Draft primer: Tweeners

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Draft primer: Tweeners

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Next month's NBA draft is considered one with very few high-impact, superstar talents. While it's clear that this draft has its share of holes -- pot holes if you're picking near the end of the first round like the Boston Celtics -- there's no doubt the best shot at landing a quality player will likely come by snatching one of the many "tweeners" at the forward position; that is, players whose skillset andor size may result in them seeing time in the NBA at both the small and power forward positions.

You look at the Celtics' roster, 6-foot-9 Jeff Green falls under this category.

His versatility is among the many reasons why Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has made it clear that the Celtics have every intention of re-signing Green during the offseason.

Even if the C's are to re-sign Green, there still exists plenty of areas in need of addressing.

And adding a player with the ability to play both forward positions, for a C's team with plenty of roster spots in need of filling, can't hurt.

Here are some of the top frontcourt "tweeners" in this year's draft, which includes, in bold, players that the Celtics may be in position to land with the No. 25 pick.

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Derrick Williams, 6-foot-9, SFPF, Arizona

By the Numbers: 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game

Strengths: The most NBA-ready player of anyone in this year's draft. Combines the around-the-basket craftiness of a Corliss Williamson, with the shooting touch of a Michael Beasley. Has a wingspan of more than 7-feet, which should allow him to hold his own defensively against taller players in the NBA.

Weaknesses: Does a nice job of scoring around the basket and from deep range, but needs to develop a mid-range game; like most rookies, could benefit from getting stronger, especially if whatever team drafts him decides to play him for stretches at the power forward position.

Projected draft status: Top-5 pick, likely to go No. 1 or 2

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Kawhi Leonard, 6-7, SF, San Diego State

By the Numbers: 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game

Strengths: Definitely falls under the "high energy" category with his ability to make the intangible plays, such as getting to loose balls, deflecting passes or forcing turnovers by switching out at the last minute defensively on an unsuspecting ball-handler. Has a nice pull-up jumper and with a high release, it becomes extremely difficult to block or for that matter, contest.

Weaknesses: Needs to develop a more consistent perimeter game at the NBA level; has a tendency to gamble too much defensively; his ball-handling skills are suspect.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Jan Vesely, 6-11, SFPF, Czec Republic

By the Numbers: 10.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 rebounds per game

Strengths: Exceptional length and athleticism makes him a tough cover whenever he's on the floor. Is not afraid to attack the basket, and yet still has the talent to knock down shots from long range.

Weaknesses: Needs to get stronger, which would help him become a more reliable rebounder. Not a particularly good ball-handler, which could become an issue in the NBA where players at the small forward position often have the ability to take their defender off the dribble. His post-up game has improved, but still needs work.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Marcus Morris, 6-9, SFPF, Kansas

By the Numbers: 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game

Strengths: Has the potential to score from either forward position in the NBA; Has great footwork around the basket and good form on his jumper.

Weaknesses: Poor free throw shooter (68 percent); might struggle defensively because he doesn't have the athleticism or length of comparable hybrid forwards; one of the few players whose wing span (6-7) measured out shorter than his height (6-9).

Projected draft status: Middle of the First round

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Chris Singleton, 6-9, SFPF, Florida State

By the Numbers: 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game

Strengths: Has great instincts defensively, has the potential to develop into a lock-down type defender in the NBA; Runs the floor well, which leads to easy baskets in transition; explosive athlete who can play above the rim.

Weaknesses: Has improved his shooting, but doesn't have the tools to be a consistent scorer; ball-handling skills need work.

Projected draft status: Middle to late part of first round

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Davis Bertans, 6-10, SF, Latvia

By the Numbers: 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. (Combined averages for teams in Latvia and Slovenia.)

Strengths: Has a ridiculously quick release that, at his size, creates a lot of problems for a defense; handles the ball well enough to create his own shot.

Weaknesses: Rail-thin, even for a small forward; lateral quickness makes him a liability defensively; doesn't seem comfortable going to rim either to score or to grab rebounds.

Projected draft status: Late first round

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Tobias Harris, 6-8, SFPF, Tennessee

By the numbers: 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game

Strengths: Can score around the basket in a variety of ways; tremendous upside when you consider he won't be 19 until after the draft; long arms should help him defensively.

Weaknesses: Doesn't have a low-post game or the deep ball in his repertoire; too slow to guard most small forwards, not strong enough for most power forwards; weight may become an issue.

Projected draft status: Middle to late-first round

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

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”