In the days leading up to June’s NBA draft, we want to encourage debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present, “Celtics choice.”

Today: Using the No. 3 pick on Oklahoma shooting guard and college player of the year Buddy Hield and or keeping NBA first-team all-defense guard Avery Bradley.

The case for Hield

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield

An NBA-ready scorer who played four years of college basketball in a major conference. Hield was a monster, adding dribble penetration and increased range to his explosive offensive game. He averaged 25 points a game and shot .457 from 3-point territory. His shot chart is off the charts, with above-average production from everywhere on the floor except the left baseline. As a senior, he’s more polished than most of the teens and freshmen coming out this year. And he demonstrated an ability to hit big, clutch shots throughout his senior year, leading the Sooners to the Final Four, where they lost to Villanova, the eventual champs.

The case against Hield

Will Hield’s 6-foot-4 frame translate to the NBA? It’s one thing when you’re stronger than most of the players you face in college. It’s another when you’re going up against ‘2’ guards with three or four inches on you and you need to create your own shot. Steph Curry can create his own shot with just a split-second of space. But he is certainly the exception to the rule. There are also legitimate questions about his foot speed and ability to create his own shot at the next level. He’s also considered a subpar defender. The biggest criticism of Hield is that he’s reached his ceiling.

The case for keeping Bradley

Celtics guard Avery Bradley blocks Gordon Hayward to clinch a February victory over the Jazz. (Mark L. Baer-USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley blocks Gordon Hayward to clinch a February victory over the Jazz. (Mark L. Baer-USA Today Sports)

There isn’t a better value for the buck on the Celtics right now than Bradley. He is entering the third year of his four-year, $32 million team-friendly deal. He earned a spot on the NBA’s first-team all defensive unit this season. And consider: He shoots 44.8 percent from the field and averaged 15.2 points per game. He also averaged 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists as the team’s starting shooting guard. By comparison, Chris Paul, the other guard on the first-team all-defensive unit, averaged 19.5 points and shot 46.2 percent from the field. He is the longest tenured veteran in the Celtics locker room and has turned into a quiet leader. Bradley is the perfect backcourt complement to Isaiah Thomas, providing ball pressure and great defense. Only Marcus Smart is his equal on the team but Smart cannot score consistently from the perimeter like Bradley and Bradley has far superior court sense on the offensive end. The hope is that Smart develops into that same role as Bradley but he still has a ways to go.

The case against keeping Bradley

As one of the best defensive players in the NBA and with a very team-friendly contract, he would be a prized chip in any trade the Celtics need/want to pull off to bring a player to Boston, which in turn could lure Kevin Durant. Ainge pulled off a similar trade in 2007 when he dealt a promising Al Jefferson (along with Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, et. al) to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. If Ainge trades Bradley, the hope is that Smart develops into what Bradley has become. Defensively, he’s just about there, perhaps even more aggressive. Offensively, still a ways away. In drafting Hield, you could slot Hield into Bradley’s spot and keep Smart coming off the bench.

The Verdict

If Ainge can use Bradley’s advanced defensive skills and team-friendly contract to lure a big name (and with it, maybe Kevin Durant) to Boston, you make the deal and draft Hield. Of course, you might have to give up BOTH to get a blockbuster done.

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Previous entries

May 26: Kevin Love vs. Paul George
May 25: Kris Dunn vs. Marcus Smart
May 24: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Blake Griffin
May 23: Bradley Beal vs. Gordon Hayward
May 20: Buddy Hield vs. Jaylen Brown
May 19: Jahlil Okafor vs. Dragan Bender

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

D&C guest hosts discuss Kevin Durant

Isaiah Thomas had good intentions in his immediate recruitment of Kevin Durant after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors Monday night. 

Just about an hour after Durant and the Thunder fell, 96-88, to the Warriors, Thomas took to Twitter to plant a seed in the mind of the superstar, who will be a free agent this summer.

D&C guest hosts discuss Kevin Durant

With Kevin Durant’s season ending Monday night courtesy of the defending champion Warriors’ Game 7 win over the Thunder in the Western Conference finals, the speculation about Durant’s future is set to take off.

There have been rumors that the Celtics will make a push at the pending free agent. If Boston is to land Durant, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might have to start by looking into acquiring some auxiliary pieces first.

According to Butch Stearns, during an appearance as a guest host on WEEI Monday morning, Durant’s people have informed the C’s who those additional players are.

“I have this on pretty good authority: The Celtics have sat with his agent and other representatives of Durant. The Celtics do know — I don’t know who it is — but they do know who he would prefer to be brought here in a LeBron [James]-Chris Bosh-Dwyane Wade-like way. Because that’s how it works in the NBA. You need to know who the guy or guys that that guy wants, which would be a factor,” Stearns said.

“Now, I don’t know if Durant’s told them that. But the Celtics know. They know. They’ve been told what group of guys he would want to come here.”

Considering Durant could make more money with Oklahoma City — around $30 million per season — than anywhere else, he would need more incentive to leave. Perhaps an easier path to the NBA Finals would be one such appeal.

Said Stearns: “Why would he come here? If I were him? Because I don’t have to deal with the West anymore. I only have to beat LeBron [and the Cavaliers].”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder's Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas had good intentions in his immediate recruitment of Kevin Durant after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors Monday night. 

Just about an hour after Durant and the Thunder fell, 96-88, to the Warriors, Thomas took to Twitter to plant a seed in the mind of the superstar, who will be a free agent this summer.

But the Celtics point guard quickly deleted his tweet to Durant, which featured the No. 35 with a Shamrock to the right. 

There are a couple of reasons Thomas might have taken it down, not the least of which is realizing the sensitivity of the moment, after Durant’s dreams of reaching the NBA finals for a second time came to a crashing end. The Thunder became just the 10th team in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series and the first in the conference finals since the Philadelphia 76ers blew a 3-1 lead to the Celtics in 1981. 

Another reason might lie in another sensitivity. The No. 35 is already retired in Boston, as it was raised to the rafters in honor of the late Celtics captain Reggie Lewis, who died in 1993. 

Thomas is not the first Boston athlete to openly recruit Kevin Durant to the Celtics. New Patriots nose tackle and lifelong Celtics fan Terrance Knighton said last week during OTAs that he would be in the ear of Durant as soon as Durant’s season was over. 

The efforts of Thomas and Knighton might be in vain as ESPN’s NBA insider Marc Stein reports that those close to the situation see Durant signing a two-year max deal to stay in Oklahoma City, with an opt-out after the first year.

Durant will become a 10-year vested NBA veteran after next season, and is eligible to take up a significant portion (up to 35 percent) of any team’s payroll. Durant is currently at the 30 percent threshold. 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

May 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) scores over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) scores over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter in Game 6 Saturday night. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Maybe what the Celtics should really be looking for is the next Klay Thompson in the June 23 draft.

For all the talk about who to take with the third pick or if they should trade for Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, the Celtics could use a long scorer like Thompson, the somewhat overshadowed other half of the Splash Brothers. For anyone who missed Saturday night’s epic 41-point effort from Thompson, they missed one of the greatest performances in an elimination game.

Thompson led one of the most dramatic comebacks in the fourth quarter. He made an NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers in 18 attempts and powered the Warriors to a 33-18 fourth quarter that turned an eight-point deficit into a stunning 108-101 Warriors win in Game 6 that sent the Western finals back to Oakland for Game 7 Monday night.

Thompson was the 11th overall pick of the Warriors in the 2011 draft, behind Brandon Knight (8th), Kemba Walker (9th) and Jimmer Fredette (10th). Thompson has been playoff MVP of the Warriors quest to finish off their historic season. He’s been averaging 26.5 points in the postseason, including 31.0 points in the five-game win over Portland, a series they were without the injured Steph Curry for the first three games.

There are a number of shooters like Thompson in the draft, including Jamaal Murray, who would be available at No. 3, and possibly No. 16. NBADraft.net has the Celtics taking Buddy Hield, the shooting guard and Wooden Player of the Year in college basketball. Hield doesn’t have the height of Thompson, who is 6-foot-7, but he is considered one of the most mature players ready to contribute right away in the pros.

NBADraft.net also has the Celtics taking Cheick Diallo, the big man out of Kansas. Those mocks, of course, don’t take into consideration potential trades.

Trippin: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left for Israel Friday to watch the highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 draft pick play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic.

The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23.

Both Ainge and son Austin, the team’s director of player personnel left for Israel on Friday to watch Bender in two practices Saturday and Sunday. There will be no game action.

18-year-old Bender plays for one of the top teams in Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv). This season, he’s been had his playing time limited to coming off the bench, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds on the season. But Danny Ainge has longed for a player with his height (7-foot-1) and shooting ability. He is still underweight for the NBA but many scouts feel he has a great upside that make him worthy of a top-5 pick.

Austin Ainge has made several trips to Europe in the past two seasons and acknowledged that last week but indicated that pre-draft rules prohibited him from talking about Bender until the early-entrant deadline, which passed on Wednesday.

Flashback: Saturday night in Oklahoma City was a throwback for all Celtics fans old enough to remember the old school days of the early Larry Bird 1980s.

The Warriors will attempt to become the tenth team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA playoff history and the first to do it in the conference finals since the 1981 Bird-led Celtics did it to the Sixers. That year, the Celtics used the series to catapult their way to the first of three NBA titles during the Bird run in the 80s. Bird’s Celtics won Game 5 at the Garden and then trailed the Sixers in Game 6 at the Spectrum, like the Warriors did Saturday night.

The Sixers led 31-18 after the first quarter and 73-70 after three. Then the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-25, in the fourth to force Game 7. In one of the most thrilling Game 7s ever played, the Sixers led 75-71, heading into the final quarter. Then, the Celtics held the Sixers scoreless in the final minute. The Celtics trailed 89-82 with four minutes left and scored the next nine points, holding on for a 91-90 win when Bobby Jones threw the inbounds pass off the backboard.

Saturday night, the Thunder were on the verge of eliminating the 73-win Warriors and sending them home and putting an ignominious end to their historic season. Oklahoma City led 96-89 with 5:09 left. They led 101-99 with 2:22 left. They did not score again as Thompson completed his night for the ages, with some help from MVP Steph Curry. Will they be able to finish the deal Monday night in Oakland. Will Oracle rock like the Garden did that afternoon of May 3, 1981? Stay tuned.

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance. That took on additional meaning around the NBA this weekend with the news of the shooting death of New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones. The promising 23-year-old guard died early Saturday morning in Dallas. Police said Dejean-Jones was shot and that the homicide unit is conducting an investigation. But there is a sad, ironic twist to the story. “An individual who believed to be breaking into the apartment of an estranged acquaintance inadvertently broke into the wrong apartment,” Joshua Pool, a manager at the Camden Belmont located northeast of downtown Dallas, wrote in an email obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “After breaking in, the intruder was shot and later taken via ambulance to a local hospital. Fortunately, no residents were injured.”

Dejean-Jones was breaking into his own apartment after the intruder broke into the wrong apartment. Dejean-Jones kicked open the front door and entered his own apartment, according to a statement released on the Dallas police website. The resident said he heard Dejean-Jones enter and retrieved a handgun and shot Dejean-Jones.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) takes a pass during shooting drills prior to playing Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel could soon be on the move from the 76ers. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

As Danny Ainge and co. head toward next month’s NBA draft, there’s a potential move available that the Celtics may want to explore.

In an interview with ESPN South Jersey 97.3, ESPN’s Chad Ford said he believes there’s a very good chance the 76ers will trade either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel. 

“I think that there’s a very high likelihood, that whether it’s to move up in the draft or use them to grab a free agent in a sign and trade or just a trade, that you will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season,” Chad Ford said. “I think that they’ll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of these two players doesn’t necessarily work.”

With the No. 1 pick, the Sixers have two forwards to choose from in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, leaving them with room to add a guard. According to Ford, the 76ers would jump at a chance to acquire the Celtics’ No. 3 pick, where they’d be able to add a rising star to their backcourt.

“If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow,” Chad Ford said. “I don’t know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that’s Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you’ve got a very, very bright future. I think that’s an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.”

Out of the two young studs, the Celtics should focus on pursing Noel. 

The Everett native is a young rim protector — the kind of big man the Celtics lack — who also can rebound and score around the rim. This past season Noel averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Tied with the Warriors and Clippers, the Celtics finished fourth in the NBA in defensive rating. Adding a player like Noel into the fold would turn the C’s into a defensive juggernaut without having to break the bank in trying to sign a free agent big man like Hassan Whiteside or Bismack Biyombo. 

Compared to Okafor, the asking price for Noel isn’t as steep, but of course he still will cost the Celtics their No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. However, if the Celtics were to package their No. 3 pick along with second-round picks and a prospect like Terry Rozier or James Young, that could be enough for them to acquire Noel, whereas a proposed deal for Okafor most likely would have to include one of their rotation guys like Marcus Smart or Kelly Olynyk.

Out of the two, Okafor certainly is a better scorer, but in Brad Stevens’ system, Noel would flourish. In a fast-break offense he can run the floor, set the pick-and-roll, and create second-chance opportunities for the Celtics on the glass.

At age 22, Noel still has plenty of room to grow and has the potential to become one of the best defending big men in the league. Sure, a move like this wouldn’t turn the Celtics into an instant championship-contending team, but it’s a great place to start. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

The buzz over Dragan Bender is getting louder. 

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left for Israel Friday to watch the highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 draft pick play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic. 

The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23. 

Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Now we know why there were no pre-draft workouts this week in Waltham. 

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge went to Israel to watch highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 pick Dragan Bender play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic. 

The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23. 

According to the Herald’s Mark Murphy, both Ainge and son Austin, the team’s director of player personnel left for Israel on Friday to watch Bender in two practices Saturday and Sunday. There will be no game action. 

18-year-old Bender plays for one of the top teams in Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv). This season, he’s been had his playing time limited to coming off the bench, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds on the season. But Danny Ainge has longed for a player with his height (7-foot-1) and shooting ability. He is still underweight for the NBA but many scouts feel he has a great upside that make him worthy of a top-5 pick.

Austin Ainge has made several trips to Europe in the past two seasons and acknowledged that last week but indicated that pre-draft rules prohibited him from talking about Bender until the early-entrant deadline, which passed on Wednesday. 

 

International basketball reporter David Pick confirmed Thursday that Ainge was in Croatia to scout Ante Zizic, another potential big man candidate who would likely need development before entering the NBA. 

Zizic is a 19-year-old with a 6-foot-11 frame who has excelled in the Adriatic League despite his youth. Boston has 11 players under contract for the 2016-17 season. That means Ainge could have Zizic follow in the steps of Dario Saric (Sixers) and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), who spent time overseas getting ready for the NBA. Saric may or may not join Philly this season. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Terrance Knighton is busy learning the playbook for the Patriots in their spring practices, workouts and OTAs.

But when he’s not in the playbook, he’s planning out different ways of recruiting Kevin Durant to the Celtics.