Celtics draft primer: Perimeter players

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Celtics draft primer: Perimeter players

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Ray Allen is coming off one of his best seasons ever shooting the ball, which is no small feat for the NBA's all-time 3-point shooting king.

But as much as the human Energizer Bunny seems to keep on going . . . and going . . . and going, at some point Allen's game will start to tail off.

The Celtics are expected to address this void in their roster via free agency.

But as Danny Ainge put it earlier this week, the Celtics "need talent," and may look to next month's NBA draft to add some depth at the wing position.

Here are some of the top wing prospects in next month's draft, which includes a handful, in green, that might be available for the Celtics when it's their turn to select with the No. 25 pick.

Alec Burks, 6-6, SGSF, Colorado

By the numbers: 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Strengths: Has excellent shooting mechanics and has the kind of athleticism that will bode well for his chances of finishing around the basket in the NBA. Has great and instincts to be a solid defensive player at the next level.

Weaknesses: He needs to get stronger, which will help all phases of his game. Shot-selection could use some work as well.
Projected draft status: Lottery pick

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Klay Thompson, 6-6, SGSF, Washington State
By the numbers: 21.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game

Strengths: One of the best pure shooters in the draft, Thompson already possesses NBA range on his shot. Does a good job of playing off the ball, well aware of how to use screens to free himself up or set up teammates for easy scores when he draws attention.

Weaknesses: Does not have NBA-caliber athleticism, which hurts him more on the defensive end of the floor. Because he does not have great quickness, taking players off the dribble is a part of his game that is seldom seen.

Projected draft status: Middle of the first round

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Jordan Hamilton, 6-7, SGSF, Texas

By the numbers: 18.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game

Strengths: Just imagine Tony Allen with better mechanics, and a smoother-looking jump shot. His strength and ability to finish around the basket compliments a player who brings a high degree of toughness to the floor whenever he plays.

Weaknesses: Does a lot of things well, but doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. His physical style of play defensively helps cover up - but not completely - the fact that he doesn't have great foot speed. His lateral quickness could use some work as well.

Projected draft status: First-round pick
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Kyle Singler, 6-9, SF, Duke

By the numbers: 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game

Strengths: An instrumental part of keeping the Blue Devils among college basketball's elite programs. Has the size and perimeter-shooting skills to stretch defenses. Has the potential to be a good pick-and-pop shooter in pick-and-roll situations in the NBA.

Weaknesses: At 6-9, 230 pounds, he doesn't rebound the ball as well as he should for his size. Foot speed and lateral quickness are both major concerns at the next level. Unclear if he's reached his full potential.

Projected draft status: Late first round, early second

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Josh Selby, 6-3, SG, Kansas

By the numbers: 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game

Strengths: This Baltimore native's game draws some comparisons to Celtics guard Delonte West, although he was not nearly as consistent during his time at Kansas as West was at St. Joseph's. Selby's first step to the basket is one of the quickest you'll find. He's also very creative around the basket, and his on-the-ball defense is impressive.

Weaknesses: Will have to play almost exclusively off the ball, which puts him at a huge size disadvantage just about every time he steps on the floor. Has shown the ability to break players down, but doesn't attack the basket with the kind of consistency a player with his skill set is expected to.

Projected draft status: Late first-round, early second

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

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”
 

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.