The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

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The best of the C's Orlando Summer League

ORLANDO, Fla. The Celtics concluded the Orlando portion of their summer league schedule Friday with a 94-73 win over the Orlando Magic. Boston finished with a 4-1 record, but let's be honest. Teams don't put much stock in wins and losses this time of year.

The focus has more to do with evaluating talent, and seeing how that talent fits in with a team's goals and objectives.

With that said, here's a look at the C's 12-man summer league roster now that their five-game Orlando summer league schedule is complete.

BEST OF THE BEST

Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State:
Summary: Offensively, picked up where he left off in college as a good scorer around the basket. Better passer and rebounder than expected, a clear result of having a high basketball IQ. However, he tends to fall in love with the long-ball and spends too much time politicin' for calls instead of just playing through them.

Dionte Christmas, GF, Temple
Strengths: Can score in a variety of ways; plays with lots of energy at both ends of the floor; not a lock-down defender, but plays with a certain amount of smarts and savvy. However, he doesn't have a true position and doesn't play with a great amount of athleticism which at times can put him at a disadvantage particularly on defense.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have a true position on the floor. Inconsistent at times.

E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
Summary: Spent the bulk of his time at the point guard position, still needs to improve his court vision and setting up teammates. Still, he has the ability to score in bunches and plays with the kind of confidence you want in a floor leader. Like most young players, Moore needs to be more consistent with the things he does best - making shots.

Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse
Summary: A second-round pick, Joseph has been arguably the biggest surprise thus far for the Celtics. He didn't look particularly good in practices, but has played well in most of the summer league games. His mid-range jumper has been solid, but even more impressive has been his defense and rebounding - two things that will bode well in his quest to earn a roster spot with the Celtics.

Jamar Smith, G, Southern Indiana
Summary: Shot the ball well all week, but his ball-handling and defense need work. He did some good things and probably did enough to warrant an invite to training camp.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sean Williams, FC, Boston College
Summary: He saw limited action, but continues to draw rave reviews from the coaches who see him as a potential rotation player this season. He has the kind of athleticism defensively that the Celtics desperately need. That athleticism coupled with him being such a willing defender makes the decision for Boston to pick up the option on his second season, a pretty easy one.

JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue
Summary: Johnson's play was up and down throughout the summer league. The C's want to play him some at the power forward position, but even against the young and inexperienced, he struggled to be an effective player in the post. He has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his range doesn't extend out to the 3- point line which makes him a "stretch 4" with limitations. He has to step his game up in a number of areas in order to not have a repeat of his rookie season.

Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Summary: As billed, Melo's defense is ahead - way ahead - of his offense. He was more of a shot-alterer than a shot-blocker. His lateral quickness is surprisingly good on defending pick-and-rolls. Although he's not a great rebounder, he understands angles and how to position himself to draw charges which is rare for a big man with his shot-blocking and shot-altering talent.

Jonathan Gibson, G, New Mexico State
Summary: Other than a 17-point explosion in Boston's win over Brooklyn on Tuesday, Gibson has done little offensively. Although he's undersized, showed signs of being a good on-the-ball pressure defender in the Avery Bradley mold. He's on the bubble for receiving an invite to training camp.

Larry Owens, GF, Oral Roberts
Summary: A fringe NBA player, Owens was relatively quiet until the Friday's win against Orlando. He may in fact get an invitation to training camp, but the prospects of him leap-frogging past a player like Christmas or Joseph, seems unlikely.

BEFORE WE FORGET

Stephane Lasme, F, UMass
Summary: After being the last player cut by the Celtics a couple years ago, it's highly unlikely Lasme will get that close this time around. In fact, getting an invite to training camp will be a bit of a surprise. His defense is still pretty good. But the improvements he has supposedly made in his shooting and ball-handling, were nowhere to be found this week.

Craig Brackins, F, Iowa State
Summary: This former first-round pick had 10 points in Boston's win over Orlando, but this week by no means was a success for him. He played fewer minutes than any other Celtic. He is a big man with 3-point range, something that was not on display until Friday. He'll likely get more opportunities during the Las Vegas summer league with the Celtics to prove that his play on Friday wasn't a fluke and possibly earn an invite to training camp.

Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

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Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

Danny Ainge recently hinted on Toucher & Rich that the Celtics were interested in drafting Dragan Bender.

And they need to do exactly that. 

No, I'm not crazy. Neither is Danny.

Drafting Bender is the Celtics' best option. As Ainge pointed out, his job is to make the move that's best for the team. Not just for the short term, but for the long haul.

Now, I can't say I've been to Croatia to work out Bender. Like many of you, I 've only seen him via the Internet.

It is easy to look at him and think he’s a project. That’s because he is. He’s 18 and, even though he's 7 feet tall, he only weighs about 220 soaking wet. He's a kid, too skinny at the moment for the NBA, and would no doubt get killed if you put in the post today.

And, like I said, I'm not crazy. I'm not committed to Bender. If  Sacramento calls and offers Boogie Cousins for any combination of picks the Celtics have, the deal should be made immediately. To a degree, I feel the same way about Jimmy Butler. However, the consensus is those two players aren't going anywhere. (And even if they are available, suppose the Lakers decide to dangle the No. 2 pick for either of them? That would make a trade nearly impossible for Boston.)

But if the Celtics keep the third pick -- and he isn't taken by either Philly or L.A. (highly unlikely) -- Dragen Bender should be Ainge's choice. And it will be the right move.

Let’s break it down.

There's just no one else in this draft with Bender's upside. Buddy Hield is a 22-year-old shooting guard who completely disappeared in the NCAA championship game. He has a shot to be a very good NBA player, but he won’t transform the organization. Neither would Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Nor Kris Dunn from Providence.

The risk for Bender is HUGE. The reward is even HUGER. Ah, that’s not a word, right? Well then, BIGGER THAN HUGE! Or HUGEST!

Bender could be that guy.

And, I also admit, he also wind up playing in Europe or Israel.

Still, Danny has to roll the dice on this guy.

Bender can handle the ball, block shots, shoot the 3, and -- like all European players -- is fundamentally sound. The issue for this kid is toughness in the low post and getting stronger. I put my money on Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo to get him ready for NBA life.

And I'm not one those boneheads who are pushing for Bender because Kristaps Porzingis has worked out for the Knicks. One has nothing to do with the other. For every Porzingis there's at least one Stojko Vrankovic. Or Darko Milicic.

Take Bender, Danny. In two years this guy may have gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, learned the rigors on and off the court of the NBA, and look like the next Porzingis, Or Dirk Nowitzki or Porzingis. Then use the other two Brooklyn first-round picks, and the Celtics could be back on their way to greatness.

But if you play it safe, Danny, and don't take Bender, the Green will simply be stuck in the mud of mediocrity.  

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.