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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Louisiana-Lafayette PG Elfrid Payton 05.13.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.

ELFRID PAYTON

Position: Point guard
School: Louisiana-Lafayette
Age: 20
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 190 pounds
Wingspan: 6-foot-7

Key 2013-14 stats: 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.3 steals

Scouting report: Despite growing up in the small town of Gretna, La., Payton beat the odds, possessing has all the tools necessary to be a classic pass-first point guard in the NBA. Payton makes all the right passes and consistently feeds the ball into the shooter’€™s pocket. He can pass and dribble equally well with both his right and left hand — an underrated talent. The 6-foot-4 guard has also demonstrated on-court leadership skills, as he does a tremendous job of quickly getting his team into their half-court offensive sets.

Payton’€™s knack for handling the ball will make him a quality playmaker in the pick-and-roll, since he doesn’€™t lose speed when changing directions and he’€™s able to get all the way to the rim without settling for floaters. Payton often struggled with contact at the rim, but that’€™s due to his lanky upper body; with a professional training staff guiding him, it’€™s fair to expect his success rate to increase.

However, Payton is a dreadful shooter and will need to spend extensive time with a shooting coach. He has poor footwork, he has a hitch on his release, and his elbow is almost always out, which leads to an obvious lack of confidence from the perimeter. And the stats support this, since he shot only 25.5 percent from behind the arc, 25.8 percent from mid-range and 60.9 percent from the line. But he is the youngest upperclassman in the draft, as he doesn’t turn 21 until next year, so he has plenty of time to improve his mechanics.

Payton also was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14 after proving his ability as a tenacious defender. With terrific lateral quickness, a long wingspan and swift hands, Payton certainly will find a spot in the NBA as a role player. Point guards as efficient and reliable as Payton don’€™t go unnoticed, even if they can’€™t shoot worth a lick.

How he fits: Payton is a poor man’€™s Rajon Rondo. He can’€™t shoot, but he does everything else extremely well, including passing, rebounding and defending. However, the Celtics may prefer a point guard that can shoot, since Brad Stevens‘€™ motion offense calls for a spread floor, unless the C’s believe they can improve Payton’€™s shooting mechanics and production.

Related articles:

Grantland: Who’€™s That Guy? Louisiana’€™s Elfrid Payton!

WCHB Detroit: Elfrid Payton: The Underrated NBA Prospect That You Need to Become More Familiar With

Video: Here is a video detailing Payton’€™s progression as a player.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Boston Celtics, Elfrid Payton, NBA
NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Indiana PF Noah Vonleh 05.12.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.

NOAH VONLEH

Position: Power forward
School: Indiana
Age: 18
Height: 6-foot-10
Weight: 240 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot-4

Key 2013-14 stats: 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 56.0 eFG%

Scouting report: Vonleh, a Haverhill native, is an elite rebounder, as he proved with 13.6 boards per 40 minutes this season (the second most of all 2014 prospects). He consistently boxes out and knows how to use his enormous 88-inch wingspan to sprawl out for boards.

Offensively, Vonleh is raw but was still underutilized in Indiana’€™s broken offensive system. With a sweet jumper (48.5 3P%) and smooth mechanics, Vonleh will be a threat as a pick-and-pop shooter. He also has a soft scoring touch around the rim, which bodes well for his potential in the pick-and-roll and on second-chance opportunities.

While his status as one of the youngest players in the draft is a positive, it also works as a weakness. Vonleh is underdeveloped, which makes it difficult to project his ceiling. With robotic footwork on the block, there are no guarantees he ever develops post moves despite his fantastic combination of height and length. He also needs to add strength to his frame, as he shot only 59.3 percent at the rim this season.

Defensively, Vonleh often looks lost, missing rotations and failing to protect the rim.

Overall, Vonleh seems like a good bet to at least be an efficient NBA role player, but his upside is impossible to predict due to his inexperience. Depending on where he’€™s selected, Vonleh could easily become the steal of the draft or one of the biggest mistakes. But, with ideal size and prototypical skills as a modern NBA big, Vonleh should be guaranteed as a top-10 pick.

How he fits: The Celtics have a logjam of talent at power forward and center, but they lack a player with the potential to be a rim protector. Vonleh is at least three years away from making that type of impact, but a forward-thinking franchise like the C’s might see too much upside to pass up on him with the fifth, sixth, or seventh pick.

Recent articles:

CelticsBlog: NBA draft consolation prizes

Bleacher Report: Why Noah Vonleh is a safer pick than Julius Randle

Video: Here is a highlight reel of some of Vonleh’€™s top plays this season.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Boston Celtics, NBA, Noah Vonleh
Double ’07: Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen and Celtics triumvirates 05.08.14 at 3:01 pm ET
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This is the third in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)

Part 1: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Celtics captaincy
Part 2: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love and Celtics restoration

As if acquiring Kevin Love or another perennial All-Star to pair with Rajon Rondo weren’t difficult enough, in order to restore the Celtics to championship caliber, Danny Ainge faces the harsh reality that Love is not enough.

In today’s NBA, three isn’t a crowd. It’s a necessity. The Celtics don’t win the 2008 title without Ray Allen, just as the Heat don’t win the past two without Chris Bosh (or Allen, for that matter). Making matters worse, few — if any — elite players will realistically change teams in the next couple years. Other than Love, of course.

Of the top-25 players listed on ESPN’s NBA Rank this past season, only Love, Kyrie IrvingCarmelo Anthony and an injured Kobe Bryant failed to make the playoffs. Irving remains on his rookie contract through next season, and Bryant just signed an obscene two-year, $48.5 million deal, leaving Anthony as the next most likely candidate.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Gordon Hayward, NBA
Celtics bring fired Warriors assistant Darren Erman back to Boston 04.29.14 at 10:02 am ET
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Less than a month after the Warriors fired him from his assistant coaching position, Darren Erman has returned to the Celtics.

The C’s hired Erman as the team’s director of NBA scouting, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi. Prior to joining Mark Jackson‘s Golden State staff, Erman served as a coaching assistant under Doc Rivers from 2007-11.

Erman’s previous stint with the Celtics involved scouting and individual skill development, and the Emory University product developed a reputation for his ability to study film during his tenure.

Shortly after the Warriors reassigned another assistant coach — former Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine — they announced Erman’s dismissal. ESPN later reported his departure involved a “violation of company policy” centered around his recording of internal conversations without consent. It didn’t take long for the Celtics to bring him back to Boston, which should speak volumes about how president of basketball operations Danny Ainge feels about the 37-year-old.

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Darren Erman, NBA,
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett ‘happy’ for playoff support of Celtics fans during Nets run 04.24.14 at 4:25 pm ET
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Paul Pierce knows the postseason as well as he knows Boston.

“This is the playoffs,”€ he said from the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J. “This is do or die.”

Pierce played 136 playoff games over 15 seasons for the Celtics. His 24,021 points rank second on the team’s all-time scoring list, brought a championship back to Boston in 2008, and also earned the NBA Finals MVP that very same season. The Truth restored meaning to the NBA’€™s signature franchise, so No. 34 still appreciates that Celtics fans are watching his run in Brooklyn.

“There’€™s a lot of fans [in Boston],” he added, “and I’€™m happy for their support.”

Kevin Garnett spent the last six seasons as a Celtic, patrolling the Garden paint and delivering a Bill Russell-esque intensity focused completely on winning. Up until this season, Garnett had played his last 84 playoff games for Boston, providing the interior defense, elbows, scowls and growls that the people of Boston know intimately well.

“€œThis is a different level of intensity,”€ said Garnett, who verified the fans in Boston understand that vigor and fury. “€œA different level of concentration. Some people can withstand that for 48 minutes, and some can’€™t.”

Pierce and Garnett helped Brooklyn split the first two games with the Atlantic Division champion Raptors. Now the Nets head back to play two home games in the Barclays Center, a place Pierce still finds odd calling home. He has registered two playoff games so far for the Nets, and is still getting used to placing his long arms through a green and white jersey before each game.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Celtics lose coin flip to Jazz, receive worse NBA draft lottery odds 04.18.14 at 3:13 pm ET
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The Celtics split a pair of tie-breaking coin flips but lost the one they really needed, the NBA announced.

The Jazz won the first flip, moving into the fourth position in the NBA draft lottery and capturing a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick. The C’s are slotted fifth with a 10.3 percent chance. Utah can pick no lower than seventh while the Celtics could select as low as eighth.

While the two teams have a nearly identical chance at a top-three pick — 33.7 percent for the Jazz and 33.4 for the Celtics — Utah’s luck has more significant ramifications should neither team win a shot at (most likely) Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. The Jazz have a 9.9 percent shot at the fourth selection, 37.3 percent shot at fifth, 17.6 shot at sixth and 1.4 percent shot at seventh.

Meanwhile, the C’s cannot get the fourth pick and have a 23.7 percent shot at fifth, 34.2 percent shot at sixth, 8.2 percent shot at seventh and 0.3 percent shot at eighth, according to Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren.

In other words, the Jazz now have a 98.4 percent chance at a top-six pick while the C’s have an 8.5 percent chance at seven or eight. Similarly, Utah gets a 43.6 percent shot at a top-four pick while the C’s are stuck at 33.4 percent.

As for the good news, the Nets won their tie-breaker over the Wizards, so the Celtics will pick 17th instead of 18th.

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA,
Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’ 04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET
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Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.

After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.

“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”

The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.

“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”

All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.

“€œSo there’€™s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘€˜We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’€™ That is, we’€™ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’€™t think we made the strides that I would’€™ve liked to have made.”

Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.

“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’€™t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’€™s a good basketball team who’€™s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’€™ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brandon Bass, NBA
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