Celtics draft primer: Point guardcombo guards

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Celtics draft primer: Point guardcombo guards

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

When the season ends for every NBA team, their fans almost instantly go into a tizzy over what the team will do in terms of free agents, for the upcoming season.

Celtics Nation, you're no different.

So while it's fun to envision a lineup with Dallas' Tyson Chandler in a Celtics uni catching a lob from Rajon Rondo, or Denver's J.R.Smith raising up to make his third 3-pointer within his first 90 seconds on the floor, it'll be a while before the Celtics can even talk to those players, let alone recruit them to Boston.

In most seasons, the Celtics would be able to begin their recruitment spiel on July 1.

But with a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players union not expected to be agreed upon until sometime in the fall, the earliest you can expect to see the C's improve their roster is via the June 23 NBA draft.

For now, the draft has to be the Celtics' primary focus as they try to re-tool their roster after a second-round exit by the Miami Heat earlier this month.

"We just need to get more talent," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Because the Celtics have so many holes to fill on their roster, there's no need to be as position-specific as some other teams.

That's why despite having the No. 25 pick and the No. 55 pick in the second round, the C's can legitimately take the best player available who fits their needs which consists of, in part, players who have the ability to run the floor and bring an improved level of athleticism to the C's roster.

We'll spend this week examining some of the top draft prospects in next month's NBA draft.

Today we'll take a look at some of the top point guardcombo guard prospects, including those in bold that might be available for the Celtics when they're on the clock

NAME, HEIGHT, POSITION, SCHOOL

Kyrie Irving, 6-2, PG, Duke

By the numbers: 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 11 games.

Strengths: In a draft with few superstar talents, Irving is about as close as you'll find to being that kind of player. He has decent size (6-foot-2) and strength to play the point at the next level. When you tack on Chris Paul-like quickness, Irving has the potential to make an immediate impact - something few players in this draft are expected to do as rookies.

Weaknesses: Talent is not an issue, but durability certainly is. Irving appeared in just eight regular season games at Duke, which doesn't exactly sound like the kind of resume for a player under consideration for the No. 1 overall pick. That lack of experience gives NBA GMs every reason to pause when considering how long it will take for him to adjust to the NBA game.

Projected draft status: Top-5.

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Kemba Walker, 6-0, PG, UConn

By the numbers: 23.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 41 games.

Strengths: Falls under the growing list of in-bound NBA point guards with a knack for scoring the basketball. One of the nation's top scorers, Walker showed some impressive leadership skills - a huge intangible for a point guard - in leading the Huskies to a surprising run towards the school's third National Championship this past spring. Has an ultra-quick crossover dribble a la Tim Hardaway which allows him to frequently get enough space to shoot.

Weaknesses: Listed at 6-foot, Walker will have to prove he's more of a point guard than a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard. His decision-making has come into question at times. At his size, needs to improve his strength so that bigger guards can't shoot so easily over him.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick.

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Brandon Knight, 6-3, PGSG, Kentucky

By the numbers: 17.3 points, 4.2 assists and four rebounds in 38 games.

Strengths: Great first step off the dribble, allows him to get by defenders. Combine that with a knack for finishing around the basket, and you have a player who can come in and make an immediate impact off the bench. Does a nice job of shooting off the dribble, as well as from 3-point range.

Weaknesses: Only one year at Kentucky, so experience may be an issue for him at the next level. Because of that ultra-quick first step, he's used getting to the basket with little to impede his progress. Needs to develop a pull-up jumper, a shot he hasn't really looked for in the past.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick.

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Jimmer Fredette, 6-2, PGSG BYU

By the numbers: 28.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 37 games.

Strengths: Unconscious shooter, arguably the best in the college basketball this season. Known for his long-range shooting skills, but his shot selection - maybe more than his seemingly endless range - is what separates him from many in this year's draft. Is a lot stronger than one might expect, and his quickness off the dribble isn't nearly as big a hindrance as some might believe.

Weaknesses: A shooting guard coming out of high school, Fredette's play-making skills have improved but not quite up to par with what you would expect from an NBA point guard coming into the league. Strong enough to defend most point guards, but his lateral quickness is somewhat of a concern.

Projected draft status: Lottery-to middle of first round.

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Nolan Smith, 6-3, PGSG, Duke

By the numbers: 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 37 games.

Strengths: Has the kind of court awareness to play both guard positions at the next level. Having a high basketball IQ and good length bodes well for his chances at the next level defensively to at least hold his own.

Weaknesses: A solid player, but doesn't have the kind of athleticism or explosiveness that he'll be facing on a nightly basis in the NBA. He isn't a bad shooter, but he is not known for his long-range shooting skills, either. His game is essentially suited to be a long-time NBA backup.

Projected draft status: Late first round.

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Darius Morris, 6-4, PG, Michigan

By the numbers: 15 points, 6.7 assists and 4 rebounds in 35 games.

Strengths: Arguably the biggest point guard expected to be taken in the first round, Morris is a pass-first playmaker who will use his size to score over smaller defenders. When you throw in his court vision, you have a player that may be one of the biggest steals in next month's draft. Has the size, strength and lateral quickness to defend point guards and some shooting guards at the next level.

Weaknesses: Has a tendency to over-pass at times, which is why he goes through stretches in which his turnover numbers are a bit high for what you want from your point guard.

Projected draft status: Late first round.

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Shelvin Mack, 6-2, PGSG, Butler

By the numbers: 16 points, 3.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds in 38 games.

Strengths: Has shown a knack for scoring in bunches throughout his three seasons with the Butler Bulldogs. One of the nation's best at creating his own shot off the dribble, or pulling up from 3-point range. Has great strength which allows him to take hits and keep on knocking down shots.

Weaknesses: In college, spent very little time running a team which he will have to do in the NBA. That lack of playmaking skills will be the biggest challenge he'll face at the next level. He's a crafty ball-handler, but he doesn't blow you away with quickness off the dribble.

Projected draft status: Late first-round, or early second.

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

Potential is there, now how quickly will Jaylen Brown reach it?

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Potential is there, now how quickly will Jaylen Brown reach it?

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 –  When it comes to high NBA draft picks, there’s always a certain roll-of-the-dice dynamic in play, regardless of how impressive their credentials were in making them one of the first players selected.

Among this year’s incoming rookie class, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is indeed one of the many men of mystery whose professional basketball career officially starts in a few months.

Drafted third overall, the 6-foot-7 Brown wasn’t exactly greeted with the warmest reception by Celtics Nation, many of whom wanted Boston to draft Providence College star Kris Dunn (he was the fifth overall pick, to Minnesota) or package the No. 3 pick with other assets to acquire a superstar-caliber player like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Utah’s Gordon Hayward or one of the Philadelphia big men, Jahlil Okafor or Massachusetts native Nerlens Noel.

But as Celtics fans witnessed when he was among the biggest stars on Boston’s summer league entry in Salt Lake City, as well as Las Vegas, Brown is indeed a player with tremendous potential that could be realized as soon as this season.  

The ceiling for Brown: All-Rookie honors

Brown’s most likely starting point as a pro will be serving as a backup to Jae Crowder, the unofficial Swiss Army knife of the Celtics roster. As we saw last season in Crowder’s first as a regular NBA starter, he can play a lot of positions on the floor and be effective.

Brown isn’t close to being as versatile as Crowder, but he does provide versatility at the wing position due to his above-average length and a level of athleticism that stands out among his fellow rookies.

Depending on what Brown does with his minutes at the start of the season – and he will play early on – he could parlay his on-court time into extended minutes, which would give him a shot at being one of the top rookies this season.

Brown isn’t going to put up the big-time numbers that Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, the No. 1 and 2 picks, will register. Still, unlike those two players, Brown will be fighting for playing time on a legitimate playoff contender.

Both the Sixers and Lakers are poised to once again be among the worst teams in the NBA.

That means Browns’ success can’t be based on statistics, but instead it has to be about impact. We saw glimpses of that in the summer when he showed off his ability to attack the rim and draw contact, which resulted in him taking more than 10 free throws per game.

No one is expecting Brown to be that proficient at getting fouls called for him, especially when you consider only two players in the NBA last season – Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Houston’s James Harden – averaged 10 or more free throws per game.

But Brown’s aggressive style on offense, coupled with above-average athleticism and length defensively, will bode well for his chances of being more than just a solid rookie for Boston.

Brown has the potential to make a noticeable impact, the kind that would most likely land him a spot on one of the NBA’s All-Rookie teams and move him a step closer towards being one of the NBA’s better players – a goal he has set for himself.

The floor for Brown: Active roster

If Brown struggles offensively and doesn’t adjust defensively as quick as coach Brad Stevens wants, Brown could find himself on the bench racking up a few DNP-CDs (did not play-coaches decision) this season.

Still, even if that happens, the Celtics will not let him spend too much time at the end of the bench and certainly wouldn’t look to have him on the bench in street clothes as a healthy scratch. They would just as soon send him to play or practice with the team’s Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

While the rumors swirled on draft night that Boston was indeed planning to make a blockbuster-type move that would have involved the No. 3 pick, you won’t hear anyone in the front office complaining about drafting Brown.

They love his competitiveness, his drive to steadily improve as a player as well as his athleticism, which sets him apart from most of his Celtics teammates.

But only time will tell just how quickly the faster-paced NBA game will come to Brown. He’s a player the Celtics – for now at least – have every intention of including as part of their core group going forward.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

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.