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Reports: R.J. Hunter nearing deal with Bulls 10.26.16 at 7:39 pm ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

The Celtics may not need to wait too long before they see R.J. Hunter as an opponent. According to The Vertical, Hunter is nearing a deal with the Chicago Bulls, the only team with an open roster spot — who will also face off against the Celtics on Thursday in Chicago.

Earlier in the day, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported that Hunter was “very close” to a deal.

Hunter was waived by the Celtics on Monday after being passed on for the final spot on the roster in favor of James Young. 

Described as a pure shooter when the Celtics took him in the first round, 28th overall out of Georgia State in the 2015 draft, the 23-year-old struggled to find his form with the C’s, shooting 36.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from 3-point range.

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Celtics waive R.J. Hunter, give final roster spot to James Young 10.24.16 at 1:20 pm ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

The Celtics have trimmed their roster for the start of the regular season, and former first-round pick R.J. Hunter was the final casualty, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed on Monday.

The team’s decision came down to Hunter vs. James Young, a pair of shooters who have thus far underachieved.

“James won the job,” Ainge said. “He played well. Day in, day out for the last six weeks, James was there.”

“I really like R.J.,” Ainge added. “He’s a great kid. He’s a good player and he had a good training camp also. So yeah, it’s disappointing. I think R.J. will get a chance somewhere. He’s a good player.”

The Celtics selected Hunter 28th overall in 2015, but he never cracked the rotation or established himself as a consistent marksman. He shot just .367 overall and .302 on 3-pointers.

His dad, Ron Hunter, told the Boston Globe that R.J. will move on. Hunter turned 23 on Monday.

“He’s disappointed,” Ron Hunter said. “For a kid to get waived on his birthday isn’t the best way to celebrate your birthday. But he understands this is a business and there will be another opportunity for him.”

The Celtics drafted Young, 21, with the 17th pick in the 2014 draft. He has averaged 2.2 points in 60 career games.

Read More: Celtics cuts, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
James Young, R.J. Hunter battle for final roster spot 10.18.16 at 2:13 pm ET
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Oct 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter (28) controls the ball while Brooklyn Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic (44) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Hunter and James Young will have one more chance to strengthen their case for final Celtics roster spot (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

With one final exhibition game left on the schedule, the battle for the last roster spot has intensified. James Young and R.J. Hunter figure to be battling it out to the end. 

The Celtics have until the end of the week to determine who will fill out the back end of their 15-man roster and Young and Hunter have both made strong cases for themselves in their last two games.

Hunter, who has made the strongest statistical case of the two, scored a game-high 17 points against the Knicks on Saturday, capping off an impressive shooting performance. He scored 6-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from deep and not only knocked down open jumpers but made strong takes to the rim and got to the free-throw line. 

Young, on the other hand, followed up Saturday night’s Celtics win with his best performance of the preseason Monday night.

It may not have been as flashy as Hunter’s 17 points at Madison Square Garden, but Young (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, one steal) was able to make the most of his 16 minutes by stuffing the stat sheet in the win over the Nets at TD Garden.

He also looked a lot more comfortable on the floor, compared to the beginning of the preseason. 

“I’m way more confident in my game,” Young explained. “A lot of people are backing me up to just go and be aggressive, so that’s really helped me.

“I’m just trying to do a little of everything — scoring, rebounding, passing, and not to do too much at the same time. Whatever coach has drawn up for me I just do it and help out the team.”

Both Young and Hunter are scoring at a similar rate — making the choice between the two very difficult. Throughout the preseason, Young has averaged 5.1 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from the floor in 15 minutes per game. While Hunter is averaging 6.1 points, 1.5 assists and shooting 44 percent from the floor.

However, Young has been an efficient 3-point scorer, shooting at a 42 percent clip, whereas Hunter — recognized as a precise 3-point shooter — is shooting 27 percent from downtown.  

Brad Stevens has certainly noticed the improvement, thus making the decision of cutting one of the two that much harder.

“They all really had good moments,” Stevens said. “As I said before the game, those are hard decisions because everybody’s improved. I thought they all played well at times.”

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R.J. Hunter (17 points), Celtics’ impressive shooting tops Knicks at Madison Square Garden 10.15.16 at 10:18 pm ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

In what didn’t feel like a preseason matchup, the Celtics offense erupted by scoring 119 points in the team’s final road game before the regular season.

The Celtics shot nearly 60 percent (58.9) from the floor en route to a 119-107 win over the Knicks.

After the Celtics held to a double-digit lead for most of the game, the Knicks cut the margin to one point (98-97) before R.J. Hunter went off in the fourth quarter, when he scored most of his game-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shots, including 2-of-4 from deep. 

Horford caught fire early as he knocked down his first five attempts in the first half — including back-to-back 3-pointers — and finished with 12 points and two blocks. Avery Bradley’s 15 points on 7-of-9 shots led the Celtics’ first-half surge. Both starters led the offense and helped the C’s take a 59-50 lead into the half. 

After the break, Marcus Smart (13 points, 3 steals) carried the momentum while most of the starters cheered from the bench. So far, Smart is shooting 70 percent (14-of-20) from inside the 3-point arc throughout the preseason. He may not be knocking down shots from deep but he’s been very consistent from the mid-range and continues to be a force on defense. 

For a full box score, click here

In what was a regular season-like atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks erased their double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter before the Celtics put together a late-game run to close out the win and silence the raucous New York crowd. Horford’s presence continues to impact the Celtics’ offense as their best shooter in Bradley had plenty of opportunities to knock down open shots against the Knicks.

Horford and Bradley’s great shooting and strong defense — one that forced 20 Knicks turnovers — set the tone on both ends of the floor as the C’s dominated throughout most of the game. 

Hunter — who’s believed to be on the bubble for making the team’s final 16-man roster — certainly made a case for himself in what may have been his best outing as a member of the Celtics. The second-year guard not only knocked down a pair of 3-pointers but also drove against the defense, got to the hoop and to the free-throw line. 

The Celtics will close out their preseason schedule with a pair of home games this week on Monday against the Nets and Wednesday against the Knicks. 

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Celtics Player Preview: R.J. Hunter 09.18.16 at 10:11 am ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

2015-16 season

36 games with the Celtics: 8.8 minutes, 2.7 points, 36.7% FG, 0.4 assists, 1.0 rebounds, 0.4 steals

The expectations were a bit higher than the production for R.J. Hunter in his rookie season after he was drafted with the 28th overall pick by the Celtics in the 2015 draft. He spent a stint in the D-League during the middle of the season, which proved to be beneficial, but never found a way to get meaningful minutes at the NBA level. In fairness, he never quite gave Brad Stevens a reason to give him quality minutes. When the 22-year-old was on, however, he showed exactly what president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sees in him. He showed the ability to shoot with some consistency and be a reliable option off the bench for some spot-up shooting, but it was not often that he did that.

Projected role in 2016-17

Should he make the roster, he would be an end-of-the-bench guy who would be relied on for perimeter shooting. His defense is not stellar, but he would be more than serviceable at the two in order to give Avery Bradley rest while still give the C’s the threat of shooting from deep on the floor.

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Celtics waive shooting guard John Holland 08.31.16 at 8:29 pm ET
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John Holland

John Holland

The Celtics announced Wednesday afternoon that they waived shooting guard John Holland. Above all else, it was more of a courtesy to the 6-foot-5 Holland, who was very much at the bottom of the C’s totem pole and highly unlikely to make the final roster.

A source told Celticsblog that the 27-year-old has offers in both the United States and Europe.

The swingman form the Bronx played at Boston University, then went overseas before making a return to the United States, signing with the Canton Charge of the D-League last Dec. 23. He signed a non-guaranteed two-year deal with the Celtics in April and appeared in just one game: the second game of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Hawks, in which he played less than a minute.

From a development standpoint, the decision makes plenty of sense. Even with a solid camp, Holland likely still would be deep on the bench had he even made the NBA roster. That, in turn, would steal a roster spot from the likes of Ben Bentil, R.J. Hunter or James Young — individuals the Celtics have invested much more in.

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R.J. Hunter on competing for a roster spot: ‘I trust myself more than ever’ 08.30.16 at 11:37 am ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter should not be in the position he is in.

The incessant griping about the Celtics’ lack of perimeter shooting is justified, with there being few — if any — options both in the starting lineup and off the bench for reliable 3-point shooting.

However, Hunter, a first-round pick in 2015, is known for his shot, so this should be his wheelhouse. Instead, he’s on the fringe of making the final 15-man roster.

“It’s just spurts where it’s like, ‘Bro, what I am I doing wrong?’ ” Hunter said, speaking to MassLive.com on Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “And it’s nothing. You’re just on a really good team.”

Hunter brings up a good point. On most any other NBA team, Hunter would have been a much more heavily utilized asset, not the eight minutes per game player he was in his 36 NBA games last season. Conversely, the 22-year-old didn’t do himself many favors when given the opportunity from Brad Stevens to play.

The shooting guard shot a pedestrian 30.2 percent from 3, while putting together a 36.7 percent field goal percentage, totaling a 2.7 points per game total over the course of the season. As a result of the underwhelming performances, he found himself in the D-League for eight games during the middle of the season. While there he shot slightly worse from 3-point range than in the NBA, with a 29.6 percent mark, but ultimately averaged 13.8 points per game.

“At that point, it was just so completely mental,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my ego got in the way of me making shots. It was almost like for me, whatever I do, I’m in the D-League, and if I don’t do well, it looks worse. And that’s just the wrong attitude to have instead of just going in there. When you have that mentality, now I’m rushing shots. I’m not finishing shots. I’m not really putting in preparation like I have to on every shot. That’s part of growing up, though — you’re in the league, and you’re caught up in it.”

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