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

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”