The Celtics-centric story surrounding Kevin Love actually began before the All-Star break, but Boston’s Love affair reached “Fatal Attraction” levels when the three-time NBA All-Star spent three days in the city a few weeks back.

Since then, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and Celtics counterpart Danny Ainge have seemingly pulled the puppet strings masterfully, casting sources in a drama worthy of Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. The plot thickens every day, so here’s the storyboard updated through the latest episode.

Rumored Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers offers have been put out to pasture. All the while, the C’s package remains with the possibility of Ainge sweetening the deal. If the Wolves are looking to trade Love — and it seems inevitable given his stated goal to leave via free agency next summer and the ensuing circus the past six weeks — then the Celtics still stand among the favorites (if not the favorite) for his services.

For further analysis, read about Ainge’s final play for Love.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

This year’€™s draft is starting to feel like it could be one of the most entertaining in years. Seriously, how could there be any more drama?

Jabari Parker (left) and Andrew Wiggins (right) are two of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA draft. (AP)

Jabari Parker (left) and Andrew Wiggins (right) could end up going 1-2 in the NBA draft following Joel Embiid’s latest injury. (AP)

The old projected top pick, Joel Embiid, is injured and sliding down draft boards. We have no clue if Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers. We don’€™t even know that Cleveland will keep the first pick — teams like the Magic, Jazz and Celtics are rumored to have interest.

The Celtics also are rumored to be one of three finalists to acquire the No. 8 pick from the Kings. Then the Lakers seem pretty serious about trying to package Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick in an attempt to get young talent. Or, dare I say, the Lakers could be trying to clear cap space to make a play on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

A mock draft seems almost pointless since we are expecting so many trades. Let’€™s not forget that Kevin Love‘€™s name will be one we hear in rumors a few times Thursday. Expect to see one of the wildest drafts in recent memory, but if there is less movement than expected, here’€™s how it could shake down.

1. Cavaliers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) – Embiid has been projected as the top pick for a while, even with his back issues. His broken foot is a whole different monster, though. Those two red flags will cause him to slip, and Parker is the best player in the draft right now. Wiggins will get a look here, especially if the Cavs are looking for a player to fit alongside LeBron (in their dream scenario). Owner Dan Gilbert wants to be very involved in the pick, and he reportedly likes Wiggins. That’€™s a risky strategy for Cleveland, so just take the sure thing in Parker — the Cavs really can’€™t afford to blow this one.

2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – The Bucks now hold the easiest pick in the draft. Sit back and see what the team with the top pick does, then take the other top prospect. If Parker goes No. 1, then Wiggins goes to Milwaukee to play with a decent young core. The Bucks may prefer one to the other, but they have to be pleased either way it plays out.

3. 76ers, Dante Exum (Australia) – Philly ends up the biggest loser as a result of the Embiid injury. The Sixers would have been the team that ended up with the third top prospect that was passed over, but now they have a difficult choice to make. Embiid probably still is too risky this high in the draft, so Exum is the best overall talent available. Exum would either come in to be a backcourt-mate to Michael Carter-Williams or to take MCW’€™s job if the 76ers look to trade the Rookie of the Year.

4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) – With Exum off the board, and Orlando seeking a point guard, Smart makes sense with this pick. Of course, any of the big men on the board will be tempting to the Magic, but they have been most interested in Smart and Exum all year.

5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) – The Jazz already have a lot of young talent in their frontcourt. But if all the guards are taken early, and Utah does not trade up, Vonleh may be the most appealing piece. Vonleh is more capable of stepping away from the basket than the remaining bigs; that could be the determining factor.

6. Celtics, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – One of the big questions of the draft becomes how far Embiid will slip. Danny Ainge will face a tough decision if he slips to No. 6, and in the end he won’€™t be able to pass up Embiid’€™s potential. If Ainge is unable to add an All-Star caliber player through a trade, Embiid is a fantastic fit for the future to play alongside Jared Sullinger in a rebuild scenario.

7. Lakers, Julius Randle (Kentucky, freshman) – The Lakers know what they would be getting in Randle. He is going to be a good NBA player because of his natural ability to score and hit the glass. Will he develop into a star? Who knows? But Randle will be in the league for 10-plus seasons.

8. Kings, Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) – Gordon probably is the next best athlete in the draft behind Wiggins. His jump shot is his biggest concern, but it sounds like it has been improving in his workouts. The Kings need to add talent, and Gordon would accomplish that, but they may have bigger dreams in Sacramento and could look to trade the pick.

9. Hornets, Doug McDermott (Creighton, senior) – Last year’€™s Bobcats were a decent team. When they become the Hornets this season, they could use a good win-now player like Dougie McBuckets. We know Michael Jordan likes to gamble, but the right move is to make a safer pick here, and McDermott is just that. McDermott is not Adam Morrison, he is going to be a very good player in the league.

10. 76ers, Nik Stauskas (Michigan, sophomore) – Nobody helped himself in college basketball last season as much as the Michigan sharpshooter. Stauskas’€™ versatility that he displayed has him being talked about as one of the potential stars to come out of this draft. Because of all the other talent, its tough to make a case for him going before ninth or 10th overall, but this is a great pick for Philly. The ability to play some point guard has been crucial to Stauskas’€™ rise on draft boards.

11. Nuggets, Zach LaVine (UCLA, freshman) – LaVine simply is a freak athlete. In a recent workout, he out-jumped Wiggins by posting a 46-inch vertical. Being a 6-foot-6 combo guard with that kind of athleticism makes LaVine attractive for obvious reasons. The question is, can he play basketball? It looks like he has the tools to develop in the NBA, so LaVine is on the rise. Cracking the top 10 would be tough for him in this draft, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go just outside of it.

12. Magic, T.J. Warren (North Carolina State, sophomore) – Warren has had fantastic workouts and seems to be on the rise. This is higher than most see him going, but people seem to forget that it was Warren (not Parker) that won ACC Player of the Year. The Magic could use another wing scorer; Warren averaged a shade under 25 points per game last season.

13. Timberwolves, Rodney Hood (Duke, sophomore) – At 6-foot-8 with shooting guard abilities, Hood just brings more to the table than the smaller guards available here. Offensively Hood is similar to any of the other wing players in this area of the draft. But with his size and athleticism, Hood could be a better defender than expected.

14. Suns, Adreian Payne (Michigan State, senior) – Payne is just such a nice fit in Phoenix. The Suns already have a dynamic duo at the guard positions but need help up front. Payne gives the Suns a win-now player who can help send them in the right direction. Don’t forget, the Suns would have been a playoff team with home court in the first round of the playoffs had they been in the Eastern Conference last year. Not quite the rebuilding season many expected.

15. Hawks, Gary Harris (Michigan State, sophomore) – The Hawks could use a wing scorer, and they would have to be satisfied if Harris slipped to them. Harris has been a projected lottery pick all season, but he could fall because of his lack of size for the shooting guard position. That said, Harris is a very talented player. He may not go in the lottery like he planned, but if so he won’€™t have to wait much longer to hear his name called.

16. Bulls, Elfrid Payton (Louisiana Lafayette, junior) – Payton has performed very well in workouts against players from bigger schools. His workout in Waltham reportedly stood out to the Celtics coaching staff. As a result, his name has become a popular one in the top half of the first round. Payton could easily go higher than No. 16, there’€™s a lot of hype surrounding him right now.

17. Celtics, K.J. McDaniels (Clemson, junior) – T.J. Warren has been the guy in this slot for a while. Other GMs might be catching on to Warren’€™s abilities, though, and he easily could be gone by the time the Celtics are on the clock at No. 17. A lot of good names will be available here. Shabazz Napier, Cleanthony Early, P.J. Hairston, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Clarkson all worked out for the Celtics and could be taken with this pick. McDaniels also worked out in Waltham, and he would be the type of athlete the Celtics could use if Warren is not available.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Live Blog Celtics pre-draft chat with WEEI.com’s Ben Rohrbach
 

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Danny Ainge. (AP)

Danny Ainge. (AP)

If Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t call the five teams in front of him in Thursday’s NBA draft, he wouldn’t be doing his job, so it should come as no surprise he’s inquired about what it would take to acquire a top pick from the Cavaliers, Bucks, 76ers, Magic and Jazz.

In fact, Ainge has also discussed the possibility of landing picks later in the first and into the second round, according to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy. In all likelihood, Ainge has contacted the front offices of all 29 other teams in preparation for a draft with an infinite number of possible C’s outcomes.

As for the potential of the C’s trading into the top five, a draft-day deal of top-six picks hasn’t happened since 2008, when Minnesota and Memphis swapped No. 3 (O.J. Mayo) and No. 5 (Kevin Love), exchanging a handful of inconsequential players in the process (Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner to the Grizzlies; Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins to the Timberwolves).

While Love has since become the centerpiece of blockbuster trade discussions, neither he nor Mayo were considered franchise altering acquisitions six years ago. Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were the big catches of that draft, just as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are the clear prizes this season. Love and Mayo (sing to Frank Sinatra’s “Love and Marriage,” please) were more akin to Julius Randle and Marcus Smart this season.

The lack of top picks changing places in recent years has a lot to do with the increased value of those players in the new collective bargaining agreement and the scarcity of teams with win-now mentalities ending up in the top five.

A move into the top two would require a package comparable to the 2005 deal that sent Deron Williams‘ draft rights at No. 3 overall to Utah in exchange for Portland’s No. 6, No. 27 and Detroit’s 2006 first-round pick. As enamored as Ainge appears to be with Parker, it’s hard to imagine him parting ways with No. 6, No. 17 and the Clippers’ 2015 first-round pick for the Duke freshman when such a package may not be enough for a player of Love’s caliber now. It’s a different story if Ainge were to trade those picks as part of a larger deal that would bring Love back to Boston.

Trading up to Nos. 3-5 seems more likely if Ainge believes any one of Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Randle or Smart are significantly better than the others in that group and will be off the board when the Celtics are on the board. If previous drafts are any indication, it wouldn’t take much. Without even a clear No. 1 pick in 2006, the Blazers moved up to nab LaMarcus Aldridge at No. 2 in exchange for No. 4 and Victor Khryapa. That’s the equivalent of the C’s sending No. 6 and Vitor Faverani to Orlando for the right to take Embiid or Exum.

Given Ainge’s seemingly endless list of traceable assets, the revelation that the Celtics would like a higher pick is just another reminder that anything and everything are on the table come Thursday. The possibilities are endless.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Isaiah Austin was forced to abandon his dream of playing in the NBA due to a medical condition. (AP)

Isaiah Austin was forced to abandon his dream of playing in the NBA due to a medical condition. (AP)

Draft prospect Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dream of playing in the NBA come true. Instead he becomes another sad but true reminder why all college student-athletes should prepare for life after sports. And it’s another reason why colleges should do more to help prepare these young men for what lies ahead.

In a terrible turn of events, the 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition “caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body.” Marfan.org states that “about 1-in-5,000 people have the condition that can affect the heart, blood vessels, bones or joints.”

I know the pain of having your life’s dream come to an abrupt end at an early age. I will never forget being a 24-year-old rookie sitting in then-Heat coach Pat Riley‘s office and having my career come to an end due to an ankle injury.

Riley shared his experience as a former player and talked about how he felt after his body could no longer withstand the pounding in the NBA. “Huck, I have to let you go,” are the words that I’ll never forget. For a 24-year-old who had just signed an NBA contract, it was like dying. I was blessed enough to be able to play for a paycheck in the NBA and Europe, but like so many I had never thought about what I would do when basketball ended.

I’ve heard about some of the quirky questions general managers ask draft prospects in the NFL and NBA (Michigan’s Nik Stauskas said he got a Justin Bieber question). But I wonder if they ask every draft prospect how prepared they are to go out into the general workforce (non-sports-related field) and obtain a job?

I make it a point now to talk to every player I interview while doing games for ESPN about preparing for life after sports. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream of playing professionally, but it is bad business to not have a succession plan of what you will do afterward.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Austin, like myself, had his career come to an abrupt end. Hopefully he can go back to Baylor, finish his education and share his story with other student-athletes about the importance of a backup plan.

I’ve written other articles on why I think student-athletes should not just be going to class but enrolling in meaningful internships and job-training programs that give them a dose of reality and what it will be like to work in something other than your sport. And make no mistake, playing a Division 1 sport is a job. There is so much going on in college athletics now: Northwestern players forming a union, Ed O’€™Bannon fighting the NCAA in court, discussions about whether student-athletes should be paid. To me the discussion should always be about how universities and athletic departments can better prepare student-athletes to make a successful transition into the real world.

Thursday is almost here for the 2014 NBA draft. Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon, a likely lottery pick and rumored target of the Celtics, is one of the most versatile players I’ve seen. In 2013 he played in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, leading his Archbishop Mitty High School team from San Jose, California, against a very good Lone Peak High School team from Highland, Utah. Gordon was able to guard and shut down Eric Mika, a 7-foot center who went on to start for BYU this past season, then guard Lone Peak’s starting point guard and shooting guard — both high- to mid-major college players — and lock them up as well.

Even more impressive, when I interviewed Gordon on the ESPN set after the game, he was very well spoken and seemed like a young player who would excel outside of basketball. Unfortunately, he is not the norm.

I’m glad college reform is a hot topic now, but I hope the discussion shifts from paying players to how to better prepare players for the news Isaiah Austin received a few days prior to the NBA draft. Because playing days eventually will end, whether it’s due to illness, injury or just not being good enough. And the sooner players start to prepare for that transition the better.

Blog Author: 
Malcolm Huckaby

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix checked in with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the Celtics and the NBA draft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Celtics hold the No. 6 and 17 picks in Thursday’s draft, but the C’s reportedly are interested in acquiring the top overall pick from the Cavaliers.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix checked in with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to discuss the Celtics and the NBA draft. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Celtics hold the No. 6 and 17 picks in Thursday’s draft, but the C’s reportedly are interested in acquiring the top overall pick from the Cavaliers.

“If Boston moves up in the draft it’s to get the player they want,” Mannix said. “And I think there are a couple of cornerstone players still available in [Andrew Wiggins] and [Jabari Parker] that can change the shape of a franchise. I don’t think Boston has abandoned the pursuit of Kevin Love by any stretch.

“Cleveland, really since they won the lottery, has let teams know that if you’ve got an offer for the No. 1 pick, we’re willing to listen to it. David Griffin, the GM out there, has been reluctant to trade it, but certainly he’s been fielding offers.

“I just don’t think that Boston has enough. … I just think it’s a long shot at best that the Celtics are able to get in that position.”

If the Celtics were to obtain the top pick, Mannix said general manager Danny Ainge would be deciding between Wiggins and Parker after Joel Embiid‘s stock fell following a foot injury.

“Danny has had a thing for Jabari Parker for a while. He scouted him extensively,” Mannix said. “The Celtics think that he can come into the NBA and be a ready-made scorer immediately at either forward spot when he gets there.

“Andrew Wiggins, I just see teams having a hard time passing him up with the top overall pick. I thought that he would’ve been a tough call for Cleveland if Joel Embiid were healthy. I just think Wiggins, even though he’s got some issues with his aggressiveness and he’s going to have to polish the game once he gets to the pros, the games you saw him play at Kansas, when he was on he was spectacular. He’s a two-way player, can defend multiple positions already.

“I just see him being the biggest star in this draft, and I include Joel Embiid in that mix.”

Parker may have hurt his stock with some poor pre-draft workouts.

“He hasn’t looked good in these workouts, I can tell you that much,” Mannix said. “The workouts that he’s done, the people that I’ve talked to that have seen him, were unimpressed with his conditioning. It wasn’t that he was overweight, according to the people I was talking to, he just was out of shape in these things and that raised some red flags.

“In the individual workouts he’s gone to, none of them he shot the lights out. None of them he’s been extremely effective, whereas Wiggins, when he went to Cleveland, he was really good from what I’m told from the people there.

“So Parker has been mediocre throughout this whole process, but people look at his body of work in college, they see his offensive potential and there’s very little chance he escapes those top three picks. I do think now that Embiid is off the board for that first overall pick that Wiggins and Parker are going to be neck and neck for it.”

The popular rumor involving the Celtics since they landed the No. 6 pick has been their interest in trading for Love. Mannix, however, doesn’t expect Love to be traded on draft night. But he also doesn’t expect him to play for the Timberwolves next season.

“I don’t think that Kevin gets to training camp with this team,” Mannix said. “I think that both Minnesota and Kevin Love do not want to get into October and have to sit down and have to deal with the constant media crunch that’s going to come with a season with Kevin on the roster.

“[Flip Saunders] honestly believes — and I’m not sure why he believes this but I know he does — that this team can make the playoffs next year. He thinks that a team with a healthy [Ricky Rubio] and [Nikola Pekovic] and some of the other talents on the roster, if they can flip Kevin for some real assets before the season, they can make a push to get into the playoffs.”

Mannix doesn’t believe Rajon Rondo will get moved, either.

“I just don’t see it. I don’t think that Rondo is going to go at any time during the draft or really any time this offseason,” he said. “I think the Celtics want to get a good look at what Rondo looks like at full strength, in Brad Stevens‘ system with whatever players they are able to bring in during the offseason.

“That’s not to say that right now they believe that Rondo is part of their long-term plans, I just think they want to get a look him before they make any moves.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas
Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo

The once strange Rajon Rondo to Sacramento rumors continue to persist, and the latest development makes more sense than any previous narrative.

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Kings and Pistons have discussed a deal that would pair Josh Smith with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins in the Sactown backcourt. So, what does that have to do with the Celtics point guard?

The hope, at least from Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro‘s standpoint, may be to leverage longtime friends Smith and Gay as recruiting coordinators in convincing the C’s captain to sign a longterm contract with a team that has not made the playoffs since 2006. Smith, Gay and Rondo have all openly discussed their desire to play with each other at various points over the last few years.

Sacramento’s interest in Rondo is nothing new. In February, the Kings and Celtics reportedly discussed a trade that would send Rondo packing in exchange for a package including Ben McLemore, Isaiah Thomas and a pair of picks.

None of those pieces are involved in the reported Smith swap (Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and/or the expiring contracts for Carl Landry and Jason Terry).

Thomas is a restricted free agent, so he could still be included in a sign-and-trade, and the possibility of adding last year’s No. 7 overall pick (McLemore), Sacto’s No. 8 pick this season and a future pick is an increasingly intriguing haul should C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge not land Kevin Love and instead deal Rondo.

While Rondo’s impact as a four-time NBA All-Star point guard isn’t reflected in this past season’s statistics, a look at the numbers for the principle pieces in this trade scenario isn’t as lopsided as one might think.

  • Rondo: 998 minutes, 11.7 ppg, 9.8 apg, 5.5 rpg, 1.3 spg, 46.1 TS%, 15.3 PER
  • Thomas: 2,497 minutes, 20.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 spg, 57.4 TS%, 20.5 PER
  • McLemore: 2,187 minutes, 8.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 48.5 TS%, 7.7 PER

Considering the Celtics would also receive Sacramento’s No. 8 pick, Ainge would have to strongly consider this deal should he choose rebuilding over reloading. Adding Thomas, McLemore, their own No. 6 selection (Joel Embiid?) and No. 8 (Julius Randle?) to the existing young core would be a step in the right direction on the long road ahead.

The bigger question is whether the Kings can pull off the necessary moves to convince Rondo to stay in Sacramento. While it comes as no surprise Stan Van Gundy is shopping Smith’s contract (3 years, $40.5 million) after assuming Detroit’s coaching and player personnel duties, DraftExpress analyst Jonathan Givony suggested talks between the Pistons and Kings are “dead.” Thus, the rumored Rondo deal becomes a larger obstacle, considering the Kings would have a harder time convincing him to sign an extension without Smith in place.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

I recently wrote that Kevin Love is going to become a member of the Celtics on draft night.  I still believe that. However, there’€™s a whole other question that needs to be addressed.

What does Danny Ainge do if he is unable to add an All-Star to the core he has right now? The answer is to trade Rajon Rondo.

There are two clear-cut directions in which the Celtics can head. They can trade their assets for a proven veteran, like Love, or they can break ties with Rondo, Jeff Green and their older players to start a youth movement. Most fans prefer to win now, but if that option is not available, selling off pieces to rebuild is the right move.

So what is a reasonable trade offer for Rondo?

If you remember from the start of the season, there was a pretty realistic offer rumored to be coming from Sacramento. If the trade offer remains something in the ballpark of Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a draft pick (which would be No. 8 overall), that would be something Ainge considers. One note: Thomas is a restricted free agent, meaning Boston would be getting his rights. The C’s could re-sign him or let him walk for a higher offer.

Rondo has no interest in sticking around for a full rebuild, nor should he. Ainge knows this, and also is smart enough to know that there is no purpose to keep his star player on a roster that is not ready to win. The Celtics would then become one of the youngest teams in the league, with building blocks that have the potential to make them even younger.

Boston’€™s core would look something along these lines next season if Rondo were to be dealt to Sacramento (an easy example to use): The Celtics would roll out a lineup of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, McLemore, Thomas, Avery Bradley (a restricted free agent like Thomas) to go along with the players they draft at Nos. 6, 8 and 17. Keep in mind Ainge also would hold two first-round picks in the next two drafts.

No doubt there is risk involved with having so many young prospects on the roster. Some disappointing draft picks and developments are expected. At the same time, a couple of those players likely would become stars, while another couple should turn into good role players.

It’€™s nerve-racking to think about if you’€™re a Celtics fan, simply because there would be so much that would need to occur just to contend. But with other teams deep into trade talks for Love, this is a realistic alternative that everyone needs to be ready to accept. You know, just in case I’€™m wrong about Love.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow
Live Blog Celtics pre-draft chat with Ben Rohrbach
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI