Celtics draft primer: Big men

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Celtics draft primer: Big men

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

With the NBA becoming more guard-oriented, there's a very good chance that a number of the quality big men will slip down a few spots in next month's NBA draft.

For the Boston Celtics, that's a very good thing when you consider one of the C's biggest needs is to add more depth in the frontcourt.

With the return of the O'Neal "brothers" -- Jermaine and Shaquille -- next season very much up in the air, the C's will look to fortify its center position in the offseason.

The Celtics' preference will be to do it via free agency, but Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has never been one to rule out any scenario if it could possibly help the C's.

Which is why the Celtics will indeed give some thought to adding a big man in this year's draft, even though all indications are that there are very few high-impact players at the power forward or center position.

Here we'll take a look at some of the top big men in next month's draft, which includes possible targets for the Celtics with the No. 25 pick, in bold.

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Jonas Valanciunas, 6-11, C, Lithuania

By the numbers: 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game

Strengths: Excellent pick-and-roll finisher around the basket; has a wide frame that will allow him to carry more weight without affecting his mobility; does nice job offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Picks up fouls too quickly. Does not have great or even average foot speed for an NBA center. Low post game has very little variety to it.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Bismark Biyombo, 6-9, FC, Democratic Republic of Congo

By the numbers: 6.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game

Strengths: Impressive shot-blocker, courtesy of a freakishly long 7-7 wingspan. Does a good job of attacking the offensive boards. Plays with great energy.

Weaknesses: Inexperience; doesn't have a go-to move offensively, relies primarily on put-backs and dunks; listed as 18 years old, there are concerns about his age.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Enes Kanter, 6-10, C, Turkey

By the numbers: Averaged more than 30 points and a double-double in his one season (2009-2010) at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calf.

Strengths:Very talented big man with size, strength and intelligence to play the role of difference-maker. Better than average free-throw shooter.

Weaknesses: Talented, but just 18 years old. He has had some knee injuries that may impact how long he stays on the board.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Tristan Thompson, 6-9, F, Texas

By the numbers: 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game

Strengths: Has good hands and does a nice job of finishing around the basket. Long wingspan allows him to be a good weak-side defender.

Weaknesses:Undersized to play power forward in the NBA, spends too much time around the basket. Horrible free throw shooter; jumper needs a lot of work.

Projected draft status: Middle of first round

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Markieff Morris, 6-10, PF, Kansas

By the numbers: 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game

Strengths: Has an NBA-ready body. Has good range on his shot, making him an ideal pick-and-pop player. Good finisher around the rim.

Weaknesses: His mid-range touch is still a work in progress. Very little versatility to his around-the-basket game.

Projected draft status: Middle to late first round

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Donatas Motiejunas, 7-0, PF, Lithuania

By the numbers: 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game

Strengths: Lefty can handle the ball extremely well for a player of his size. Can score from the perimeter as well as around the basket. Decent lateral quickness.

Weaknesses: Doesn't always play hard as he should. Needs to add strength.

Projected draft status: First round pick

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Kenneth Faried, 6-8, F, Morehead State

By the numbers: 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game

Strengths: Incredible rebounder at the college level. He has great timing on his jump, and exceptional instincts. He's a high energy player.

Weaknesses: Undersized to play power forward in the NBA. Post-game needs work. Has no real perimeter-shooting touch.

Projected draft status: Middle to late first round

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Jordan Williams, 6-10, F, Maryland

By the numbers: 16.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game

Strengths: Has a nice touch around the basket. Does a good job of getting position and holding it as a rebounder. Above-average athleticism for his size.

Weaknesses: Conditioning remains a concern. Offensive-game is still a work in progress. Still learning how to create space when tightly defended by a bigger player.

Projected draft status: Late first round to early second

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Willie Reed, 6-10, F, St. Louis

By the numbers: 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game

Strengths: One of the more athletic players in this year's draft; has the potential to be excellent help-side defender.

Weaknesses: Needs to develop a mid-range game. Needs to add strength. Poor free throw shooter.

Projected draft status: Late first round, early second

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Justin Harper, 6-10, PF, Richmond

By the numbers: 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game

Strengths: A "stretch 4," already has NBA 3-point range. He's another solid pick-and-pop big man. Better-than-average ball handler for his position.

Weaknesses: Needs to add more muscle to his lithe frame; doesn't use length enough in the post; usual concerns with being a mid-major player coming to the NBA.

Projected draft status: Late first round, early second

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Trey Thompkins, 6-10, F, Georgia

By the numbers: 16.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game

Strengths: Big man with a nice pick-and-pop game; high basketball IQ; excellent footwork in the post, playing off the ball.

Weaknesses: Not a great shot-blocker despite impressive wingspan and basketball smarts; passing could use some improvement; lateral quickness may be an issue.

Projected draft status: Late first round, early second

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JaJuan Johnson, 6-10, Purdue

By the numbers: 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game

Strengths: Runs the floor well; finishes in transition around the basket and above the rim; great timing defensively in terms of blocking shots.

Weaknesses: Pushed around too easily because of lack of strength and weight; limited offensive game.

Projected draft status: Late first round, early second

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

Click here for the gallery. 

BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
 
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
 
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
 
 
5. Al Horford's leadership established
 
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
 
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
 
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
 
 
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
 
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
 
 
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
 
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
 
 
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
 
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
  
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
 
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.