Celtics hope to 'get lucky' in Thursday's draft


Celtics hope to 'get lucky' in Thursday's draft

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics need size in the worst way.

Only Jermaine O'Neal, a hybrid forwardcenter coming off a career-low 24 games played this past season due to injuries, is signed for another tour of duty at the position for this upcoming season.

A. Sherrod Blakely's third, and final, mock draft

The NBA draft is Thursday, a chance for the C's to bolster their paper-mch thin frontcourt.

But here's the thing.

The Boston Celtics are no different than most NBA teams when it comes to size.

They all want it.

But holding the No. 25 pick in Thursday's draft, well . . . we'll let Danny Ainge explain.

"Not trying to put a negative spin on this; trying to be realistic," said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "The 25th pick of the draft is probably not going to help us immediately. But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, the personality of our team, make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster."

And when it comes to finding a big man that late in the draft, "if size is available at the 25th pick, I don't know if that's a good sign or a bad sign," said coach Doc Rivers. "Sometimes you can get lucky."

The Celtics could use a bit of that after this past season.

Before it began, Boston's starting center - Kendrick Perkins - was out with a right knee injury sustained in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The 2010-11 season ended with Perkins in Oklahoma City, having been traded there in February, and his replacement, Shaquille O'Neal, only able to play a total of 12 minutes in the playoffs due to a series of right leg injuries. The Perkins trade landed Boston another center, Nenad Krstic, who has since signed a multiyear deal to play in Russia next season.

There's no argument that Boston has to bolster its frontcourt.

"We have to address size in the offseason, for sure," Ainge said, adding that "it doesn't necessarily have to be the draft."

Certainly free agency is a more likely route for the Celtics to take.

Boston can also look to make trades, but with only six players currently under contract, the Celtics are more likely to keep their current group together and build around them.

While Ainge acknowledges that he loves the Celtics' core group, he is open to the idea of trading anyone - including the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

As he does this time of year, Ainge both takes and receives calls regarding potential trades involving his players regardless of their standing with the team.

So the idea that he could potentially move one of the Big Four isn't all that surprising.

"I will just say this: I never tell players that I would never do anything like that," Ainge said. "We have to keep our options open and explore. That's my job. Our intention is to bring our core group back."

Ainge has had conversations in recent weeks about moving up, down and even out of Thursday night's draft.

But more than likely, the Celtics are expected to keep the No. 25 pick.

And while it's unlikely the C's can address the need for immediate help in the frontcourt, Boston understands that there is a need to build both for the present and the future.

That's why it wouldn't be that big a leap for the C's to target a young big man who might need a year or two to develop.

One player who fits into that category is Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center who has taken one of the more bizarre journeys to the NBA.

The San Diego native left high school after his junior year, and spent two years playing in Israel and Japan, respectively.

Tyler, who turned 20 on Tuesday, was considered by some the best high school player in his class before opting to play overseas before his high school class graduated.

And while he had his ups and downs playing overseas, his potential can not be denied.

"The kid can play, no doubt about that," said one NBA scout who has followed Tyler since he was in high school. "But the whole leaving high school early thing, the issues he had in Israel, it's all baggage that teams have to take into account. That's why at best, he's a late first-round pick instead of top-10, top-15 pick."

If he has that kind of talent, that could be just the kind of luck this Celtics team could use more of during this offseason.

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

Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender


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


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.