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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: UCLA SF Tyler Honeycutt 06.08.11 at 12:29 pm ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Tyler Honeycutt

Position: Small Forward

Team: UCLA

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 190 pounds

Stats: 12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.7 apg

What he brings: A 6-foot-8 wing with elite athletic ability who has yet to realize his tremendous potential. A guy who could provide depth behind Paul Pierce and defend the likes of LeBron James and Luol Deng for spells. Sound familiar? That’s what Celtics fans have heard about Jeff Green for a few months now, so the selection of Honeycutt — who is most often compared to Tayshaun Prince — might be a bit redundant.

Still, the UCLA would-be junior small forward is an intriguing option. He can cause problems for opponents on the defensive end (1.6 blocked shots per game last season) and facilitate on the offensive end (2.8 assists per game). However, he’s prone to turnovers (3.0 per game) and battled injuries throughout his two college seasons (shoulder, elbow, tibia and spinal issues) in addition to being criticized for his aggressiveness and shooting woes.

His numbers aren’t spectacular (his field-goal percentage dropped from 49.6 percent as a freshman to 40.6 percent as a sophomore), but the same could be said for recent UCLA-turned-NBA standouts Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Aaron Afflalo and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The simple fact that Honeycutt (along with college teammate Malcolm Lee) is the latest product from Ben Howland‘s system makes him worth a long look.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round.

What they’re saying: “It won’t surprise me if he goes top 10 in the draft, not at all, because of his talent. I know what he can do, so if he goes seven or eight it won’t surprise me at all. As a matter of fact, it would probably surprise me if he went 20-30. That would surprise me. Because once people really see how talented he is, then they will understand my crazy comment.” — Sylmar (Calif.) High head coach Bort Escoto (Honeycutt’s high school coach)

Notes: There are two more peripheral things that would give me pause if I were Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge: 1) The professional athlete the Los Angeles-born Honeycutt admires most? Kobe Bryant; and 2) When a member of the Cavaliers brass asked him who he would choose if he had to pick between his girlfriend and his dog, Honeycutt was stumped. “I just didn’t even answer,” Honeycutt told Sports Illustrated. “I said I couldn’t answer that. It’s too hard to pick.” Ouch.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Fresno State C Greg Smith 06.07.11 at 11:17 am ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Greg Smith

Position: Center

School: Fresno State

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 250 pounds

Stats: 11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg

What he brings: Any team that takes Smith will be taking a flier on a stereotypical developmental center. At 6-foot-10 and a solid 250 pounds, the 2009-10 WAC Freshman of the Year and 2010-11 WAC second-teamer certainly has the size to make it at the next level. His hands, which measured in at nearly a foot wide and were the biggest at the combine, especially have earned him some looks as a guy who can snatch the ball out of mid-air, whether it be on a rebound or on a pass through traffic in the post. Twenty rebounds against Nevada in his last NCAA game are testament to that fact.

But as much as you can’€™t teach size, you can teach skill, and Smith certainly needs more than some polish on that end. His offensive stats don’€™t jump off the page ‘€” his .544 free throw percentage last season might do so for the wrong reason ‘€” and he is considered to be a project offensively. With depth thin at the center position for the Celtics, Danny Ainge could be willing to give Smith a shot in the second round, but if that were the case, no one in green would expect the early entry to contribute much except for maybe a few boards in limited reserve time.

Where the Celtics could get him: Second round

What they’re saying: ‘€œIf I had to model a player, it would be Amar’e Stoudemire because he’€™s a very explosive player, and that’€™s where I’€™m at right now. But right now if I had to come in, I’€™d be more like an Al Horford, a physical post player down there that’€™s going to get you 10 and 10 a night, that’€™s going to be physical defensively and reboundingly. But as I get my career going, I’€™ll develop into an Amar’e Stoudemire type player.’€ ‘€” Smith on his pro prospects

Notes: The Fresno native almost went to Arizona when he made the jump to the college ranks in 2009 but instead chose to stay at home and play for Steve Cleveland and the Bulldogs. He said Cleveland’€™s resignation this offseason was a factor in his decision to leave for the potentially greener pastures of the NBA.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: USC C Nikola Vucevic 06.06.11 at 12:11 pm ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Nikola Vucevic

Position: Center

Team: University of Southern California

Height: 7-foot

Weight: 260 pounds

Stats: 17.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg

What he brings: Nikola Vucevic may be a European center, but unlike many before him he’s not an unknown commodity. He played his senior year of high school at Stoneridge Prep (Simi Valley, Calif.) before earning a scholarship to USC.

After averaging just 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman, he captured Pac-10 Most Improved Player honors in his sophomore campaign and produced 17.1 points (50.5 FG%, 34.9 3-PT FG% & 75.5 FT%), 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks before declaring for the draft after his junior season.

The tallest player at the 2011 NBA combine, Vucevic possesses a lot of qualities generally associated with European bigs — touch around the rim, a reliable mid-range jump shot (as well as developing 20-foot-plus range) and a lack of athleticism. He’s been criticized for his failure to play “above the rim” and his lack of success against athletic NBA-caliber big men. However, his high motor, particularly on the defensive glass, has separated him a bit from the stereotype.

More skilled than a guy like Semih Erden, Vucevic is expected to be a valuable backup center in the NBA — a role the Celtics most definitely need to fill. Touted for his high character, Vucevic has hinted that he may play in Europe for a year should a lockout threaten the 2011-12 NBA season, and such experience could actually serve the still-developing center well.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round.

What they’re saying: “His strength, his conditioning, and the key, for me, for Nik to make it in the NBA, he has to become a proficient NBA 3-point shooter, which is a much harder shot than the college 3. And he’€™s not a totally proficient college 3-point shooter, yet. He’€™s got to be shooting four times a week, 1,000 NBA 3s a day. That’€™s what he needs.” — USC coach Kevin O’Neill

Notes: The Swiss-born Vucevic was raised in Belgium before moving to Montenegro as a teenager. Both of his parents — father Borislav and mother Ljiljana — played both professionally and for the Yugoslavian men’s and women’s national teams, as chronicled in this LA Times piece. Vucevic himself has played for the Montenegro U20 national team, averaging 15.5 points and 10.8 rebounds during the 2009 European Championships. Oh, and Vucevic, who said he would want to be an actor if he weren’t a basketball player (hence, USC), learned English partly as a result of watching “Love & Basketball” over and over.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Georgia G Travis Leslie 06.04.11 at 10:51 am ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Travis Leslie

Position: Guard

School: Georgia

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 205 pounds

Stats: 14.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.9 apg

What he brings: Just a quick glance at his size and statistics reveals that Leslie is no ordinary player. Draft Express called him one of the best athletes in the draft and while he’s not much a 3-point shooter or ballhandler, he is still an efficient offensive player, averaging 1.34 points per possession used in his junior season at Georgia.

If he can improve his range he could be a dynamic change-of-pace player in someone’s rotation because he can rebound and has all the tools to be an excellent defensive player. In a best-case scenario Leslie has the ability to guard multiple positions and his perimeter game will catch up with his obvious skills around the rim and inside 10 feet.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round

What they’re saying: “He’s an athletic freak … a guy that is capable athletically of just about anything.” — South Carolina coach Darrin Horn

Notes: Leslie has already made waves, comparing himself favorably to former Celtic Tony Allen at the draft combine, who predictably wasn’t happy about it. Leslie tried to backtrack, but Draft Express has the video.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Tokyo Apache PF/C Jeremy Tyler 06.01.11 at 2:48 pm ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Jeremy Tyler

Position: Power Forward/Center

Team: Tokyo Apache

Height: 6-foot-11

Weight: 262 pounds

Stats: 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg

What he brings: It’s been a wild ride for a kid who’s only 19 years old. Tyler reneged on a commitment to play for Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville and signed with the Israeli league’s Maccabi Haifa for $140,000 — foregoing his senior year of high school. He then left Maccabi over a playing time dispute. From there, he signed in Japan to play for Bob Hill and the Tokyo Apache (if you’ll remember, Hill is the last man not named Gregg Popovich) to coach the Spurs .

Tyler is a project, no doubt, but it’s not like an American has never made the leap from overseas to the NBA (see: Jennings, Brandon). As a junior at California’s San Diego High, he averaged 28.7 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks per game, vaulting himself to a top-five national recruit ranking in the Class of 2010 alongside guys like Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Knight. Whether or not Tyler still belongs in that conversation depends on who you ask.

Athletic, physical, defensive-minded guys with top-five upside who are 6-foot-11 aren’t easy to find, so somebody will take a chance on him. Tyler is said to have matured as a result of Hill’s tutelage and his experience in Japan. That and his 7-foot-5 wingspan may have played his way into the first found at the recent NBA Draft Combine.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round.

What they’re saying: “It’€™s a case-by-case basis. Some [overseas players] will be successful and others won’€™t. But Brandon Jennings didn’€™t hurt his draft stock at all. … I have a hard time with that because I believe people should have a right to earn a living. But if you’€™re not doing it for financial reasons, you should definitely go to college.” — Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Notes: The trials and tribulations of Tyler are many. A Google search of “Jeremy Tyler” and “NBA” returns 89,900 results. But these three articles from The New York Times chronicle Tyler’s unique path better than most.

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Kansas G Josh Selby 05.26.11 at 11:10 pm ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Josh Selby

Position: Guard

School: Kansas

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 195 pounds

Stats: 7.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.2 apg

What he brings: Selby arrived at Kansas with a reputation as a dynamic high-scoring guard who is better at creating off the dribble than shooting from the outside. However, his one year of college basketball told a different story from his high school career, when he was one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits.

After sitting out the first nine games because of an eligibility issue with the NCAA, Selby made his debut in December and scored 21 and 18 points in successive games against USC and Cal. But he injured his foot in February and was never able to make much of an impact after he returned. He’s also a classic tweener as he’s small for a shooting guard and hasn’t displayed many point guard skills.

Selby shot reasonably well from 3-point range (36 percent) but didn’t stand out in any one particular area. If not for the minimum age requirements, Selby would have entered the draft out of high school and been a first round draft pick last season, but after one year of college he’s on the first-round bubble.

Where the Celtics could get him: First round

What they’re saying: “It did not play out real great for Josh, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough or didn’t try hard enough or didn’t fit in. It was because of health. After he got hurt, he could have just put it in park and not played. But he wanted to play even though he wasn’t 100 percent.” ‘€” Kansas coach Bill Self

Notes: Selby has been a controversial figure in basketball circles for years even though he just turned 20 in March. Two stories worth reading: This piece from the New York Times from his senior year of high school and this more recent one from the Kansas City Star offer some insight.

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NBA mock draft: Celtics eye next Jordan? 05.24.11 at 10:11 pm ET
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With only four teams still competing in the postseason, the majority of fans are counting down the days until June 23 and the NBA draft. This year’€™s class is not expected to be strong, but there is a slew of European talent, a handful of hit or miss ‘€œproject’€ players and more Morrises than you can shake a stick at.

Duke freshman Kyrie Irving appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick despite playing just 11 games for the Blue Devils. Arizona’€™s Derrick Williams likely will be taken second, but by whom? Timberwolves general manager David Kahn is expected to shop that selection.

Kentucky’€™s Enes Kanter measures at a monstrous 6-foot-11, 261 pounds. However, he has yet to play in the United States as the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible, citing benefits from his Turkish Basketball League team.

Who will take the risk and select BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette? Who will be Sacramento’€™s potential last first-round pick? Who will the Celtics select? All that and more in our first NBA mock draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving, Duke, Fr., PG, 6-2, 180

The Cavs finally won something. It’€™s a shame there are no players of LeBron James‘€™ caliber in this draft class. Irving has arguably the highest ceiling talent-wise, and he fits Cleveland’€™s needs for speed and ball-handling much better than the only other reasonable candidate, Derrick Williams.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Derrick Williams, Arizona, So., SF/PF, 6-9, 241

An athletic high-flier, Williams is more than just a powerful dunker. He has great basket awareness and finishes at the rim as well as anyone in this class. The T-Wolves frontcourt is already packed with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. However, Williams is simply too good to pass up at the No. 2 spot whether it’s by the Wolves or a trade partner.

3. Utah Jazz

Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 185

With Deron Williams shipped off to New Jersey and Irving off the board, Knight is the obvious selection. A well-rounded offensive player, Knight is able to get to the rim at will, knock down mid-range jumpers, and extend his range beyond the arc. He’€™s a capable rebounder and creative passer, whose st0ck rose with his performance in the NCAA tournament. The Jazz have a veteran point guard with a similar skill set in Devin Harris for Knight to learn under.

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