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NBA mock draft roundup: Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh popular potential Celtics selections 06.04.14 at 11:58 am ET
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Just three weeks from Thursday, the Celtics will have some important decisions to make regarding their future. The June 26 NBA draft is quickly approaching. And with pre-draft workouts in full swing, the rumors and predictions surrounding each team are growing.

Kevin Love became the story in Boston this week after his surprise visit to the city over the weekend. But what can’t be ignored is the arrival of some of the top college players in the country for the Celtics‘ workouts in Waltham this week.

The C’s have the No. 6 and 17 picks in this year’s draft. While many fans would like to see Boston trade one — or both — of these picks for a star addition such as Love, there are some names gaining traction in mock drafts as potential Celtics selections.

No. 6 — There’s no question the Celtics frontcourt could use a boost. And of the 13 mock drafts reviewed, nine of them expect the C’s to address that concern by selecting either Kentucky’s Julius Randle or Indiana’s Noah Vonleh.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Randle is predicted to fall to the Celtics in five mock drafts, including one by CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish. Parrish writes: “Think of all of the great freshmen who have played at Kentucky, then understand Randle recorded more double-doubles [24] this past season than any of them. His upside isn’t that of [Andrew Wiggins] or [Joel Embiid]. But Randle still projects as a possible future All-Star.”

Four mock drafts have Boston selecting the 6-foot-9, 247-pound Vonleh. A Haverhill native, Vonleh is not a finished product after just one year at Indiana, but he is considered by some to be a rim-protector with the ability to shoot. The Sports Network’s Jim Brighters writes: “The Celtics seems to have a glut of big men with Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green, but the reality of this slot is that Vonleh is the best available player. Boston needs help shooting and maybe even a replacement for Rajon Rondo, if Danny Ainge moves him. Vonleh’s body needs work, but there are a lot of intangibles in his lean frame. Truthfully, this Indiana product is not that far from being ready, as he has a versatile game.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh,
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v2.0 has more clarity 05.30.14 at 10:04 am ET
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About a month ago I posted my first mock draft. In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “I was way off!”

Since April, the lottery has provided us the clarity of who will own each pick, while the draft combine gave the prospects a chance to show team executives their talent. The result? A completely different draft board. We think we know the top three picks, but we have no clue in what order. This is a good draft, we know that, but predicting the picks is as tough as any year.

So without further adieu, here’€™s my mock draft 2.0, covering both of the Celtics‘€™ selections.

1. Cavaliers, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – From all accounts, it sounds like Embiid’€™s back is healthy. If that holds true when the 7-footer goes through his workouts, Embiid’€™s potential will be too high for Cleveland to pass up. Everyone is quick to use the Greg Oden comparison, but Embiid is much smoother on his feet for his size.

2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – The Bucks are absolutely horrible, but they have good young pieces in Larry Sanders, John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since they already have so many players to develop, why not do the same with Wiggins? Personally, I do not see Wiggins as a star in the league. But if the Bucks do, they will roll the dice on him.

3. 76ers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) – Philly makes out great here coming away with a sure thing. Parker is ready to play now and probably would be the best player on the 76ers roster. At worst he is a longtime NBA starter, but I see Parker as the clear-cut best player in this draft. I would be surprised if he did not end up as a less-selfish Carmelo Anthony-type player.

4. Magic, Dante Exum (Australia) – Orlando has long loved Exum. The Magic should have the chance to snag him at No. 4, and they will if they can. This is probably the surest pick in the draft at the moment. There are rumors that Philly would take Exum and No. 3 and look to trade the Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams. MCW’€™s trade value probably will never be higher, but taking Exum over Parker would be a mistake.

5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) – Vonleh has scouts going crazy over his 7-foot, 4 1/2-inch wingspan. Obviously that is a nice quality to have in a league with as much size as the NBA, but is Vonleh’€™s length important enough to draft over talents like Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon? I’€™m not yet sold, but many are.

6. Celtics, Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) – From all I can gather, Danny Ainge loves Gordon if he is going to use the No. 6 pick. I wrote last week about the players that Ainge will most likely be selecting from with this pick. There are some unique talents on the list, but in the end Gordon’€™s potential, flexibility to play both forward spots, and versatility on both ends of the floor make him the pick.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Takeaways from combine 05.20.14 at 4:50 pm ET
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The NFL draft combine represents some of the biggest days in a college football star’€™s life. Prospects are held under a microscope and are heavily graded on their performance. The findings have the ability to swing a player’€™s draft stock significantly one direction or the other. The NBA draft combine, which was held in Chicago last Wednesday through Sunday, holds a very different kind of meaning.

Much less stock is invested in the drills at the NBA combine, but they still have it, so I’€™m going to write about it. For starters, the three big names who make winning a top-three pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery so crucial were no-shows. Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid felt they had nothing to gain by showing up, which probably was the right call. The last thing any of them need is a fluke injury while showing scouts they can dribble around cones. Their absence made it much less entertaining for those of us who watched all 15 hours of coverage (which might be just me).

As ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla kept repeating, the whole process is really just a job interview. This is spot on. There’€™s not that much you can learn by watching basketball players run and jump that you haven’€™t already seen in game action. Scouts are always enamored with a prospect’€™s measurements, though. If you’€™re an NBA general manager who doesn’€™t know that Aaron Gordon is going to test well on the vertical jump, or that Dante Exum is going to test well in the agility drills, then you haven’€™t been doing your job.

This is why the personal interview process is so important at the combine. But we don’€™t have access to that (the in-depth interviews behind closed doors, at least), so here are some takeaways worth noting.

— The highest max vertical leaps belonged to Jahii Carson and Markel Brown at 43 1/2 inches. No one cared, however, as Wiggins’€™ agent conveniently released an image of his client displaying his 44-inch vertical in his own training session. Looks like it was the right call to not show up, seeing that everyone was talking about Wiggins anyway.

— Everyone, literally everyone, wanted to see Exum. This was the first chance many GMs got to watch Exum in person. Of course, they didn’€™t even get to see him play, just participate in athletic testing. Exum is a high-character kid, as expected he did a fantastic job in his interviews. I would be very nervous using a top-five pick on him hardly seeing him actually play basketball, though. During the draft process he will only be working out alone. Most of the top prospects operate this way, but we have seen all of them compete on the floor in college. People who have seen Exum play the most — Chad Ford and Franschilla — believe he will develop into a star. But have they even seen enough of him?

Marcus Smart is a guy considered a lesser talent than Exum, but I’€™m not convinced that’€™s true. Not to say Exum won’€™t be better, my eyes just haven’€™t seen anything to convince me of that yet. By many accounts, Exum has a similar body at 18 years old to Michael Jordan. So did Lenny Cook — how’€™d that work out? Smart is a passionate player. Danny Ainge says he loves Smart’€™s ‘€œfire,’€ which some look at as an attitude problem. I tend to agree with Ainge here. Smart is a big, physical guard who always plays aggressive. He needs to improve his jump shot, but so does Exum. Let’€™s just say Smart has more of a chance to be Russell Westbrook than Exum has to be Jordan. Exum vs. Smart is almost turning into a Wiggins vs. Parker argument in my mind. Do you want the elite prospect with the athletic gifts? Or do you want the better player right now? Who says Smart and Parker won’€™t still grow in the NBA?

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Read More: Dante Exum, Gary Harris, Jerami Grant, Marcus Smart
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
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Celtics’ late skid puts them in solid position 04.10.14 at 2:19 pm ET
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I have been saying for about a month now that the bottom three teams in the NBA are etched in stone: Bucks, 76ers and Magic. However, thanks to a nine-game Celtics losing streak, combined with an unlikely two-game Magic winning streak, I was wrong. Both teams enter Thursday with records of 23-55, sharing the third spot in the lottery.

This is exactly what Danny Ainge had in mind at the start of the season, and now his plan is coming to fruition. But with only four games remaining for both Orlando and Boston, losing has become as important as ever this season. The Magic still have the inside track, as they play the Wizards, Nets (looking for revenge for Orlando’€™s win Wednesday), Bulls and Pacers.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have some very winnable games, so this is going to require some dedication to losing. The C’s face the Bobcats, Cavaliers, 76ers and Wizards in their final four outings. Yes, that’€™s right, the Celtics and 76ers will face off in another dreadful battle like the one we saw last Friday night at the Garden. Boston’s other three opponents are either trying to fight their way into the postseason or are jostling for position, so they arguably have something to play for.

This is all speculation at the moment, but if we are going by what the numbers tell us, Orlando will lose out. Meanwhile, the C’s should lose three of those games, leaving us with the 76ers contest. Look, the Celtics roster is clearly better than Philly’s, but Brad Stevens and company are going to have to understand the importance of sacrificing this game. This single game could hold the value of moving up one spot in the lottery — or not falling back a spot, depending on which way you want to look at it.

On top of that, unless the 14-win Bucks finish on a hot streak, the 76ers have nothing to lose by winning games now. They are six wins behind the Magic and Celtics, so even if they win out they still hold the second spot in the lottery. Essentially, I am saying the 76ers can stop tanking and it will not affect their lottery odds. Monday night in Philadelphia is the Celtics’ biggest game of the season.

This is all premature, as we have no clue what will happen in these games. The Magic are hot, maybe they can win another one and the C’€™s finish with sole possession of the third lottery spot. Maybe Orlando’€™s schedule is too much and Boston slips back to the fourth spot. Then there is the event of a tie, which actually is more likely at this point — both teams could easily go winless the rest of the season. If Boston and Orlando share the third-worst record in the NBA, they would split the lottery odds of third and fourth down the middle — a 42.4 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 89.4 percent chance at a top-five pick each.

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Danny Ainge, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Top prospects exit early from March Madness, but some intriguing talents remain 03.26.14 at 10:46 am ET
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Remember last week when I said that the beginning of March Madness is the greatest four-day stretch on the sports calendar? Well, I rarely get to reap the benefits of being right, so this is the part where I say, “I told you so.”

Seriously, what a weekend. Some will whine and complain about the low scores, the long shot clock or the quality of the play. Really!? Mercer completely outplaying Duke wasn’t shocking enough for you? Harvard winning a tournament game for the second year in a row, then giving Michigan State a run for its money didn’t entertain you? Dayton battling past Ohio State and Syracuse into the Sweet 16 — setting up a double-digit-seed showdown with Stanford, which took down Kansas — didn’t inspire you? Sorry to ramble, but this tournament is just too much fun.

To sum it all up, just picture this: No. 5-seed VCU is at the free throw line for a pair, up four points, with 10 seconds left against 12th-seed Stephen F. Austin. Now I tell you Stephen F. Austin will win this game by two points in overtime, arriving there on two missed free throws followed by an improbable four-point-play with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Would you even believe me? It makes it 10 times more fun if you had Stephen F. Austin in your bracket, too.

This is why you watch March Madness.

The Celtics are involved in some madness of their own, as they jostle for lottery position in the bottom-heavy NBA. They currently are slotted into the fifth lottery spot, which after giving a glance at the standings and schedules isn’€™t a horrible place to end up. With 12 games remaining, Boston has to face the amazingly horrible 76ers (riding a cool 25-game losing streak) twice before season’€™s end, but the rest of their games could be helpful to their cause.

The Celtics will play the Bulls, Raptors and Wizards twice each, along with games against the Hawks and Bobcats — all teams battling for playoff position in the East. Lets just say those teams will be playing for a lot more than the Celts. And even when Boston faces off against fellow lottery competition on the road in Cleveland and Detroit, those games come on the tail end of back-to-backs ‘€“ meaning no Rajon Rondo. A 3-9 finish is not too much to ask for going into Wednesday night when Boston plays host to Toronto.

As much fun as the NCAA tournament was to watch, things didn’t go quite as well for the top NBA prospects. Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart went down in their first games, Andrew Wiggins dropped his second game (ending his college career with a four-point stinker) and Joel Embiid never even played. Add Dante Exum (the heralded Australian prospect) to the mix, and none of the potential top five picks in the draft will be playing in a Sweet 16 game.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
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