|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Could Jabari Parker fall into Celtics’ lap?||03.07.14 at 11:21 am ET|
Wednesday night represented the lowest point of the Celtics‘ frustrating season. A 20-point home loss to the Warriors ‘and it wasn’t even as close as it sounds.
When lottery day arrives, this could be the loss Celtics fans look back on as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Losses aside, when you think of this struggling Celtics squad, you still think of a team that plays hard. Wednesday night that thought disappeared.
‘I didn’t think our energy was an A-plus,’ coach Brad Stevens stated postgame, ‘let’s just put it that way.’
We have seen all season long that no matter what, Stevens’ team plays hard ‘ but not anymore. Lack of effort will make for horrible basketball to watch over the final 21 games, but it will yield a fantastic draft pick at the end of the not-so pretty rainbow.
Boston still holds the fourth-highest lottery odds, sandwiched between the Magic (third) and Lakers (fifth). The Lakers saw the Celtics lay an egg and came out Thursday night determined to one-up them — by suffering the most lopsided loss in franchise history. The Lakers fell to the Clippers, 142-94, and it seemed like Blake Griffin and company finished off every possession with a dunk. I turned it off at 104-56 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter — it got that bad. Orlando, on the other hand, has only one less win than Boston, so the third spot in the lottery is not out of the question.
What would finishing as the third-worst team in the NBA mean? It would give Boston a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick and a 47 percent chance at selecting in the top three. The worst result would be the sixth pick, and that would only have a 4 percent chance of happening.
We have been under the impression that owning a top-three pick is an absolute must in order to obtain one of the top-tier prospects expected to enter the draft. There are very intriguing players to be had throughout the entire lottery, but Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker seem to have separated themselves from the pack. However, Chad Ford‘s most recent mock draft for ESPN insider had a new view of the draft. Embiid and Wiggins hold down the two top picks, but Parker is not in the third spot. Ford has the Magic using their pick on Dante Exum, who is said to be climbing draft boards (by working out in a gym in Australia). This leaves the C’s selecting Parker in the No. 4 spot, and making out like bandits.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Tough March schedule should benefit Celtics in lottery||02.28.14 at 10:44 am ET|
Wednesday night provided an interesting perspective for the Celtics on the 2014 NBA draft. Boston returned to the Garden and defeated the Hawks, ending a five-game losing streak — which both hurt and improved their draft picks.
The Celts earned their 20th victory of the season, moving past the Lakers in the standings in the process. Boston holds the fifth-highest lottery odds, but don’t forget about the Brooklyn/Atlanta pick that Danny Ainge owns as well. Not only are the Hawks coming off a loss, the Nets got slammed by the Blazers by 44 points Wednesday in Portland. Boston gets whichever pick is less favorable between the two teams, and as of Thursday afternoon, those are the two worst records of playoff teams.
If only one of the two picks end up in the lottery, the higher pick would belong to Atlanta, but if both teams miss the postseason, Boston would be in luck. Although it is highly unlikely, Wednesday night reminded us it is too early to rule out the Celtics owning a second lottery pick.
Although there is some silver lining in beating a team like Atlanta, the real value remains in the Celtics‘ own first-rounder. One thing we are learning this season is that each loss makes a difference, and Wednesday would have been a good night to lose. Had the C’s lost, they not only would have had the fourth-highest lottery odds, they would have been just one win ahead of the Magic.
Orlando was able to collect a victory Wednesday over the 76ers, opening up an opportunity for a new team to get a taste of the bottom three for the first time in weeks. The Lakers appear to have the inside track, but the Celtics have a tough month of March. Boston plays 10 of 15 games against teams above .500, including the Pacers twice and the Heat. That doesn’t even include two games against the Nets and a game at New Orleans — the Celtics are 0-13 on the road against the Western Conference this season.
Boston has a golden opportunity to land in the top five of this draft, and the brutal March schedule is the key to getting there. Wednesday just proves how important each night in the NBA will be to lottery odds/draft order as we go down the home stretch. But for now, here is what the draft lottery (plus the next two picks) could look like if it were held today.
1. Bucks: Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – Embiid remains the top prospect based on pure potential. In his three games since returning from injury, Embiid has averaged 14.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.3 blocks — all while committing significantly less fouls. He is simply too rare of a prospect for Milwaukee to pass up.
2. 76ers: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – Wiggins still has not posted the overall numbers that he was expected to, but he is starting to back up some of the hype. He has become much more consistent of late, scoring 14 or more points in 10 of his last 11 games. Wiggins also finished off Texas Tech with a game-winner, a good sign after his competitive drive has been questioned. Philly is loaded with young talent; even though Wiggins may be a project, he will have time to develop there.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Danny Ainge’s inactivity at trade deadline might be costly||02.22.14 at 10:58 am ET|
In somewhat of a surprise, Danny Ainge watched Thursday’s trade deadline come and go without shipping any of the current Celtics out of town. Although there were no deals that will take over the headlines, there certainly were moves made that will affect the NBA draft.
Typically, the focus of this post is college basketball‘s top stars and their draft stock — with the possibility that they may end up in Boston. But with a quiet week for the prospects, this week’s focus will be on why Ainge’s lack of a move can only hurt Boston’s lottery odds.
While the Pacers are getting attention for adding Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, it should not go unnoticed that the 76ers are subtracting those players from a 15-win team. In addition, Philly sent its starting center, Spencer Hawes, to the Cavaliers. These moves leave the 76ers roster without two of its top four scorers this season.
Although Philly landed a multitude of second-round-picks (crazy stat: the 76ers now have nine second-rounders in this year’s draft — 30 percent of the picks in the round), they have essentially guaranteed themselves to finish in the bottom three of the league. Although the Sixers became the biggest ‘tankers’ of the deadline, other teams made splashes, too.
The 10-win Bucks dumped Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour on the playoff-hopeful Bobcats. The Lakers shipped Steve Blake away to give the Warriors backcourt depth, despite Kobe Bryant tweeting that he’s ‘not cool’ with the move. And the Magic, who couldn’t find a trade to make, decided to simply buy out the contract of Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis.
So what’s the significance of all these seemingly insignificant moves? All of those teams that rid themselves of contributors sit below the Celtics in the standings.
Although Ainge was active earlier in the season, it appears he now has limited Boston’s odds at an elite draft pick simply by doing nothing. The idea of tanking rests solely on the GM’s ability to take key pieces away from the team; coaches and players are going to give it their all every night.
On the positive side of the spectrum, all the teams above the Celtics in the standings, aside from the Jazz, feel they have what it takes to make a playoff push. This still means in all likelihood that Boston can finish with the seventh-highest lottery odds at worst. But at the same time it makes it very difficult to see the Celtics landing inside the top five picks without a little help from the ping pong balls.
|Weekly NBA draft prospect watch: Marcus Smart’s stock likely dropping||02.13.14 at 4:12 pm ET|
The Celtics head into the All-Star break with a record of 19-35. With this season’s diluted NBA product, that gives them the sixth-worst record in the league.
Even the smallest of streaks makes a difference when it comes to the number of ping pong balls owned come lottery time. Boston got hot and won 4-of-5 games starting on Super Bowl Sunday, a streak that took them from the third-highest odds of winning the lottery to the eighth. The C’s fell to the Spurs on Wednesday night, though, which, combined with unlikely recent wins by the Jazz and Cavaliers, has them sitting in the sixth spot.
The Celtics are on pace for about 28 wins by season’s end, but with the trade deadline around the corner, and the tanking only expected to become more obvious, no predictions are safe. The C’s could find themselves selecting anywhere in the lottery, which makes for excitement but also causes uncertainty.
Here’s a look at what some of the top draft prospects have done in the past week, plus a brief look at some players on the rise.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, sophomore ‘ As everyone knows by now, Smart only hurt his draft status in the past week. On Saturday night at Texas Tech Smart had a decent game, but his name was in the headlines for another reason.
With 6.2 seconds left, and the Cowboys on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, Smart’s frustration boiled over in the worst way. Falling into the crowd going for a block, Smart was helped up, but he did not head to the court as expected. Instead he went deeper into the crowd and argued with a fan who had been heckling him. Smart then shoved the fan, which isn’t tolerated in any sports forum.
Both the fan and Smart have since apologized for their actions, but that was not enough to save Smart from a suspension. Smart missed his team’s blowout loss to Texas on Tuesday, and will miss the next two games to round out a three-game ban. His return, oddly enough, will come against Texas Tech, but this time on Oklahoma State‘s home floor.
“Marcus made a big mistake [Saturday] night, he knows that,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Sunday. “We talked about it extensively. He knows we don’t condone things of that matter. He has owned up to it.’
Added Ford: ‘Marcus is a young man that has been in the public eye for quite a bit. And I think we’d all agree for the highest percentage of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man. But he made a mistake that he’s going to pay for.”
Smart probably will end up paying a steeper price than his three-game suspension once the draft rolls around.
|As Celtics head toward lottery, here’s a look at top prospects in NBA draft||02.06.14 at 10:07 am ET|
The Celtics are coming off of their worst month in team history — a record of 2-15 in January.
Wrap your mind around that: the worst month in Celtics history. The 2006-07 team that lost 18 straight never dropped more than 14 games in a month. Even M.L. Carr‘s 1996-97 tank-squad that won a total of 15 games never topped 14 losses in a single month.
The trade deadline is looming, and Danny Ainge already has showed that he is not afraid to make moves for the future — trading Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford for expiring contracts and draft picks is evidence. And it’s safe to expect similar moves between now and Feb. 20.
It’s also safe to expect Ainge to hold a high draft pick come June. Boston currently has the sixth-worst record in the NBA and has reached as low as third (the C’s were fourth worst entering Wednesday). Recent wins over bottom-feeders Orlando and Philadelphia have the Celts sitting a bit higher in the standings. Losing another game or two would allow them to get in that bottom three, which yields a 96 percent chance at a top-five pick. The timing couldn’t be better, as the class of 2014 is loaded with prospects that project to be NBA stars.
Given the Celtics‘ current position, selecting somewhere in the top five seems reasonable. So let’s look at the top five prospects in the draft and how they would work in Boston.
Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid has scouts drooling over his NBA potential. He has grown from a mid-to-late lottery pick to a probable first overall pick in just about half a season.
Embiid is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. And oh, yeah, he’s only been playing basketball for about three years. Originally from Cameroon, Embiid still is learning the game at Kansas under Bill Self. The conventional wisdom was that he would take more time to develop, but Embiid has been masterful on the defensive end and is far less raw on offense than we were led to believe. “He’s skilled, he’s tough, he’s learning quickly, he’s all of 7 feet and he battles,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said in a Thursday interview with Mut & Merloni. “And he’s getting better.”
Embiid has posted season averages of 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in only 22.7 minutes per contest. He has done all this while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and making plays that have (rightfully) drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. The lone flaw in his game? Embiid fouls far too often. His 3.5 fouls per game are much too high, especially considering his minutes.
|Sonny Parker: Jabari ‘not entertaining’ NBA future until after Duke season||01.21.14 at 2:08 pm ET|
Despite a recent report on NBA.com suggesting Duke freshman phenom Jabari Parker plans to remain in college after this season, the father of the projected top pick in this June’s NBA draft remains adamant that a decision has not been made — and the subject will not even be broached until after the season.
“My wife, my son and I haven’t talked about it,” Jabari’s father, Sonny Parker, who played for the Warriors from 1976-82, told WEEI.com. “We honestly don’t know. After the season, we’ll talk about it. That’s what I told Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] when he was recruiting Jabari, and that’s what I tell him now.
“We just want Jabari to enjoy the season. People can speculate all they want, but it’s not a discussion. Right now, he’s dealing with being a student-athlete at Duke. He’s not entertaining that.”
All of which makes the Bulls.com report a bit confounding for the Parker camp:
“The growing view among NBA executives seems to be Jabari Parker will not leave Duke this year. Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, a Parker friend and big man, is going to Duke next season. Parker is a bright young man with a strong family and the feeling is he understands both the importance of education and feels he owes Duke and the chance to have a great Duke team, which more than likely is the next two seasons. Plus, Parker has seen what staying in school has done for other greats compared with the tough starts for even stars like Kobe Bryant.”
While it’s true the Blue Devils, who have been forced to play Parker out of position at the 4 and 5 this season, will welcome a remarkable Class of 2014 — including the nation’s top center and point guard recruits in Okafor and Tyus Jones, respectively (as well as Justise Winslow, the apparent small forward heir to Parker) — the question remains: How could NBA executives know Jabari’s future when he apparently hasn’t even made up his mind?
“We’re not thinking about that right now, and we don’t want him thinking about it,” added Sonny Parker. “He doesn’t want it to be a distraction for his teammates. I don’t know where they’re getting their information, because we really don’t know what he’s going to do. He just wants to have fun, concentrate on this season and enjoy school.”
A remarkably humble elite basketball recruit who led Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy (Derrick Rose‘s alma mater) to a record four straight Illinois Class 4A state titles, Parker has always placed equal values on education, his Mormon faith and a love for basketball, so this speculation was inevitable. After maintaining a 3.71 GPA at the prep level, Parker earned all A’s and B’s in his first semester at Duke, according to his father.
During the recruiting process, his family even suggested the 6-foot-8, 235-pound wing could remain in college all four years, but Krzyzewski told The Dan Patrick Show last month that he expects Parker to enter the 2014 draft.
“Everybody’s got him one-and-done,” said Sonny Parker, who knows many mock drafts have his son listed as high as the No. 1 overall choice. “We know the projections. We know what people are saying. Right now, he just wants to win a championship. Everybody’s saying he’s coming out, but he’ll let us know. That will come from him.”
Meanwhile, Parker is averaging 19.1 points (48.6 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 74.5 FT%), 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals in 29.1 minutes per game for the Blue Devils (14-4). After his scoring average dipped to 10.8 points on just 32.2 percent shooting over a five-game stretch that included losses to Notre Dame and Clemson earlier this month, Parker bounced back with 23 points on 14 shots against N.C. State over the weekend.
“All these people are saying he hit a wall,” Sonny Parker said. “He’s not hitting a wall.”
|Irish Coffee: A look at Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and the 18 prospects Danny Ainge scouted in Chicago||11.13.13 at 12:07 pm ET|
When word got out that Danny Ainge attended Tuesday night’s Champions Classic in Chicago — an event that featured the likely top three players in the 2014 NBA draft and four of college basketball’s best five teams — the Celtics president’s presence brought out the Riggin’ for Wiggins folks in full force.
While Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle didn’t disappoint, combining for 76 points (65 TS%) and 30 rebounds, the reality is those two games (Kansas 94, Duke 83; Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74) featured as many as 18 picks in June’s draft. Ainge would be a fool not to show up. Here are the stat lines he saw from those 18 players in order of performance — complete with each prospect’s mixtape and a link to his DraftExpress profile.
18. Tarik Black SR PF Kansas (6 MIN): 0 PTS, 1 REB, 3 PF