|Full Court Press: What Game 7 could mean to future of Celtics, Warriors try not to join 2007 Patriots||06.18.16 at 9:42 pm ET|
Danny Ainge, son Austin and head coach Brad Stevens don’t have a horse in the race but they will be watching Game 7 of the NBA finals Sunday night with more than just a passing interest.
A pair of scoring forwards could be on the move after the game, and both have been rumored on the radar of the Celtics.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love could be playing his final game in Cleveland if they decide to unload him this offseason. He has four years and approximately $93 million left on his $113 million deal, which includes a $25 million kiss in the final season (2019-20), when he will be 31.
Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, 24, could be a much cheaper option. He is due a qualifying offer of about $5.2 million and is in the same contractual boat as Jared Sullinger. Both are set to become restricted free agents after next season but both could be cut loose after this season. Barnes has already rejected a four-year, $64 million deal, turning down the Warriors last September.
Both players are represented by agent Jeff Schwartz, the same rep for projected No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram. Danny Ainge reportedly met recently with Schwartz and, while it certainly would not be uncommon for Ainge to talk with agents before next Thursday’s draft, it would be tampering for him to publicly discuss players currently under contract with other teams.
A quick glance at Love’s stats in the NBA finals and it’s easy to understand why Celtics fans are so very skeptical of bringing his $93 million anchor to Boston. He’s averaged just seven points and 21 minutes in five games (DNP Gm 3). He’s again been beset by injuries (concussion) but when he has played, he’s looked out of place. It’s up to the Celtics to determine if that mostly because he’s being misused and kept on the perimeter or if he’s not looking for his shot. He is shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor in the finals and 38 percent in the postseason. On the bright side, he is averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 19 playoff games heading into Game 7 in Oakland.
By comparison, Barnes is coming off his worst game of the postseason, missing all eight shots in Thursday’s Game 6 loss in Cleveland. He was held scoreless in 16 minutes. In Games 1, 3 and 4, he was in double figures and a key part of Golden State wins in two of them. But he went 2-for-14 in Game 5 last Monday and 0-for-8 on Thursday, making him 2-for-22 in potential title-clinching games so far. He is averaging nine points and 4.8 rebounds in 31 minutes during the playoffs. He is someone to keep an eye on in Game 7 if the Warriors need some offense. The “Death Lineup” has been exactly that to Barnes’ hopes of promoting his value to potential suitors this summer.
We haven’t even mentioned the fact that LeBron James is a free agent this summer as well. There always exists the possibility that James could leave Cleveland, especially if the Cavs come back and finish off the first 3-1 comeback in NBA finals history. Not likely, but then again, it is LeBron and worth mentioning, even if in passing.
WALTHAM – If the Celtics hold onto their first first-round pick, they have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to do.
Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, acknowledged Saturday during pre-draft workouts that they have a good sense of the players they want to pick. He just wouldn’t identify them.
The obvious candidates are Buddy Hield, Dragan Bender and Kris Dunn, with maybe a Jamal Murray or Jaylen Brown getting some attention in discussions in the war room.
“We’ve been narrowing at this point. We have them in groups more than specific (players). Maybe for our first pick we have it narrowed to these three or four guys, the second group a little bigger – eight or 10, because you don’t know whose going to be there. You do your best at guessing and debating the groups,” Ainge said.
Ainge said Saturday that he hasn’t heard from Dunn’s camp as to when or if the Celtics will get a chance to see the two-time Big East defensive player of the year in person or what may come of Tuesday’s private (closed to media) get-together with Bender.
Identifying what the Celtics are going to do with their picks at No. 16 and 23 is a lot trickier because, as Ainge pointed out Saturday, not even the Celtics are sure what they’re going to do.
“It’s hard to guess what other teams are going to do, especially after the first couple of picks,” Ainge said. “It gets harder. All the media reports and discussions we’ve had with other teams, we still don’t know how the draft is going to go. Other teams [don’t know]. For instance, we don’t know who we’re going to take at 16, so how can I anticipate what another team is going to do? So these things are hard. So, you’ve just got to take the player you like the most and not outsmart yourself.
“Historically, those assumptions get proven wrong all the time. So, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I think last year was a case of that. There’s always surprises. We’re doing this all the time. How are you feeling? Let’s write it up. Let’s go to 20 names today, or 50 names, or 100 names, 10 names. We do those exercises all the time. It happens a lot.
“There are those types of discussions. Sometimes you do overall, sometimes you do by position. We’ll do guys that have certain skill sets – try to break ties. We were all in the office watching video late last night. Talking about it, trying to figure it out.”
The tie-breaker? Well, naturally it’s Danny Ainge, who has stockpiled three picks in the first round and five more in the second.
“For every pick range there’s guys we’re fighting between and trying to figure it out. We have a lot of picks,” Austin Ainge said.
WALTHAM – The Celtics are dotting their ‘I’s’ and crossing their ‘T’s’ this week.
Some of those last-minute preparations for Thursday’s draft include calling players back for a second look.
Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, reminded everyone Saturday, during the final media availability of group workouts in Waltham, that there is a certain value to bringing a player back for a second look, also known as a callback.
Perhaps, the most recent example of this on a significant scale is Marcus Smart, the guard out of Oklahoma State taken sixth overall by the Celtics in the 2014 draft.
“Marcus it was more like he was the guy we kinda wanted to take. And we all liked him a lot. Then he was horrible in his workout,” Ainge said. “And so when we went back and we watched film, we were like, ‘We do like this guy. Let’s give him another chance.’ So, that was the instance with that. We’ve done callbacks in years past where we didn’t end up taking the guy.
There have been callbacks where the guy was banged up or tired and so we said, ‘Alright, let’s look at you again.’ Or sometimes it’s as much as we found some things out in their background check and we want to talk to them about it. Or our doctor wants to take another look. All of these are reasons to have a guy come back.”
How different did Smart look the second time around?
“Significantly. He made shots. He was the Marcus that — he had more fire, just was the Marcus we had seen all season,” Ainge added. “Both of Marcus’ workouts were competitive workouts.
“It’s just case by case. Some guys are just really scheduled all the way up and some guys have room to come back and it just depends on everybody.”
|Celtics mock draft: Going big with Cheick Diallo, Ante Zizic, getting a steal with DeAndre Bembry||06.16.16 at 12:43 pm ET|
A week before the Celtics hold the most significant draft in the last ten years, it’s a good time to take a look at how the Celtics might approach their picks (if they keep all eight).
In this mock, we propose the Celtics use a bulk of their picks on bigs, both versatile and international in flavor.
No. 3 – Buddy Hield: The most-proven pure scorer available in the draft after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Very rarely do players improve dramatically between their junior, and senior years of college, but Oklahoma senior, Buddy Hield has taken his game to the next level during his 4th collegiate season … Always a strong outside shooter, Hield improved his 3-point percentage to 52.3 percent on 7.9 attempts per game in his senior season at Oklahoma. He has definite NBA-quality range, and even beyond, making him a legit threat to be guarded out to 26 feet away from the hoop. Here’s more on Hield.
No. 16 – Cheick Diallo: Celtics get their rim protector here. A definite project as an offensive player, he is NBA-ready defensively in the post. He can run the floor the way Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge envision a big man running with the Celtics. Diallo has great speed up and down the court and has shown a definite intensity that all defensive forces in the paint need. He LOVES to run the court. Cheick also has good length. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and a standing reach of just over nine feet, he projects as a solid NBA post presence. Scouts don’t consider him to be a great jumper to block shots but scouts love his timing as a shot blocker, especially from the weak side. His biggest area of growth will be in picking up NBA schemes, especially in a league where defending the pick-and-roll effectively is a must. He struggled at times at Kansas to stay on the floor, mainly because of his ability to pick up offense. Here’s the WEEI.com scouting report on Diallo.
No. 23 – Taurean Prince: Another versatile forward. At 6-foot-7, Prince is a 215-pound slightly shorter version of Diallo. He has long arms, and very good lateral quickness. Prince saw more playing time at Baylor than Diallo did at Kansas and has more maturity, as he played four years for the Bears. While Diallo is a post presence, Prince’s physical tools in addition to his defensive instincts and intensity projects him as a player capable of guarding both shooting guards, and a large portion of small forwards at the NBA level. Scouts love his developed skills while general managers sense a very high defensive IQ. Prince is the type of player who could transition from zone to the varied man-to-man schemes in the NBA. Here’s the WEEI.com scouting report on Prince.
No. 31 – DeAndre Bembry: A flashy 6-foot-5 athletic wing from St. Joe’s in Philadelphia, with a flare for making highlight plays. This is an explosive player with a big wingspan that could electrify fans at the Garden. Very fast and thrives in transition … A smooth athlete who excels in the open floor, both with the ball or filling the lane. Has the shake and wiggle to get by defenders in ISO and create shots in the lane or at the rim … Quick first step … Excellent finisher. Very similar to Kris Dunn in his ability to finish at the basket. If the Celtics say goodbye to Evan Turner, Bembry is the kind of athlete who could step in and fill that role. Scouts like his ability to get his feet organized quickly when attacking the basket and his ability to get around the defense. He also possesses a mean Euro-step, a must for any player from 10 feet and closer to the bucket in today’s NBA. Vision and passing skills also strong. If he’s available here, this is a steal for the Celtics.
|Report: Buddy Hield puts on a shooting clinic for Celtics in California, makes 85 of 100 3-pointers||06.13.16 at 4:21 pm ET|
Last week, Kentucky freshman and NBA draft hopeful Jamal Murray hit 79 out of 100 3-pointers during a shooting drill with Celtics coaches that was called an unofficial record for a potential draftee.
Turns out Buddy Hield’s competitiveness extends to workouts, because he reportedly one-upped Murray on Monday. According to ESPN draft insider Jeff Goodman, Hield shot 85-for-100 on 3’s in front of the Celtics brass during a workout in California.
Hield, an Oklahoma senior, is considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft, and he apparently showed it on Monday.
The Celtics hold the No. 3 pick in the draft and could consider either gunner in that spot. Murray is already on record that he considers himself the best player in the draft. For more on the decision between Murray and Hield, check out this recent edition of Celtics Choice.
And for more on draft rumors, be sure to follow our Green Street Celtics blog.
Jamal Murray hit 79 of 100 3’s in Boston last week. Buddy Hield, per source, hit 85 of 100 in front of Celtics brass today in California.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 13, 2016
|Full Court Press: C’s consider draft and stash, legend of Togo Palazzi continues with Zach Auguste||06.11.16 at 7:51 pm ET|
When the Philadelphia 76ers and then-GM Sam Hinke entered the 2014 NBA draft, they had their sights set on a 6-foot-10 Croatian forward by the name of Dario Saric. The Orlando Magic drafted him twelfth overall and the Sixers made a deal with with the Magic to drop down two spots, acquire Saric, a 2015 second-round pick and a first-round selection in 2017. And all it cost them was Elfrid Payton.
The move was one of the few bright spots of the Hinke era in Philadelphia, as it produced something for the future.
But the deal, an hour after Philly drafted Joel Embiid third overall, did something else. It asked the Philadelphia fans to put their faith in the “draft and stash” approach to the lottery. Just days earlier, Saric signed a multi-year deal in Turkey, a deal he may finally break this offseason to finally come to the states and play for the Sixers. Saric was stashed away in Europe developing his skills as a 19-year-old power forward. It’s very debatable as to whether Saric would have been ready to step in and contribute significantly right away, even on a team that had precious little talent.
The Saric case is not the typical “draft and stash” example, as NBA teams usually employ this strategy for second-round draft picks whom they don’t feel command NBA contracts. The Celtics have five picks in the second round, and certainly could use this approach multiple times if they feel they can reach an agreement with a player and his representative on what’s best for the player’s career in the long term, saving NBA roster spots while holding their future playing rights.
Could the Celtics take Dragan Bender with the third overall pick and allow him to continue to play in Europe? Perhaps. It really depends on how ready they feel he is to enter the NBA after not even playing that much this season for Maccabi in Israel.
“I think that all of those things are on the table and we need to look at all of those,” Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said this week. “I think Brad [Stevens] asked in his contract extension to not have eight rookies this year. I think that was specifically written in.”
All kidding aside, would the Celtics avoid drafting a player like Bender, if he doesn’t want to stay overseas and would rather play in the NBA now?
“If we really like the guy, no, that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker,” Ainge added. [Draft-and-stash talks] will be finalized kind of after you draft a kid, sit down and determine a plan of action, but those discussions go on all the time, year-round, contract situations, age, different levels of maturity and in the players’ game, all those come into play. But it’s a partnership with the player, his representatives and the team to try to make the best decisions for him.”
|Isaiah Thomas wants Team USA to look at him for Olympics: ‘I wish I could get a chance’||06.10.16 at 7:28 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas is nothing if not honest.
He spent the last couple of weeks pushing hard for Kevin Durant to come to Boston and join him on the Celtics.
Now, the 5-foot-9 dynamo is making another pitch. He wants to play on Team USA in Rio.
“I wish I could get a chance to play on the USA team!” Thomas tweeted Friday evening. “Looking at the history of it, I’ve never seen a small guard selected 2 even try out.”
Of course, the most famous “Dream Team” snub involved Thomas’ namesake in 1992 in Spain, when the Pistons’ Isiah Thomas was not offered a spot. Many theories have been suggested over the years. The most common involves Thomas burning a bridge with Michael Jordan when he led a walk-off against Jordan and the Bulls at the end of the 1991 Eastern finals, a move that struck a raw nerve with Jordan.
This Thomas has no such intention of burning a bridge.
USA Basketball will have a 12-man roster in Rio. ESPN reported Friday that Kings forward (and a player perpetually tied to the Celtics) DeMarcus Cousins has been selected.
There’s a who’s who list of NBA stars who have already turned down Team USA, including NBA MVP Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and John Wall.
The Celtics’ point guard would seem to be a natural fit to replace the likes of Curry, Wall or Paul.
I wish I could get a chance to play on the USA team! Looking at the history of it I’ve never seen a small guard get selected 2 even try out
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) June 10, 2016
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