Friday, June 23, 2017

What's Next For Celtics?

1. Sign Gordon Hayward.

2. Trade Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Tyler Zeller as well as the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick to the Pacers for Paul George after he signs a 3-year contract extension.

3. Contact the sales representative from Balfour to start designing the 2018 championship ring.

Be Happy About Tatum



I wanted the Celtics to make a trade last night for a player, such as Kristaps Porzingis, that could lift them into being a legitimate championship contender.  Making that trade would have almost certainly cost them the #3 pick in last night's draft and I was okay with that.  Acquiring these picks from the Brooklyn Nets on draft night in 2013 was supposed to be the way that Danny Ainge would rebuild the Celtics and it didn't matter if they would be using them to draft players or to trade for players as long as they found the right guys to bring titles to Boston.

Ainge decided last night to keep the pick and the player he took at #3, 19-year-old forward Jayson Tatum from Duke, certainly projects to be a player capable of contributing to a championship team.

Ainge has used his last two lottery picks, in 2014 and 2016, to add physical wing players to the Celtics rotation.  Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are both intense defenders who use their athleticism and physical play to contribute in Brad Stevens system.  Smart, taken at #6 in 2014, has been slow to develop into a consistent scorer but does show flashes of being able to be an offensive threat while Brown, taken #3 in 2016, made major strides as a rookie as a scorer but still has a ways to go to become a player who can routinely drop 20 points per game in the NBA.

Last night, Ainge added another wing player but this time he went for a polished scorer.  Watch the video clip that breaks down Tatum's versatile offensive game and you'll understand why Ainge said that he would have taken him at #1 had he not traded the pick.

The first thing you will notice is the form on his jump shot.  While he needs to become a more consistent three-point shooter, Tatum's shot is smooth and with his size (6-8 with a 6-11 wingspan), he'll be able to get it off against NBA defenders.

Tatum is also adept at scoring from a variety of places and in different situations.  He can score from the perimeter, the low post, and from mid-range.  He can score from isolation sets, running the pick and roll, setting the screen in the pick and roll, and in transition.  He can catch and shoot, attack off the dribble, and seems comfortable going to his right and left hand.  Tatum is also a better athlete than he's been given credit for which will not only help his offense but will also make a big difference on defense.  He is definitely not a "one trick pony" and this versatility should allow him to contribute from day one with the Celtics, who have a need for scoring to complement Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics roster situation is still very fluid and the ability to make a trade - one that could include Tatum - is still a real possibility.  Adding a maximum contract free agent in July such as Gordon Hayward - who would join Smart, Brown, Tatum, and Jae Crowder on the wing - is also very much a possibility.  This makes it hard to really project Tatum's role as a rookie but with such a polished offensive game and the athleticism to mold him into a NBA caliber defender, it's hard not to see him contributing significantly to the Celtics as a rookie.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Updated Abbreviated NBA Mock Draft

It's Draft Day and here is my second attempt at predicting the top of the NBA Draft.  In my original, I only did the first ten picks but today I will mock the entire Lottery.

1. Philadelphia 76ers (from Celtics): Markelle Fultz, G, Washington

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, G, UCLA

3. Boston Celtics (from 76ers): Josh Jackson, F, Kansas

If Jackson is the pick I'm betting that the Celtics trade him, possibly to New York in a deal for Kristaps Porzingis or to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler.

4. Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

5. Sacramento Kings (from 76ers): De'Aaron Fox, G, Kentucky

6. Orlando Magic: Lauri Markkanen, F, Arizona

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith, G, NC State

9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, G, France

10. Sacramento Kings: Malik Monk, G, Kentucky

11. Charlotte Hornets: Luke Kennard, G, Duke

12. Detroit Pistons: Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

13. Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, F, Gonzaga

14. Miami Heat: Harry Giles, F, Duke

Celtics In The Middle Of Draft Night Rumor Mill

The NBA Draft is tonight.  In recent years, a Groundhog Day aspect of the Draft has been the large volume of rumors surrounding Danny Ainge and the Celtics.  Tonight will continue that tradition. Here are a few ideas concerning what the Celtics may be up too tonight.

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Rumor: The Celtics are interested in Kristaps Porzingis.

Well, to be fair, everyone is interested in the 7-3 Latvian phenom.  This includes my wife after I showed her who he was while explaining why I was giggling so much when the "Porzingis-to-Boston" rumor became public this week.

Porzingis is the perfect fit for Brad Stevens' system.  He is a three-point shooter and an adept passer who would give Boston much needed scoring to complement Isaiah Thomas.  He can also protect the rim and rebound.

The price of adding a 21-year-old with his multi-dimensional skill set will not be cheap but the Celtics are flush with assets.

New York could choose to take the #3 pick in this year's draft and either the 2018 Nets pick or the Lakers/Kings pick owed to the Celtics by the 76ers.  The Knicks are rumored to want a starter as well.  Boston could offer Jae Crowder, who Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson has regretted not acquiring in the past, and if he's not enough then Ainge should be willing to pull the trigger on including Jaylen Brown.

Moving Porzingis will not be a popular move in New York and the Knicks may try to soften the blow by unloading the contract of Carmelo Anthony in any Porzingis trade.

Anthony has a no-trade clause but the option to come to a contender should be enough to get him to waive that and leave the Knicks.  Anthony is an accomplished scorer and while he's never been known to be a team-first player, the chance to be a champion at this stage of his career would hopefully get him to buy in to Stevens and the Celtics.

To make the money work, Boston would have to be willing to deal Avery Bradley and also include Tyler Zeller's contract.

The Knicks would gain some valuable draft picks, two starting wing players in Bradley and Crowder (or Brown), and also relieve themselves of the Carmelo Anthony contract.

Boston would then roll out a starting five of Thomas, Marcus Smart, Anthony, Al Horford, and Porzingis.  The offensive fire power of Thomas and Anthony coupled with sweet shooting big men like Horford and Porzingis could be enough to catapult by Cleveland in the East and put a scare in to the Warriors in the Finals.

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Rumor: The Celtics are willing to trade back from the #3 pick.

Danny Ainge is always looking to acquire more draft picks so this rumor should not come as a shock to any follower of the Celtics.

One likely partner for the Celtics in regards to this rumor is the Kings.  Sacramento holds the #5 and #10 picks in tonight's draft and may be looking to move up for a specific player that they fear will be drafted before #5.

If Ainge moves down, some potential targets are Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac, NC State guard Dennis Smith, and Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox.

There's also a rumor that the Spurs are shopping forward LaMarcus Aldridge for a top ten pick so if Boston were to swing this deal with Sacramento, the #10 pick could possibly used to add Aldridge.

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Rumor: The Celtics will draft Jonathan Isaac at #3.

This one is puzzling to me because there seems to more "NBA ready" players available at #3 than Isaac but there are also some obvious reasons why he would be appealing.

Physically, Isaac has more upside than players like Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson because of his length.  Isaac is 6-11 and that type of size for a small forward is rare and in today's NBA that allows him to more readily project as a "stretch 4".  His strengths include his ability to shoot the ball, especially from 3-point range, his athleticism, and his ability to protect the rim.

Taking Isaac at #3 would be a gamble but Ainge has never been shy to do so, as evidenced by his trading of the #1 pick to the 76ers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Other Shoe?

When Danny Ainge traded the first pick in Thursday's NBA Draft to the 76ers, Boston fans dreaming about Markelle Fultz were very disappointed.

If the end result of Danny Ainge's decision is to take advantage of Phil Jackson and trade a package of picks and players to the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis, start clearing space on Ainge's mantle for the Executive of the Year Award.

You read that right.  Kristaps Porzingis is rumored to be available and the Celtics are at the top of the list of teams with the assets necessary to land the 7-3 21-year-old center who has every tool imaginable to become an All-NBA performer.

Maybe the rumors revolve around Jackson just doing his due diligence.  It's the job of every personnel guy to do his homework and see what the options are, especially at this time of year.

Jackson has not been the most reliable of personnel guys since taking the reigns of the Knicks in March 2014.  He has yet to turn the Knicks into a title contender and other than drafting Porzingis with the #4 pick in the 2015 Draft, he has not made any significant moves to improve the Knicks.

Moving Porzingis will not be popular in New York but it may be their only chance to clear some salary cap space, add draft picks, and begin to rebuild the once proud franchise.









The Celtics could send Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier  to the Kincks along with the #3 pick in Thursday's draft and an additional future first round pick for Porzingis.  As part of the deal, Boston would also send a future first round pick to Cleveland as incentive for the Cavs to send Kevin Love to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony.  Love is known to be a favorite of Jackson and Anthony is one of LeBron James' best friends and keeping him happy is always important plus it wouldn't hurt the Cavs to try a different approach because they can't play Love against the Warriors and Cleveland-Golden State IV is a likely Finals matchup in 2018.

New York clears out Anthony's contract, adds a star in Love, a solid starter in Crowder, a promising young guard in Rozier, and two first round picks.

Cleveland lands Anthony in their (possibly last) attempt to win a title with LeBron James.  They also get a future first round pick to help with the eventual post-LeBron rebuild.

Boston ends up with a franchise center who makes the Celtics a legitimate threat to win the East and contend with the Warriors for the NBA championship.

Porzingis would be joined in the starting lineup by Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford.  This doesn't include adding Gordon Hayward as a free agent, which is a strong possibility.

Even for all the Celtics fans who were upset with Ainge trading the first overall pick in this year's draft to Philadelphia, this is an appealing outcome.