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NBA draft prospect profile: Arizona PF Brandon Ashley 06.11.15 at 9:53 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2015 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics own two picks in each of the first two rounds (16, 28, 33 and 45 overall).

BRANDON ASHLEY

Position: Power forward

School: Arizona

Age: 20 (turns 21 on July 15)

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 230

Wingspan: 7-foot-3

Key 2014-15 stats: 12.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 51.4 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Scouts have mixed feelings on Ashley’s future in the NBA, as some have him going in the second round while others have him being passed over altogether. However, the general consensus is that he will be selected in the mid-to-late second round. His strengths include his wingspan, athleticism, face-up skills and frequent trips to the free throw line, where he shoots 70 percent.

“When he’s active, running the floor and on the glass, he’s the best player that he is,” Arizona coach Sean Miller told Fox Sports. “That’s the best version of him, and our team is better as well.”

What Ashley needs to work on more is being consistent on defense and getting stronger. His size doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the power forward role as a professional, so he needs to hone in on his skill set as well. Ashley could also spend some time working on his 3-point shot, as he sank about one third of his attempts this past season.

Notes: Ashley, whose sophomore season was cut short after he tore a ligament in his right foot on Feb. 1, 2014, was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention after his 2014-15 campaign. He finished second on the team in scoring and blocked shots while coming in third in rebounds. Of the 38 games he played as a junior, Ashley tallied double-digit points 28 times and was named Most Outstanding Player in the Pac-12 tournament, which he helped guide Arizona to winning for the first time since 2002. During the tourney, he averaged 19.7 points and shot 73 percent from the field, recording 24 points in the semifinals against UCLA and then 20 opposite Oregon in the title game.

Related articles:

ESPN: Brandon Ashley is over the hurt

College Basketball Talk: Brandon Ashley’s versatility once again a key factor for No. 3 Arizona

Fox Sports: Arizona’s Ashley looks to finish ‘up-and-down’ season on high note

Read More: 2015 NBA draft, 2015 Potential Celtics, Brandon Ashley,
Darrun Hilliard shows Celtics he has ‘right attitude’ in pre-draft workouts 06.11.15 at 8:55 am ET
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Darrun HIlliard was the star player leading Villanova to a 33-3 record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA playoffs. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Darrun HIlliard was the star player leading Villanova to a 33-3 record and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA playoffs. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

WALTHAM — The NBA pre-draft workouts are probably the best medicine for Darrun Hilliard.

The star shooting guard from Villanova visited the Celtics Wednesday for his 10th NBA pre-draft workout. He still has a bitter taste in his mouth from the way his season, and brilliant college career, ended in the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats finished the regular season and their conference tournament with a flourish never before seen in the rich history of Villanova basketball. They won 16 straight games, won the Big East tournament for the second time. They blew out Lafayette by 41 points in their first NCAA game. They were 33-2 and one of the very hottest teams in college basketball, ranked No. 2 in AP behind only undefeated Kentucky.

Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for Hilliard and the No. 1 seeded Wildcats to make a deep run. Then it all came to a crashing halt against North Carolina State, losing in stunning fashion, 71-68. The dreams of a national title or even a run to the Final Four ended before the Sweet 16.

“It’s kind of sucks that loss overshadowed what we did in the regular season, going 33-3 is a pretty good record for anybody,” Hilliard told WEEI.com Wednesday. “It was a great run. Unfortunately, we lost but it was a great run. We got better every year we were there. I will miss playing with those guys forever. It was a great run and I definitely enjoyed it.”

“When we first lost, I thought about it every day, every single day, every single second. I put a lot on myself. I should’ve had 30 points. But that’s how it went. It just wasn’t our night that night. N.C. State was the better team that night. It happens in the game of basketball.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Darrun Hilliard, Jay Wright, Kyle Lowry
NBA draft prospect profile: Guangdong Southern Tigers PG Emmanuel Mudiay 06.10.15 at 9:40 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2015 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics own two picks in each of the two rounds (16, 28, 33 and 45 overall).

EMMANUEL MUDIAY

Position: Point guard

Team: Guangdong Southern Tigers (China)

Age: 19

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 200 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-8.5

Key 2014-15 stats: 12 games, 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, .342 3-point percentage

Scouting report: What Mudiay lacks in polish, he makes up for in raw athleticism. The 6-foot-5 point guard has one of the best first steps in the draft, and his speed and jumping ability make him nearly impossible to stop in the open court, similarly to John Wall. He’s very unselfish with the ball, but scouts note that he has a tendency to over-dribble and make poor decisions in the lane. He’s a high-motor player who dives for loose balls and gives his best effort at the defensive end of the floor. He certainly leaves much to be desired with his outside shooting as he struggles from beyond the arc and often settles for mid-range jumpers.

The top-five projected pick has stated his desire to partake in a team’s winning culture. On the possibility of going to the Lakers at No. 2, Mudiay said, “I would love to be a part of something like this. I just want to win and get as many championships as I can. That’€™s the main thing.” While his efficiency will always be his biggest question mark, Mudiay appears to have the raw skill and athleticism needed to become a franchise-caliber player in the NBA.

Notes: While he was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (called Zaire at the time), Mudiay moved to the United States at the age of 5 and became a prep star in Texas, earning a spot in the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2014. He committed to play for Larry Brown and SMU for the 2014-15 season, but instead chose to play in China for the Guangdong Southern Tigers (reports emerged that he had some eligibility issues). Though he missed much of the season due to an ankle injury, Mudiay returned in the playoffs and scored 24 points, snagged eight rebounds and dished out five assists off the bench in his first game back for a 110-99 Guangdong win.

Related articles:

Business Insider: 19-year-old prospect who skipped college to play in China is the biggest mystery of the NBA draft

Sporting News: Emmanuel Mudiay: The NBA draft’s mystery man is a top-6 pick

Complex.com: Emmanuel Mudiay: Why the potential No. 1 pick is riding the bench in China

Read More: 2015 NBA draft, 2015 Potential Celtics, Emmanuel Mudiay,
An absolute mockery of a 2015 NBA mock draft v2.0 06.10.15 at 3:59 pm ET
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The-Wolf-of-Causeway

 

I’€™m not sure whether mock drafts got their name from the false premise that anyone could accurately mock what the front offices of all 30 NBA franchises will do come June 25 or the reality that everyone who projects to know such matters ultimately makes a mockery of themselves. It’€™s probably a hybrid of the two, but they sure are fun, so without further ado Green Street presents the second of four mock drafts leading up to the real thing in Chicago later this month.

For the first edition, check out: An absolute mockery of the 2015 NBA draft v1.0.

Keep in mind Celtics president Danny Ainge owns two first-round picks in this year’€™s draft — his own No. 16 selection and the Clippers’€™ No. 28 pick he received in exchange for letting Doc Rivers out of his contract — and predicting whether The Wolf of Causeway Street will stand pat, trade up or swap out of the draft is like guessing which ridiculous name Ron Artest will use next. Impossible.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl Towns (Last week: Karl Towns)

  • Position: Center/power forward
  • School: Kentucky
  • Birthday: Nov. 15, 1995 (19 years old)
  • Height: 7 feet
  • Weight: 248 pounds
  • Wingspan: 7-foot-3.5
  • 2014-15 stats (39 games): 10.3 points (62.7 true shooting percentage), 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.1 assists in 21.1 minutes per game (31.4 player efficiency rating)
  • Fascinating fact: Towns studied kinesiology and wants to be a doctor after his hoop career.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor (Last week: Jahlil Okafor)

  • Position: Center
  • School: Duke
  • Birthday: Dec. 15, 1995 (19 years old)
  • Height: 6-foot-11
  • Weight: 270 pounds
  • Wingspan: 7-foot-5
  • 2014-15 stats (38 games): 17.3 points (64.1 true shooting percentage), 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals in 30.1 per game (30.7 player efficiency rating)
  • Fascinating fact: Okafor plays the tuba.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Emmanuel Mudiay (Last week: Justise Winslow)

  • Position: Point guard
  • Country: Congo
  • Team: Guangdong (China) Southern Tigers
  • Birthday: March 5, 1996 (19 years old)
  • Height: 6-foot-5
  • Weight: 200 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6-foot-8.5
  • 2014-15 stats (12 games): 18.0 points (52.8 true shooting percentage), 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals in 31.5 minutes per game (18.9 player efficiency rating)
  • Fascinating fact: Mudiay fled his home country as a child during the Second Congo War.

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Read More: 2015 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Christian Wood, Sam Dekker
Pat Connaughton ready to prove himself ready for NBA: ‘I think I look pretty good in green’ 06.10.15 at 3:32 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Pat Connaughton didn’t lack confidence when he was setting school records at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, and he didn’t lose that swagger while leading the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to within a breath of the Final Four this spring.

The Arlington resident always has had a swagger about him, and a wicked good sense of sarcasm and wit for a 22-year-old.

Maybe it’s the fact that he is a legit two-sport pro prospect. As a sharpshooter, he was a key part of Notre Dame‘s ACC basketball title this spring. He also can throw a baseball consistently in the mid-90s, which made him an MLB prospect, drafted by the Orioles last year in the fourth round while making his professional baseball debut with the Aberdeen IronBirds of the Class A-Short Season New York-Penn League. His fastball was clocked at 96 mph.

“The way the baseball draft works is if you don’t sign someone you draft in the first 10 rounds, you lose that slot money. I was very clear before the baseball draft that I wanted to go back to school to play basketball,” Connaughton said. “So, whoever drafted me had to know I was going to do that. I think both the Orioles and myself weren’t sure how far basketball would go. I think they were hoping it would end after college. I was just playing it every single day like I normally do and taking it day-by-day because that’s the only thing you can do with two sports. I found myself here and excited to pursue the opportunity.

“I had a great time in Aberdeen. I thought that down the road, whether it’s after a 10-year NBA career or a two-year NBA career, when I put my mind to baseball I can succeed at it. But I wasn’t ready to give up one of the sports. I’ve been harping my whole life that you can do two sports at the highest level, to kind of be a role model for those kids that are pressured into choosing one. It would be kind of hypocritical of me to just be like, ‘By the way, there’s some money in baseball. I think I’ll go do that.’ ”

At the end of July 2014, he informed the Orioles that he was indeed going to leave the IronBirds to return to the Fighting Irish basketball team.

On Wednesday, after working out for the Celtics, he explained why his priority now is focused on the NBA, not MLB.

“For me, I try to take it like I may not get drafted,” Connaughton said after his workout. “I try to work as hard as I can every single day. It’s been such a whirlwind over the last few months. I hope to be drafted. I’m working as hard as I can. I have some confidence in myself that I have a chance to, but we’ll see what happens on June 25. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Celtics, MLB, NBA
NBA draft prospect profile: Louisville F Montrezl Harrell 06.10.15 at 2:09 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2015 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics own two picks in each of the two rounds (16, 28, 33 and 45 overall).

MONTREZL HARRELL

Position: Forward

School: Louisville

Age: 21

Height: 6-foot-7.5

Weight: 253 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-4.25

Key 2014-15 stats: 15.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 56.6 field goal percentage, 59.7 free throw percentage

Scouting report: Harrell is a powerful force at and around the rim. He is a prolific dunker and a tenacious and impressive rebounder. Of his 9.2 rebounds per game last season, 3.2 came on the offensive glass. His length and strength at least partly make up for the fact that he is relatively short for an NBA power forward. While he is not a knock-down shooter, Harrell’€™s jumper has improved. In 2012-13, he shot 24.4 percent on two-point jumpers. The following two seasons, he shot at a 36.8 percent clip on the same opportunities. His free throw shooting has improved as well, going from 46 percent as a sophomore to a more respectably 59.7 percent as a junior last season. He has a high motor and could be a defensive force at the NBA level.

“His family wanted him to go pro as a sophomore. He just felt that he needed another year of offensive development. He’s improved his passing dramatically, his ballhandling dramatically. He’s always been a warrior with the way he’s played. He plays every possession as if it’s his last on earth,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said of Harrell, who projects to be picked in the mid-to-late first round.

Harrell is not a great defensive rebounder, averaging 6.4 per 40 minutes for his career. His height means that opposing bigs will be able to shoot over him. Despite his shooting improvements, he still isn’t going to be feared on the offensive end.

Notes: Harrell surprised some by returning to Louisville for the 2014-15 season instead of entering the draft. During his freshman year in 2013, Harrell was a backup for the championship-winning Cardinals. He was named first-team All-AAC in 2014 and then second-team All-ACC last season after Louisville switched conferences.

Related articles:

Charlotte Observer: NBA draft: Louisville’€™s Montrezl Harrell developing jumper to go with defense

CBS Sports: Montrezl Harrell could become an elite NBA role player in time

Read More: 2015 NBA draft, 2015 Potential Celtics, Montrezl Harrell,
Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: ‘I don’t see how [Cavaliers] can win’ NBA Finals despite series lead 06.10.15 at 10:30 am ET
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Jeff Van Gundy

Jeff Van Gundy

With the Cavaliers knocking off the Warriors in another exciting NBA Finals game Tuesday night, ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the series. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Warriors were heavy favorites heading into the series, but the Cavaliers have a 2-1 lead as LeBron James has outperformed MVP Steph Curry. With fellow stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out, James is attempting to pull off what many thought was impossible.

“There won’t be a bigger upset, I know that,” Van Gundy said. “Listen, I’m going to say this: [James] getting his 2007 Cavaliers to the Finals, beating a great Detroit team, scoring 29 of the last 30 points in Game 5, that to me was his greatest accomplishment until now. Even surpassing winning championships in Miami.

“Getting to the Finals with this team and now winning two games in the Finals, already to me it’s his greatest accomplishment. If he can pull this off, it’ll be one of the greatest accomplishments for any individual player in my recollection.”

That said, Van Gundy isn’t convinced James will be able to deliver Cleveland’s first-ever NBA championship this year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a guy in the Finals have to shoulder a burden like this,” Van Gundy said. “Now, I don’t think they’re going to be able to pull it off. I don’t see how they can win two more games. But if they do? To me there’s never been a greater feat or accomplishment in the NBA.”

Added Van Gundy: “In the end, the better team wins. There are very few upsets, Talent prevails. And Golden State certainly has the most talent. Listen, if you did a draft you would take James No. 1, and then the next probably four picks would be the Warriors. And then maybe [Timofey] Mozgov gets in there.

“I just really believe that Golden State has been the best team all year. They’ve been dominant in the playoffs up until now. They got in the same predicament against Memphis and were able to win the next three. So I think they’ve going to find their way out of it. But that does not detract at all from what Cleveland has been able to do. I’m just so impressed with James and their grit.

“And you know what? David Blatt, for whatever reason, the media is so reluctant to give him credit. They give credit to a lot of coaches. Blatt is not on their list for getting credit. But what he’s been able to do with his team and the body blows that they’ve undertaken throughout the playoffs and that they’re still playing so well, it’s a credit to him as well.”

Read More: David Blatt, Jeff Van Gundy, LeBron James, Steph Curry
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