With Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching, ESPN NBA analyst Tom Penn said Wednesday is the day to look for deals to take shape.
“Today’s always ‘real deal’ day,” Penn said. “You start finally talking real deals, and then you’ll try to get them done tomorrow, and I expect to see quite a bit of movement. On a macro-picture, with the West being wide open, everyone should be looking to upgrade. In the East, strangely, you have some teams trying to get as bad they can get, so you have deals going in every direction.”
Penn worked as assistant general manager for the Grizzlies and then vice president of basketball operations for the Trail Blazers, and he has direct experience negotiating with Danny Ainge.
“Danny’s a pro,’ said Penn, ‘a pro’s pro. He’s done everything in this league, and he’s had success making mega-deals and making smaller deals. He’s not bashful about asking for what he wants.”
Added Penn: ‘With Danny, he was always very confident in what he had and very direct in what he wanted to do. He tended to offer deals that were really good for the Celtics and really not so good for the other team, and he did so unashamedly.’
A major deal for Rajon Rondo seems unlikely, but Penn identified Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass as the C’s two most desirable trade assets.
‘The main challenge finding a match to give the Celtics what they want,’ explained Penn. ‘Humphries [earning $12 million this season] is a lively big on an expiring contract, so I think there is significant interest in getting him, but his contract is the only significant expiring contract for the Celtics.
‘Keith Bogans can go away, we know that, but the Celtics really need that money to go away. So they would be looking for a different combination of one-year expiring contracts and then something for the trouble, right? So that’s harder to see a match when you factor in what they need.’
Bass, who has another year left on his contract, is the most likely Celtic to be moved.
‘A player like Brandon Bass is very valuable this year and next year to whoever’s looking at him,’ Penn said. ‘His salary is [$6.4 million], and he’s been proven to deliver in the playoffs [most notably an 18-point quarter in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers]. He can spread the floor, make shots, and isn’t going to hurt you too bad defensively.
‘Unlike Humphries, who you’re just renting for the rest of this season, with Brandon you have in the fold for next year and see if he fits with you longer term. In Bass’ case, it’s easier to give up more of what the Celtics want — a younger piece, or a draft pick — when you know you have this player for two years.’
Stan Van Gundy joins the show to discuss the Celtics, what they can get for Rondo, and the hiring of Brad Stevens.
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Speaking with WEEI’s “Mut & Merloni” on Tuesday morning, NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy said that he sees Celtics guard Rajon Rondo staying in Boston after this week’s trade deadline.
Van Gundy said that while Rondo is one of the best in the league at his position, he’s not necessarily a good fit with any of the potential trade partners that have been kicked around.
“He’s a hard guy to classify, because he’s very unique,” Van Gundy said of Rondo. “I don’t think he can carry a team without a ton of talent. But on a championship-level team, he’s as good as anyone.”
With that in mind, Van Gundy said that among those teams, Rondo wouldn’t necessarily be a good match.
“I’m not sure any of the contenders are lacking at that spot,” said Van Gundy, who added he would be “shocked” if any team gave Boston two unprotected first-round picks for Rondo.
“Maybe the Pacers would be the best fit,” he said. “But my guess is that he stays in Boston through the trade deadline.”
Van Gundy also said that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference were Miami and Indiana, and added he “can’t imagine what would happen at the trade deadline to change that.”
He also had some nice things to say about Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens, indicating the addition of Stevens “was a great hire.”
“i think it was a perfect situation for a college guy to go in to, in that he has time,” Van Gundy said of Stevens. “Brad is a very smart, very analytical guy who relates to players very well. I think he’s done a great job late in games this year in terms of situational stuff.
“I think he’s very good, and will continue to get better,” he added.
The NBA trade rumor mill is really churning now, and it should come as no surprise Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo‘s name repeatedly rises to the surface.
As Rondo said, “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic.” Other teams want an All-Star, All-Defensive point guard, and they want him cheap.
Here’s the latest that’ll make Danny Ainge chuckle.
According to the Toronto Sun (h/t SB Nation), the Raptors would like Rondo, and the C’s may budge on the alleged asking price of two first-round picks, citing a source who believes Ainge would welcome “at least one lottery pick and talented young player.”
It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its ‘star’ quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.
Oh, one of the game’s top five point guards has piqued their interest? Well, then, we might as well lump the remaining 28 teams into this rumor. And is it no secret the C’s have dangled Rondo league-wide? Time and again, Ainge reminds everyone willing to listen the phone may ring but he’s not making the calls about his lone star.
Take this retread rumor, for example. As a number of less reputable outlets reported two months ago, the Kings offered Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a pick in exchange for Rondo, according to Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears. Except, “Rondo wasn’t interested in re-signing with Sacramento and the Kings strongly value McLemore.” Let me get this straight: Sacramento didn’t want to part with Ben McLemore for Rajon Rondo. That must be it. And there’s the small matter of that deal missing roughly $10 million in salary to make it work.
The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.
The first ambiguous Celtics trade rumor of NBA trade deadline week comes courtesy of Sam Smith at Bulls.com (h/t HoopsHype): “The asking price if you can get [Rajon] Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.”
Seven teams other than the Celtics currently own two first-round picks in the 2014 NBA draft: Charlotte, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Utah. Only the 76ers and Magic currently own a pair lottery picks this June, and Philly already appears to have a point guard of the future.
Naturally, a host of other teams would have multiple picks to offer over the next couple years, but the hard part is also finding a lottery-bound trade partner with expiring contracts to match Rondo’s $12 million salary (because who wants late first-round picks and more money on the books?). Plus, the Celtics already own as many as 10 first-round selections over the next five seasons, and at some point they have to find players rather than assets to rebuild the franchise.
This the Kelly Olynyk that Danny Ainge saw all along.
Heading into his first All-Star weekend, the rookie is showing real signs of finally getting into an NBA groove.
In 31 minutes Wednesday night, Olynyk had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. On Monday night, in a win in Milwaukee, the rookie out of Gonzaga had 14 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.
In six games in February, Olynyk is averaging eight points, 6.7 rebounds and 20 minutes off the bench. Drafted 13th overall by the Mavericks last June and immediately acquired by Ainge in a trade, Olynyk was seen as an athletic big man who could draw bigs out of the paint, shoot effectively and create his own shot on drives to the basket.
‘He’s starting to get a good feel for [the offense],” coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday of Olynyk. “There’s a base offense, there’s a set offense, and then there’s play-in and space and understanding and picking where your opportunities are when you have those kind of structured-but-unstructured opportunities. And he’s really starting to figure that out. On all the pick and rolls where he’s playing off, whether he’s rolling, whether he’s picking and popping, whether he’s playing in the seam ‘ and then when he catches, where does he go from there?
“Does he drive it, does he pass it, does he go into hand-offs? He’s got a really good feel for the game and he’s starting to really pick up where people are around him, which is opening up opportunities for himself and others. And then I think defensively he’s just been more aggressive to the ball, and I think that that’s part of his rebounding is purely going after the basketball and not just being a guy that gets his guy off.’
Olynyk picked up his second straight double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 104-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at TD Garden. Those are the first two double-doubles of his career.
“I’m definitely trying to be aggressive, trying to open some things up for other guys out there and just take advantage when stuff is there,” Olynyk said.
“The thing about minutes is the more you play, the more opportunity you’re going to have. Sometimes you’re going to have four rebounds in a minute and a half. Other times, you’ll go six or seven minutes without a rebound.”
With increased playing time comes more assertiveness. “It’s definitely something that comes playing more,” Olynyk conceded.
Olynyk is wise not to complain about playing time because he knows that not only is he paying his dues but he’s getting valuable time on the bench to watch exactly what Stevens needs from him on the floor.
His development was stunted somewhat by a sprained ankle that caused him to miss 10 games in late November and early December. His minutes average went from a season-high 23.6 minutes in November down to 14 and 16 in December and January respectively. Olynyk started six games in November but has been relegated to the bench for his development ever since.
There is the chance that could change, of course, if Brandon Bass and/or Jeff Green are traded before the Feb. 20 deadline next week. Until then, Olynyk will take the minutes when he can get them.
The Celtics head into the All-Star break with a record of 19-35. With this season’s diluted NBA product, that gives them the sixth-worst record in the league.
Marcus Smart returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season to work on his outside shooting and maturity, but he still struggles with both. (AP)
Even the smallest of streaks makes a difference when it comes to the number of ping pong balls owned come lottery time. Boston got hot and won 4-of-5 games starting on Super Bowl Sunday, a streak that took them from the third-highest odds of winning the lottery to the eighth. The C’s fell to the Spurs on Wednesday night, though, which, combined with unlikely recent wins by the Jazz and Cavaliers, has them sitting in the sixth spot.
The Celtics are on pace for about 28 wins by season’s end, but with the trade deadline around the corner, and the tanking only expected to become more obvious, no predictions are safe. The C’s could find themselves selecting anywhere in the lottery, which makes for excitement but also causes uncertainty.
Here’s a look at what some of the top draft prospects have done in the past week, plus a brief look at some players on the rise.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, sophomore ‘ As everyone knows by now, Smart only hurt his draft status in the past week. On Saturday night at Texas Tech Smart had a decent game, but his name was in the headlines for another reason.
With 6.2 seconds left, and the Cowboys on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, Smart’s frustration boiled over in the worst way. Falling into the crowd going for a block, Smart was helped up, but he did not head to the court as expected. Instead he went deeper into the crowd and argued with a fan who had been heckling him. Smart then shoved the fan, which isn’t tolerated in any sports forum.
Both the fan and Smart have since apologized for their actions, but that was not enough to save Smart from a suspension. Smart missed his team’s blowout loss to Texas on Tuesday, and will miss the next two games to round out a three-game ban. His return, oddly enough, will come against Texas Tech, but this time on Oklahoma State’s home floor.
“Marcus made a big mistake [Saturday] night, he knows that,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Sunday. “We talked about it extensively. He knows we don’t condone things of that matter. He has owned up to it.’
Added Ford: ‘Marcus is a young man that has been in the public eye for quite a bit. And I think we’d all agree for the highest percentage of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man. But he made a mistake that he’s going to pay for.”
Smart probably will end up paying a steeper price than his three-game suspension once the draft rolls around.
The main reasons Smart returned to school were to improve his 3-point shooting and become more mature. He is shooting only 28 percent from behind the arc this season, and clearly maturity remains an issue. Smart will have to show serious improvement in those two areas to even keep his draft stock where it was, but in all likelihood it already has begun to drop.
Jabari Parker, Duke, freshman – Picture how bad Saturday night was for Smart. Now picture the opposite — that was Parker’s Saturday evening in Chestnut Hill.
With Danny Ainge sitting front row at the Conte Forum, Parker had a career night for the Blue Devils. He torched Boston College for 29 points and 16 rebounds (both season highs), to go along with three blocks while shooting 12-of-17 from the field.
‘Jabari was a monster today,’ Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. said afterward. ‘He played more like a veteran.’
That seems to be how many feel on a nightly basis. Wrote ESPN insider draft analyst Chad Ford on Parker’s versatility: ‘He might be the most well-rounded freshman forward since Carmelo Anthony. Like Anthony, there’s a belief that his play alone could deliver Duke a national title. Although best college player doesn’t always mean best NBA prospect, in Parker’s case, it just might.’
High hopes indeed. Some, like myself, even believe that Parker is more well-rounded than Anthony was as a freshman.
Joel Embiid, Kansas, freshman – Embiid is struggling through multiple injuries this week. The big man has a sprained knee as well as back issues that most likely are going to cause him to miss some time.
In his last three games Embiid has not topped 18 minutes, and that 18-minute stint came in Monday’s overtime loss to Kansas State in which he committed only one foul. Clearly something is wrong.
The first thing that comes to mind is Greg Oden. If the injuries continue for Embiid it certainly will raise eyebrows about him being the No. 1 overall pick, simply because of what we have seen in the past. But Embiid is much smoother than Oden, and most big men for that matter. He graces the court much like a small forward, which should keep scouts optimistic.
Said Jayhawks coach Bill Self: ‘Joel is beat up. He’s beat up. I’m not going to make an excuse for him because you have to perform. But he’s going to need some time off. I don’t know how much time, but he’s going to need some time off.’
Embiid’s status for Saturday’s game against TCU was unknown as of Thursday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit out a game or two.
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Julius Randle (Kentucky) have done nothing to help or hurt their causes in the past week, but there are some prospects on the rise close behind them. Here are some brief notes on them.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana, freshman ‘ Vonleh has been working his way up draft boards all season, and he could end up in the top five when June arrives. He does not have eye-popping scoring totals, but Vonleh’s rebounding combined with his efficiency is gaining attention.
Vonleh is averaging 11.5 points and 9.6 rebounds on the season, but his rebounding has been on the rise of late. In his last four games Vonleh is shooting 15-for-26 from the field. With a percentage like that, Vonleh really should be looking for his shot more often. Once he does, he could become a double-double machine in the NBA.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, freshman – Ennis may not be the most talented in his freshman class, but he could be the most valuable to his team. He is wise beyond his years and really knows how to lead his team as a point guard (evident by the 24-0 start ‘Cuse is off to).
Ennis’ season averages are 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists, but this is a player who goes beyond the numbers. Obviously Rajon Rondo would have to be on the move if Ennis was to end up in Boston, so it’s unlikely we see him in green. Someone is going to get a good leader with a strong will to win, though; his game-winner at Pittsburgh on Wednesday was ridiculous.
Chris Walker, Florida, freshman – Walker was ineligible to begin the season, but he has been able to play in Florida’s last three games. As the third-ranked team in the nation, the Gators have no reason to push Walker into a big role right away.
At 6-foot-10, Walker is a freak athlete who is built more for the NBA than college basketball. In his 16 minutes of play this season, Walker has shot 4-of-5 from the field for eight points while collecting six rebounds and swatting away a pair of shots. If Walker enters the draft without getting a chance to showcase his talent by playing major minutes, an NBA team will end up with a serious steal.
With so many exciting prospects, as well as an ever-changing landscape in the NBA, mock drafts are really just guesses at this point. But using Thursday’s NBA standings, here’s a look at what the lottery could look like if the draft were held now.
1. Bucks: Joel Embiid – Despite being banged up, Embiid is still the front-runner for the top pick — too much potential to pass up.
2. 76ers: Jabari Parker – Really a toss up with Wiggins, but Philly has nice young pieces in place and Parker seems like the right guy to tie them all together.
3. Magic: Andrew Wiggins – This works well for the Magic who are rumored to have Wiggins atop their draft board. He would immediately become the cornerstone of the franchise.
4. Kings: Dante Exum (Australia) – Exum is the mystery man overseas, but people who have seen him play love him. He is a 6-foot-6 combo-guard the Kings have interest in. Although probably far-fetched, some scouts have mentioned Exum as a potential top overall pick.
5. Lakers: Julius Randle – Simple, the Lakers take the best player on the board, they will have no trouble building through free agency.
6. Celtics: Noah Vonleh – With no franchise center or dominant wing scorer left on the board, Boston probably takes the best player available. Smart could be that guy come June, but this is if the draft were today.
7. Jazz: Gary Harris (Michigan State, sophomore) – Utah drafts for a need here, and that need is small forward. Harris is the best on the board at that position.
8. Cavaliers: Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) – Gordon has drawn some realistic Blake Griffin comparisons. Great fit next to Kyrie Irving for a Cavs team erasing its current rebuild and starting over from scratch.
9. Nuggets (from Knicks): Marcus Smart – Smart is too talented to fall out of the top 10 no matter what. The Nuggets have size already, and even though they have Ty Lawson, I maintain that Smart can play off the ball.
10. Bobcats (from Pistons): Doug McDermott (Creighton, senior) – The ‘Cats have wasted plenty of picks on young talent that has not developed. McDermott puts up over 25 PPG and is a proven scorer, perfect fit in Charlotte.
11. 76ers (from Pelicans): Rodney Hood (Duke, sophomore) – Hood takes a backseat to Parker on many nights, but he is an inside-out forward who would go well with Philly’s young talent. Ironically, the Sixers end up with Parker and Hood in this mock.
12. Magic (from Nuggets): Tyler Ennis – With Jameer Nelson aging and potentially on his way out of town, Ennis is a perfect fit. Yet another connection: Ennis and Wiggins played AAU ball together and would now team up in the NBA.
13. Timberwolves: Dario Saric (Croatia) – Saric is considered a ‘point power forward’ but could probably play the three alongside Kevin Love or the four with Love in smaller lineups. Saric would make for a good fast break with Ricky Rubio.
14. Grizzlies: James Young (Kentucky, freshman) – Young is a great outside shooter and can help try to fill the void that Rudy Gay left.