A scouting report on Celtics' Syracuse draftees

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A scouting report on Celtics' Syracuse draftees

By Drew Silverman
CSNNE.com contributor

As a Syracuse graduate and a college basketball junkie, I watched Fab Melo play for the Orange probably close to 50 times and Kris Joseph probably close to 100 times. I am very comfortable breaking down both players' strengths and weaknesses and, if nothing else, I'll offer more of a real picture than Jay Bilas, who loved all 60 picks, and Jeff Van Gundy, who knew nothing about all 60 picks.

So, here is a quick breakdown of what to expect from the Celtics' newest Syracuse products:

Fab Melo

The background: Melo came to Syracuse in 2010 with an enormous amount of hype as a freshman. He was the Big East's preseason rookie of the year, and it seemed as if he would step in right away and contribute. To say the least, that didn't happen. Melo started as a freshman, but he constantly was removed from games by Jim Boeheim after several minutes for a variety of bone-headed mistakes which included (but were not limited to) bad fouls, missed defensive assignments, and poor turnovers. Most of his freshman season went along this way, as he played just 9.9 minutes per game and averaged 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds.

To Melo's credit, though, he lost a ton of weight last off-season and returned for his sophomore year in much better shape - and with much better results. Melo averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a sophomore en route to earning the Big East's defensive player of the year honor. There were times in which he was the best player on the court for Syracuse - a notion that would have been laughable just a few months earlier. He played 25.4 minutes per game as a sophomore, cut down on his fouls and his mistakes, and was a reliable player on both ends of the court.

The scouting report: Melo is still a work in progress offensively. That said, he's not a stiff (at least, not anymore). He has developed a couple of low-post moves, and he has a surprisingly nice touch for a 7-footer. That said, he really needs to be wide open if he's going to knock down a 10-to-15 foot jumper. He also became a much better free-throw shooter in the second half of his sophomore season - an improvement for which Melo deserves a lot of credit.

From a passing standpoint, Melo has some skills. He's not Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett, but he has the potential to be a well above-average passer for an NBA center. Speaking of Rondo, the Celtics' point guard better ease up on those passes to Melo, because he definitely does not have the best hands. Melo carves out nice space for himself on the boards, but he could use some improvement in this area. Defensively, he has pretty good timing on blocking shots, but he can still get himself into foul trouble by going for pump fakes way too often. And it's important to note that Melo is terrific at taking charges, a trait that you rarely see in a 7-footer.

Even though he was suspended for academic reasons a couple of times last season, Melo is considered to be a good kid, and I'd expect him to stay out of trouble when he reaches the next level.

The future: It's hard for me to envision Fab Melo ever being the starting center on an NBA championship team. To be honest, it's hard for me to even envision him being a long-term starter in the league. But as a backup center and an occasional spot-starter, Melo should have a decent career in the NBA.

Kris Joseph

The background: Like Melo, Joseph was a relative non-factor as a freshman at Syracuse. And like Melo, Joseph made significant improvements in his sophomore season. He was honored as the league's sixth man of the year and it looked like the sky was the limit for Joseph. However, the improvement never really came.

Sure, his scoring average increased and he became a better 3-point shooter. But Joseph arguably took a step back as a junior and then never really dominated as a senior. In addition, Joseph was at his worst in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, averaging just 10.0 points on 33 percent shooting for the tourney. He left Syracuse as one of it's 25 best players of all time, but a guy who left the fans (and probably the coaches) wanting a bit more.

The scouting report: Joseph is a good athlete with a knack for getting to the rim. He is skilled when it comes to contorting his body in mid-air to bend around shot blockers, and he has a decent left hand, though he's much more comfortable going right. In terms of slashing to the basket, Joseph's biggest weakness is his inability to pull up from eight or 10 feet off the dribble. He's basically in the constant mindset of "I'm getting to the rim, and that's it," which can be a good quality, but it can also be a problem when he faces teams with a shot blocker.

Joseph was an awful 3-point shooter during his first two years at Syracuse, however he improved to have a nice touch by his junior and senior seasons. He is a good free-throw shooter, though he developed a knack for missing clutch foul shots in big games. Defensively, it's a little bit hard to judge Joseph, because he played on the wing in Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. But at times, it looked like Syracuse's opponents were targeting his side of the zone. He definitely needs to improve on defense if he's going to guard 2s and 3s in the NBA.

The future: I just don't see Kris Joseph having an NBA career. His ceiling is probably a rotation player as a team's eighth or ninth man. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if his professional career starts and ends overseas.

Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

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Return of Gerald Green could fill vital bench role for Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON –  Say what you want about Gerald Green, but his athleticism is the one thing you can bank on him delivering.

The 30-year-old Green doesn’t play above the rim nearly as much as he used to, but he does enough to where his presence will indeed be an upgrade for the Celtics this season.

But in terms of what his exact role will be, that will be worked out in the coming months as Green begins a second tour of duty with Boston (the Celtics drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2005).

The ceiling for Green: Sixth or seventh man

Green’s return will in no way impact Jae Crowder’s status as the Celtics’ starting small forward. And Avery Bradley has nothing to worry about when it comes to Green competing for his spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, either. But Green’s experience will give him a chance to compete for minutes behind both coming off the bench.

At 6-foot-8, Green has the size and length to play both positions. And having played nine seasons in the NBA, Green has learned enough in that time to find ways to impact games in ways besides highlight-quality dunks.

Green is coming off a not-so-stellar season in Miami in which he averaged 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and just 32.3 percent on 3s – both numbers below his career averages.

Part of Green’s drop in production last season (he averaged 11.9 points or more in three of the previous four seasons) had to do with the emergence of Justice Winslow, and Green’s own shooting struggles, which eventually led to him playing a more limited role in the Heat offense.

But in Boston, Green won’t be counted on to be a significant contributor in terms of scoring. Instead, he will be seen as a player who can be looked upon from time to time to provide some punch (offensively or defensively) from the wing. If we’re talking offense, Green can help both from the perimeter or as an effectively attacker of the rim.

The floor for Green: Active roster

As much as the attention surrounding Green’s game centers on what he does with the ball in his hands, it his defense that will keep him on the Celtics’ active roster all season. Although Miami sought scoring more often from others, doing so allowed Green to focus more of his attention on defense, which may wind up being the best thing for his career at this stage.

Coming off the bench primarily after the All-Star break, opponents shot 33.3 percent when defended by Green, which was more than 10 percentage points (10.9) below what they shot from the field (44.2) overall.

He was even tougher on opponents shooting 2-pointers against him. They were held more than 15 percentage points (15.5) below their shooting percentage from 2-point range when he was defending versus their overall shooting for the season.

But don’t be fooled.

Green can still score the ball and as he gets older, he’s finding more and more ways to do so.

While much of Green’s NBA success has come about with him attacking the rim, he has progressively improved his game as a catch-and-shoot player. In fact, 54.8 percent of his shot attempts last season were of the catch-and-shoot variety according to nba.com/stats.

That makes sense when you consider that he had an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .491 when he took shots without taking any dribbles, which was better than Green’s eFG% when he shot from the floor and took at least one dribble.

Green’s second stint with the Celtics doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as there was when Boston selected him  out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2005. Still, he has the potential to fill a vital role for the Celtics now, a role that could go far in determining how successful this season will be for himself as well as the Celtics.  

 

 

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

BOSTON -- Phil Jackson will be the first to admit he has made some mistakes during his tenure in the New York Knicks' front office.

Among the miscues was a deal that would have landed them Jae Crowder.

"One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics," Jackson told the website, www.todaysfastbreak.com.

Jackson later revealed that in conversations with Boston leading up to the 2014 NBA draft, he was given an option to either keep the second-round pick which was to be conveyed to Boston from Dallas, or take Jae Crowder and allow Boston to keep the second-round pick from the Mavs.

"I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo (Anthony)," Jackson said. "So I took the (second-round) pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early.”

Ouch!

With Crowder left out of the six-player deal between New York and Dallas, the Celtics were able to engineer a trade with the Mavericks six months later that sent Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to Dallas in exchange for Brandon Wright, Jameer Nelson, draft picks and what many believed at the time to be a “throw in” player by the name of Jae Crowder.

Less than two years later, Crowder is the lone player acquired by Boston in that deal who remains on the Celtics roster.

And as we have all seen, Crowder is far from just a warm body on the Celtics’ roster.

The 6-foot-6 forward has emerged as a core member of this young, up-and-coming Celtics squad, a key to Boston going from being a team rebuilding just three years ago to one that’s poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.

And the play of Crowder has been a significant part of that growth.

Last season was his first as an NBA starter, and the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity by averaging career highs in just about every meaningful category such as scoring (14.2), steals (1.7), assists (1.8), rebounds (5.1), field goal percentage (.443) and starts (73).

Meanwhile, Early has had a pair of injury-riddled seasons which have factored heavily into him seeing action in a total of just 56 games (9 starts) while averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 34.6 percent from the field and a woeful 26.3 percent on 3s.

“While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us,” Jackson said, “He still has the potential to be a valuable player.”

That said, Jackson knows he screwed that deal up, big time.

Even with the potential Early brings to the game, Jackson concedes, “I should have taken Crowder."

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.