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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Kansas C Joel Embiid 05.14.14 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.

JOEL EMBIID

Position: Center
School: Kansas
Age: 20
Height: 7-foot-0
Weight: 240 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot-5

Key 2013-14 stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks

Scouting report: No player in this draft has the potential to make such a monstrous impact on both ends of the floor as Embiid does. His ideal combination of size, length and instincts make him a dominant rebounder. Embiid averaged 14 boards per 40 minutes, leading this year’€™s crop of prospects, but he will be even better as he adds muscle to his frame.

Despite only playing organized basketball since 2011, the native of Cameroon has displayed an ability to quickly learn the game. It would not be a surprise if Embiid — who also averaged 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes (the second most of 2014 prospects) — pans out to be one of the best defensive big men in the league once he reaches his prime.

Embiid idolizes legendary big man Hakeem Olajuwon, already borrowing some of his moves on the post, including “The Dream Shake.” While it’€™s unfair to make that type of comparison for Embiid, it’s rare to see an inexperienced player with such a wide repertoire of post moves, including drop steps, jump hooks, face-ups, spins and other secondary counters.

Even though Kansas’ system rarely called for Embiid to shoot jumpers, he thrived in his limited opportunities, displaying smooth mechanics and a soft, natural touch. He must improve his mechanics — especially his follow through — but the building blocks are there for him to quickly develop into a reliable pick-and-pop mid-range shooting option, as well as a scorer down on the block.

At this point, Embiid might be underrated. After his back injury scare in March, many draft enthusiasts soured on Embiid’s stock, but from what we know, the injury was no big deal and it’s already in the past. With that said, the focus should be on Embiid’s skill as a basketball player until alarming medical reports are released, if ever. And if that’s the focus, then general managers are looking at a player who could potentially become one of the best bigs in the league.

How he fits: It’d be shocking if Embiid wasn’t at the top of the Celtics‘ draft board considering their desperate need for a rim protector and a go-to scorer. If Embiid reaches his sky-high potential, he’ll fill that void and then some more. There is a chance Embiid slips past the top three picks, but it’€™s hard to see him falling any further than that.

Related articles:

CBS Sports: Joel Embiid best center prospect in decade — but not a slam dunk?

ESPN: Kansas’ Joel Embiid a secret no more

Video: Here is a video of Embiid’s performance against Iowa State in 2014.

(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, Joel Embiid, NBA
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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Gordon Hayward, NBA
Stephen A. Smith on D&C: ‘Nothing less will suffice’ than getting rid of Donald Sterling 04.29.14 at 10:02 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Stephen A. Smith joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the racist remarks that Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

While Sterling’s alleged remarks recently created an uproar, the Clippers owner has made headlines with his discriminatory actions in the past. Still, Smith made the case that this was dramatically different.

“You could have a spouse or a partner, and you could know that they’re cheating on you and the thought of that hurts you, but it’s something to know that, and it’s something entirely different to walk in on them and witness them actually doing it,” Smith said. “And in the case of Donald Sterling with the audio tape, it’s sort of tantamount to that because it’s one thing to hear the stories about him, to sort of suspect it and know it, but at the same time you’re working, you’re playing the game you love, you’re coaching the game. You love doing what you want to do and that’s it. Or if you’re a co-owner everyone’s making money, you live your life, you live this — fine.

“It’s another thing entirely for it to slap you in your face right there, front and center, and say, ‘Here I am. This is who I am. This is who I’ve been. This is who you’ve known all this time and there’s been unequivocal evidence and it’s clear there’s nowhere else to go but where you are. … Everybody has a right to feel the way they want to feel, and you can’t legislate what’s in people’s hearts, but when they throw it in your face flagrantly, it’s the ultimate form of disrespect, and it’s something that can’t be tolerated and that is how it’s viewed what Donald Sterling has done and most of white American and beyond can’t ever be accused of being guilty of being that stupid.”

The NBA will address the situation on Tuesday when Commissioner Adam Silver holds a press conference in New York City at 2 p.m.

“I think there’s one thing he could say — he could say Donald Sterling will no longer be an NBA owner,” Smith said. “Himself and the owners collectively standup in unison and have made the decision that Donald Sterling will be removed as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers … not only can there be a $1 million fine, there can be a $2 million fine, there can be a complication of draft picks from the Clippers organization, but there can also be a lifetime ban, which could ultimately force Donald Sterling to have to sell this team … There are mechanisms in place within the constitutional bylaws of the NBA that would facilitate somebody else taking over the team and taking it away from Donald Sterling. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adam silver, donald sterling, NBA, Stephen A. Smith
Celtics bring fired Warriors assistant Darren Erman back to Boston 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
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