to be available come draft day as well.

Draft picks and trades rely on different variables, however. You can’€™t make a GM trade you a player, nor can you make a player fall to you in the draft. Free agents, on the other hand, come with far less complications. Of course they can choose their destination (or be matched by their current team if they are restricted), but there is nothing standing in Ainge’€™s way of pursuing free agents this summer.

With that said, following is a look at some free agents who have a realistic chance of at least being on Boston’€™s radar.

Lance Stephenson – Stephenson has had a breakout season for the recently struggling Pacers. At one point, this looked like a team destined to stay together. But Indy is self-destructing in the first-round against eighth-seeded Atlanta. Something will need to change next season.

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Kevin Love
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Celtics’ mock draft a coin flip 04.24.14 at 2:16 pm ET
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If you’re a Celtics fan, then you know this: Boston has never had lottery luck. This year, the C’€™s tough luck started early. With the lottery still almost a month away, the C’s already lost a coin flip to Utah, breaking the tie for the fourth position.

Here’€™s what losing the coin flip means for the Celtics‘€™ draft selection.

  • 1. The Celtics get one less combination for a top-three pick than the Jazz. This is the least of Danny Ainge‘€™s concerns. Utah has a 10.4 percent chance at the top pick, and Boston has a 10.3 percent shot. The C’€™s also have 11.1 and 12.0 percent chances at second or third, respectively.
  • 2. The Celtics cannot pick fourth. If both teams miss out on a top-three pick, Utah receives the higher draft spot. As a result, Boston has a 66.6 percent chance of picking between 5-8 if they don’t win a lottery spot.
  • 3. The Celtics‘€™ most likely spot to draft is sixth. In fact, there’s a higher chance they pick sixth (34.2 percent) than in the top three (33.4). It’€™s safe to say they’ll be in the top seven, although there’s a 0.3 percent chance they pick eighth.

Until May 20, as I say in every draft piece, nobody can be sure of anything. That being said, let’s pretend the Ping Pong balls fall exactly as they’re suppose to, even if they most certainly will not. Here is my mock draft for picks 1-17 as of April 24, covering both of Ainge’s first-round selections.

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Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Jabari Parker latest to enter draft as Celtics go 4th into offseason 04.17.14 at 10:20 am ET
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(Editor’s note: Updated after Jabari Parker announced Thursday afternoon that he would enter the draft.)

The NBA season came to a close on Wednesday night. After six consecutive playoff runs, the Celtics might have had their longest season in recent memory. Not in terms of games played, but in terms of how dreadful it was to watch drag on. The Celtics were here in 2007, and they were unconventionally rewarded, we’€™ll see if they are so lucky this time.

Following a 118-102 blowout loss to the Wizards on Wednesday, the Celtics finished the 2013-14 campaign with a record of 25-57. Just one victory better than the 24 wins that landed the Celtics the second-highest lottery odds in ‘€™07. Of course, they got the worst pick possible (fifth overall), but we all know what happened from there. This season’€™s 25 wins are good for a tie for the fourth-highest lottery position with the Jazz — meaning they split the odds of the fourth- and fifth-worst teams. Essentially, Boston owns the 4.5th spot in the draft.

Here is how this all shakes down: The draft lottery will be held on May 20, but Friday will be the first important date to mark on your calendars. A coin flip will take place, in which the winner between Boston and Utah will have a fractionally higher shot at winning a top-three pick. However, the more important aspect of the coin flip is that if both teams fall outside of the top three, the winner will pick one spot higher than the loser. This scenario is not out of the question after what we witnessed in ‘€™07.

The Celtics‘€™ official odds of landing the top overall pick in the draft are 10.3 percent. They maintain a 33.5 percent shot at selecting in the top three. This leaves the rest of the odds pointing to the C’€™s picking between fourth and seventh, unless they lose the coin flip, and miss out on a top-three pick along with Utah. In this unlikely scenario, Boston would be left picking somewhere between fifth and eighth.

So now that the season finally comes to an end, here is the clarity we are left with: The Celtics can select anywhere between first and eighth in the draft ‘€“ or seventh by Friday if they win the coin flip. The point? Although it is nice to know their final percentages, none of it actually matters until they pull the ping pong balls on May 20. That is when the certainty will be revealed.

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Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Celtics’ late skid puts them in solid position 04.10.14 at 2:19 pm ET
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I have been saying for about a month now that the bottom three teams in the NBA are etched in stone: Bucks, 76ers and Magic. However, thanks to a nine-game Celtics losing streak, combined with an unlikely two-game Magic winning streak, I was wrong. Both teams enter Thursday with records of 23-55, sharing the third spot in the lottery.

This is exactly what Danny Ainge had in mind at the start of the season, and now his plan is coming to fruition. But with only four games remaining for both Orlando and Boston, losing has become as important as ever this season. The Magic still have the inside track, as they play the Wizards, Nets (looking for revenge for Orlando’€™s win Wednesday), Bulls and Pacers.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have some very winnable games, so this is going to require some dedication to losing. The C’s face the Bobcats, Cavaliers, 76ers and Wizards in their final four outings. Yes, that’€™s right, the Celtics and 76ers will face off in another dreadful battle like the one we saw last Friday night at the Garden. Boston’s other three opponents are either trying to fight their way into the postseason or are jostling for position, so they arguably have something to play for.

This is all speculation at the moment, but if we are going by what the numbers tell us, Orlando will lose out. Meanwhile, the C’s should lose three of those games, leaving us with the 76ers contest. Look, the Celtics roster is clearly better than Philly’s, but Brad Stevens and company are going to have to understand the importance of sacrificing this game. This single game could hold the value of moving up one spot in the lottery — or not falling back a spot, depending on which way you want to look at it.

On top of that, unless the 14-win Bucks finish on a hot streak, the 76ers have nothing to lose by winning games now. They are six wins behind the Magic and Celtics, so even if they win out they still hold the second spot in the lottery. Essentially, I am saying the 76ers can stop tanking and it will not affect their lottery odds. Monday night in Philadelphia is the Celtics’ biggest game of the season.

This is all premature, as we have no clue what will happen in these games. The Magic are hot, maybe they can win another one and the C’€™s finish with sole possession of the third lottery spot. Maybe Orlando’€™s schedule is too much and Boston slips back to the fourth spot. Then there is the event of a tie, which actually is more likely at this point — both teams could easily go winless the rest of the season. If Boston and Orlando share the third-worst record in the NBA, they would split the lottery odds of third and fourth down the middle — a 42.4 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 89.4 percent chance at a top-five pick each.

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Danny Ainge, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Final Four players to watch 04.05.14 at 10:07 pm ET
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That is my tweet following Friday night’€™s nine-point Celtics loss to the 76ers in a game in which Boston was favored by double digits. And after sleeping on it, I feel even more strongly that this was the C’€™s best loss of the season.

Now sitting alone in the fourth lottery position, Boston is coming off of a crushing blowout at the hands of the Wizards and an embarrassing home loss to Philly. Seriously, everyone who came off the Sixers bench I had to Google to find out who they were. This season is not worth trying to figure out anymore.

The only thing worth understanding? Nothing is more valuable than losing these final games. Boston could realistically finish with anywhere from the fourth-best to seventh-best lottery odds, it’€™s that tight. Look, it sucks to cheer for your team to lose, I get that, but it’€™s almost over. Next year the Celts are going to be on the rise whether Danny Ainge uses his draft picks or trades them. So if you truly bleed green, you can cheer for just a few more losses before we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But is anyone even paying attention? The Red Sox are kicking off their World Series defense, the Bruins are at the same point of the season as the Celtics, only as the top team in the East, and the Patriots are working out some of the top quarterbacks in May’€™s draft.

Honestly, there is nothing on the court worth watching right now when it comes to Celtics basketball. The highlight of the last couple of months came on Monday when Rajon Rondo was in the booth calling the first half of Celtics vs. Bulls. The next big date for the Celtics is May 20 — the draft lottery. So here is something short term and something long term for Celtics fans to pay attention to until the big date.

In the short term, well, fortunately, we have the Final Four. This is our last chance to watch college hoops until next season, at the price of many of the top prospects already being sent home. But Kentucky is an interesting team to watch simply because of Julius Randle. A lot can happen between now and June, but right now Randle is expected to be about the fifth pick in the draft — the Celtics are expected to hold about the fifth pick in the draft. See the connection there?

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Chris Walker, Frank Kaminsky, Jabari Parker
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Top prospects exit early from March Madness, but some intriguing talents remain 03.26.14 at 10:46 am ET
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Remember last week when I said that the beginning of March Madness is the greatest four-day stretch on the sports calendar? Well, I rarely get to reap the benefits of being right, so this is the part where I say, “I told you so.”

Seriously, what a weekend. Some will whine and complain about the low scores, the long shot clock or the quality of the play. Really!? Mercer completely outplaying Duke wasn’t shocking enough for you? Harvard winning a tournament game for the second year in a row, then giving Michigan State a run for its money didn’t entertain you? Dayton battling past Ohio State and Syracuse into the Sweet 16 — setting up a double-digit-seed showdown with Stanford, which took down Kansas — didn’t inspire you? Sorry to ramble, but this tournament is just too much fun.

To sum it all up, just picture this: No. 5-seed VCU is at the free throw line for a pair, up four points, with 10 seconds left against 12th-seed Stephen F. Austin. Now I tell you Stephen F. Austin will win this game by two points in overtime, arriving there on two missed free throws followed by an improbable four-point-play with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Would you even believe me? It makes it 10 times more fun if you had Stephen F. Austin in your bracket, too.

This is why you watch March Madness.

The Celtics are involved in some madness of their own, as they jostle for lottery position in the bottom-heavy NBA. They currently are slotted into the fifth lottery spot, which after giving a glance at the standings and schedules isn’€™t a horrible place to end up. With 12 games remaining, Boston has to face the amazingly horrible 76ers (riding a cool 25-game losing streak) twice before season’€™s end, but the rest of their games could be helpful to their cause.

The Celtics will play the Bulls, Raptors and Wizards twice each, along with games against the Hawks and Bobcats — all teams battling for playoff position in the East. Lets just say those teams will be playing for a lot more than the Celts. And even when Boston faces off against fellow lottery competition on the road in Cleveland and Detroit, those games come on the tail end of back-to-backs ‘€“ meaning no Rajon Rondo. A 3-9 finish is not too much to ask for going into Wednesday night when Boston plays host to Toronto.

As much fun as the NCAA tournament was to watch, things didn’t go quite as well for the top NBA prospects. Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart went down in their first games, Andrew Wiggins dropped his second game (ending his college career with a four-point stinker) and Joel Embiid never even played. Add Dante Exum (the heralded Australian prospect) to the mix, and none of the potential top five picks in the draft will be playing in a Sweet 16 game.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
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