|2012 NBA Mock Draft||06.18.12 at 7:08 pm ET|
This year’s draft appears to be both full of depth and as thin as top prospect Anthony Davis at the top. Davis is the one true franchise-changer, a player whom rational basketball observers like Bob Knight and John Thompson have compared to Bill Russell.
Comps to Kevin Garnett at the high end and Marcus Camby at the low are also not out of place and if your worst-case scenario is a 15-year career at center, then you’re more than worthy of the top pick.
After Davis there is no clear-cut second choice, which makes predicting the rest of the draft an ever-changing exercise. Kansas’ Thomas Robinson is a man inside but lacks polish. Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will make any team better, but his offensive ceiling, particularly his shaky jump shot, may be limited.
Florida’s Bradley Beal is a smooth 6-foot-4 scoring guard with all the athleticism and intangibles you could want, but he’s also just 18 years old and has a lot to learn. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes is coming on strong. And there’s still the draft’s biggest enigma: UConn’s Andre Drummond.
There are players to be had up and down the draft, along with the usual collection of intriguing physical specimens who may go boom or bust. But there is depth in the middle and the end of the first round, and the Celtics should be able to land two solid prospects with their selections in the latter third.
1. Hornets: Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky
The obvious choice, and with Emeka Okafor already on the board, the Hornets can pair Davis with a bruising interior rebounder and defender to help alleviate concerns about his thin frame. The only question is whether Davis will be good, exceptional or transcendent.
The Bobcats are rumored to be shopping the pick, and Barnes’ name was floated last week, but if they stay here the choice seems to be between Robinson and Kidd-Gilchrist. Both are high-energy players who want to do the dirty work to win games. Robinson is three years older, bigger and carried an undermanned Kansas team to the national championship game. Neither player will make or break a franchise, but the Cats need all the help they can get, and size tends to win out when all else is considered.
No need to overthink this one. MKG is a winner who will rebound, play defense like crazy and work on his game. The Wizards need all of those things, and adding another serious competitor alongside John Wall is important. MKG’s offense is raw, but he’s good in transition and can get to the basket. He’s still just 18 years old, and if he can fix the mechanics in his shot, he could become a very good pro and possibly an All-Star in time.
4. Cavaliers: Bradley Beal, G, Florida
Just 18 years old, Beal is a smooth scorer with a natural shooting stroke. He made only 33 percent of his 3-pointers as a freshman, but he came on strong and played like a star in the NCAA tournament. He’s also a tremendous rebounder for a guard and carries high marks for his maturity, even for his age. A backcourt of Beal and Kyrie Irving could be tremendous.
5. Kings: Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
Barnes averaged 17.2 points per game for the Tar Heels, but there’s always a question of more. A heralded recruit, Barnes was the ACC’s top freshman in 2011, but some wondered why he wasn’t even better. He was an All-ACC pick as a sophomore, but some wondered why he didn’t dominate. Barnes is a talented shooter but not a great ball-handler who could be a very good starting forward but maybe not an All-Star. He was tested very highly at the combine, so perhaps there’s even more potential to unlock. Bottom line: He looks like a top-five pick, and the Kings would be thrilled to get him here. Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Free agent rumors: Jeff Green has many suitors||06.18.12 at 2:03 pm ET|
Why would the Celtics do that? For one thing it saves them the step of making a qualifying offer, which could handcuff a bit of their cap space. Even as unrestricted free agent, the Celtics still retain full Bird rights on Green, meaning they can go above and beyond the cap to sign him and have the means of competing with just about any offer.
According to Green’s agent David Falk, there will be many competing offers, or at least interested teams. In an interview with SI’s Sam Amick, Falk said he has had discussions with 12-14 teams regarding Green. Falk also told Amick that Green is 100 percent ready for next season and that he expects him to be the most sought after free agent on the market after Deron Williams, if an when Williams opts out of the last year of his contract.
There will be several teams with cap space this summer who could decide to take a run at Green. As it stands, a little more than half the teams in the league have the ability to clear space and a handful could be well under the cap including Cleveland, Brooklyn and Phoenix. Green may not be the second-best unrestricted free agent in a class that includes Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan (admittedly special cases), Ersan Ilyasova and Steve Nash, but he’s in the discussion.
Green is now three years removed from his best season when he made 39 percent of his 3-pointers and averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Thunder, but he will be 26 in August and should be entering his prime. Compared to other wing forwards on the market — Gerald Wallace, Grant Hill — youth is very much on his side. Restricted free agents Ryan Anderson and Nic Batum may have more upside, but signing them away from their teams won’t be as easy.
The Celtics stand an excellent chance to bring Green back, but they will also have competition.
|Celtics salary cap and free agency FAQ||06.11.12 at 10:25 pm ET|
The Celtics enter the offseason with four players under contract for next season, and what looks like a pile of cap space. Looks can be deceiving, however. That theoretical space doesn’t account for contract options, qualifying offers, two first-round draft picks and the biggest charge of them all, cap holds.
With so much uncertainty surrounding them this summer, consider this a primer on what to expect when the league re-opens for business on July 11. Most of the answers rely on the great Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ, a must-read document for understanding the cap. Player salaries come via our own reporting, and Sham Sports contract page.
What is the salary cap for next season?
It will be determined by the league’s audit that will take place from July 1-10. Last year’s cap was $58 million, and it is expected to be in that range for the upcoming season.
When can free agents sign?
July 11 after the audit is completed. Players with expiring contracts become free agents on July 1. Teams can begin negotiating with them on July 1, but they can’t sign until after the audit is completed on July 10 and the cap is set for the season.
What are the rules on restricted free agents?
Teams must make a qualifying offer by June 30 to keep a free agent restricted. This typically affects players coming off the fourth year of a rookie contract and the amount of the qualifying offer varies depending on where there were drafted. As a free agent with less than three years experience, Greg Stiemsma is also a restricted free agent.
Restricted free agents can negotiate with other teams, but their former team has three days to match an offer sheet. The old rule under the CBA was seven days. In order to extend an offer sheet, a team must have the cap space — or an exception — to do so. Once they do, that space is effectively tied up for three days until a final decision is made.
How much cap space do the Celtics have?
As much as around $20 million and as little as none. On July 1, the Celtics will not technically have any cap space. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics run is over||06.09.12 at 11:14 pm ET|
MIAMI — The team that always has to do it the hard way, couldn’t find a way to do it the hardest way possible by winning a Game 7 on the road. They had their chances and played inspired basketball, but they supply ran out of gas in the second half, losing 101-88.
The Celtics began the game playing the exact opposite of the way they played in Game 6. Working with an inside-out game, they got good looks in their halfcourt offense and heeding Doc Rivers call, they got in LeBron James‘ airspace and made it difficult for him.
They played about as well as well as they could have played in the first half, but in the second they reverted back to a stationary offense and allowed the Heat to erase a seven-point halftime lead in less than five minutes. What followed was one of the most intense, back and forth playoff games in recent memory. There were six ties and four lead changes in the final six minutes of the third quarter.
But in the fourth quarter it was all LeBron and the Heat. There is no shame in losing to the best player in the game on his homecourt in a Game 7, but for the Celtics an offseason of uncertainty awaits. They gave this five-year run everything they had, but it seems they have taken it as far as it can go.
WHAT WENT WRONG
LeBron James was amazing, again: The Celtics did a much better job guarding LeBron than they did in Game 6, at least at the outset. They used Bass to body him up and give him a more physical defender, but rather than force the game, LeBron let it come to him. He lived at the free throw line and made huge plays in transition. Defensively, he was a monster.
Then in the fourth quarter he became something else. Simply put: He was the best player in the game and the reason the Heat are going to the finals.
Chris Bosh was a difference-maker: Bosh came into the game in the second quarter and immediately went to work, making his first four shots. With Garnett in foul trouble, the Celtics used Ryan Hollins on Bosh, but that didn’t work at all. Bosh finished with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting with three huge corner 3-pointers.
Shane Battier stepped up huge: With Dwyane Wade stuck in neutral and the Celtics doing a solid job defending James in the first half, the Heat needed somebody to step and it was Battier who came through, knocking down four 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Celtics finally found a way to play without Kevin Garnett: The one player they can’t afford to have foul trouble picked up his first minutes into the game when he defended LeBron James on a breakaway. Garnett picked up his second on a moving screen and then disaster struck when he got his third on a hip check. Garnett went out with 6:50 left in the first half and the Celtics went on a 14-3 run fueled by Brandon Bass.
Brandon Bass has his moment: Left alone and unguarded for most of the series, Brandon Bass had a huge first half, scoring 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting. It was the most he’s scored in any game in this series.
Rondo triple double: Rajon Rondo came through with a Game 7 triple double scoring 22 points with 14 assists and 10 rebounds. he may have already been there, but Rondo became a true superstar in the playoffs. He’s the future.
|The Chris Bosh effect||06.04.12 at 7:23 pm ET|
MIAMI — Kevin Garnett is a problem. During the 152 minutes he’s been on the court in the Eastern Conference finals he’s scored 82 points and grabbed 43 points. To put it in simpler terms: He’s getting 20 and 10 every night and there hasn’t been a whole lot the Heat can do about it.
They’ve tried Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and even LeBron James with varying degrees of success, which is to say, not that much. (Anthony has the best defensive numbers, but his start in Game 4 didn’t stop the Celtics from hanging 61 points on Miami in the first half.) No matter who the Heat throw at Garnett, they can’t counter the stark reality that he is taller, more athletic and more skilled than anyone they have to guard him.
There’s another issue here and that is that none of those three have much to offer in the way of offensive ability. Haslem can step out and make mid-range jump shots, but most of those tend to come off defensive breakdowns. It’s not like the Celtics wants him taking uncontested 15-footers, but it’s also not as if Miami is running a lot of action to get him those jumpers.
Without a scoring threat to defend, Garnett is thus free to roam the paint and cause havoc. When Garnett is in there to protect the paint, the Heat are shooting 62 percent at the rim. When he’s not they’ve made a shocking 22-of-23 shots at the rim. (That’s 96 percent, by the way. Ninety-six percent!) A KG with no one to check on the defensive end is a dangerous KG and the key to the Celtics’ halfcourt schemes.
The Celtics’ two wins in Boston have made this a three-game battle of attrition and all the lineup shuffling in the world can’t hide the fact that the C’s have two huge matchups advantages with Garnett and Rajon Rondo serving as the other. The Heat can’t do anything about Rondo besides throwing out numerous defenses and combinations that he seems to solve like he’s working over a Rubik’s Cube.
This is where Chris Bosh enters the picture. He’s been out since Game 1 of the Pacer series with an abdominal strain ‘ the same kind of injury that kept Garnett out of the lineup for nine games in 2008 ‘ and in that time the Heat did quite well, winning five straight games to close out the Pacers and the first two of this series. It seems clear that if Miami had its way, it would keep Bosh under wraps until the finals.
There’s no telling how much Bosh will be able to give the Heat, but just by stepping on the court he offers an offensive weapon that has to be guarded and there’s really no one on the Celtics’ roster who can check him besides Garnett. He’s too big for Brandon Bass and too skilled for Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins.
Just having Bosh on the floor changes the equation dramatically for Garnett and the Celtics. Their defensive gameplan in this series has been predicated on doubling Dwyane Wade and James whenever possible ‘ mostly Wade ‘ with Garnett either serving as the first line of defense or the last line against everything else that happens.
“We’ve prepared every game like Bosh is going to play,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Eventually he will, and maybe tomorrow.”
If Bosh is able to play in Game 5 ‘ and if he’s able to be effective — the series takes on a completely new outlook. The small lineup that has proven so effective will have to be augmented. Garnett will have an important defensive responsibility and possibly Bosh will be able to slow down KG’s offensive game. That’s a lot to ask of a player coming from back an injury, but Garnett and the Celtics have forced the issue.
|Marquis Daniels saves the day||06.02.12 at 2:23 am ET|
Doc Rivers told Marquis Daniels to be ready. Then he didn’t play. Rivers didn’t tell Daniels anything before Game 3, but there he was checking into the game in the first quarter after Brandon Bass got into foul trouble.
“Hopefully,” Daniels said. “He doesn’t say anything to me next game.”
Daniels scored nine points and had five rebounds in the Celtics‘ 101-91 victory. That was the “gravy” as Rivers called it. What he really needed from Daniels, and from Keyon Dooling and from whoever else he throws out there from his patchwork bench, is defense and that’s one thing Daniels has always been able to provide.
Rivers went with a small lineup against Miami, mainly because he has no choice. Without Chris Bosh, the Heat are getting extended minutes from Shane Battier and Mike Miller and the Celtics are scrambling to matchup. Fortunately, Rivers has bodies to throw at the problem and this time he used them.
Daniels was plus-14 in his 19 minutes and Dooling was plus-10. Together, they brought the defense. Dooling, with his manic, wired intensity and Daniels with his cerebral, give no quarter approach.
“I thought what the second unit did was they came in with a defensive energy that changed the game,” Rivers said. “And they scored off the defense. They got stops, they ran the floor, Marquis cut and got to the basket. Marquis made great passes, and then we posted him up a couple of times as well. But I thought it was more from that. And that’s who they are. Listen, they are not going to put up great numbers offensively, but they know exactly who they are. They accept that, and they are comfortable with that.”
In his second go-round with the Celtics, Daniels has been even more enigmatic than his first tour. He seemingly lost the ability to finish inside and with that went his playing time. That’s what separates this Celtics’ team from some of the others. Rotations have changed, playing time has fluctuated, but there have been no gripes and no complaints. Everyone just stays ready.
“Guys on the bench, they are registered professionals,” Paul Pierce said. “Marquis hasn’t really played a lot for us in this series, but when his name was called upon he was ready. That’s what being a professional is all about. Everyday he comes in, gets his work in.”
Daniels made one other huge contribution in the playoffs. In Game 2 against the Hawks, he helped shutdown Joe Johnson in a must-win performance. The stakes and the magnitude of the competition were even greater this time, but Daniels was ready.
“I continue to go back to Marquis because he’s a guy who hasn’t played much throughout these playoffs,” Dooling said. “I spend a lot of time with him off the court and there are a lot of frustrating nights for him. But through all the frustration he is able to keep a level of professionalism that is second to none. Imagine not playing much throughout these whole playoffs and having the cardio to play against some of the best athletes we have in our league- and be able to excel. I tip my hat to him.’
|Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo||05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. Read the rest of this entry »