Austin Ainge speaks to reporters Wednesday in Waltham. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Austin Ainge speaks to reporters Wednesday in Waltham. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM – A show of hands: Who remembers, without Googling, when John Stockton was taken in the 1984 draft? 

If you answered 16th, you win the prize for best understanding where we’re going with the following premise. As much as will be made of the significance of the third overall pick in the NBA (and understandably so), the Celtics also own the 16th and 23rd picks in the June 23 restocking exercise called the NBA draft. 

In that ’84 draft, everyone remembers eventual hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwon went first overall to the Rockets, Michael Jordan third to the Bulls and Charles Barkley fifth to the Sixers. But it was another future hall of famer, in Stockton, who slipped through the cracks and fell to the Jazz at 16.  

There was a lot of talk this week from the Celtics about why those second two first-round picks shouldn’t be forgotten. One high-ranking executive told me, “We are in a great position. The Nets did the losing for us to get the third overall pick and we have Dallas’ and our own. This should be a lot of fun for Danny.” 

Indeed, the Celtics president of basketball operations and son, Austin, the director of player personnel, will not only have multiple scenarios for No. 3 but 16 and 23 as well. 

“Obviously, you have to prepare for the entire draft, and we do that with every draft. It doesn’t really change that much for our preparation,” Austin Ainge said. “But obviously, toward the top of draft, it usually has a bigger impact on your franchise so you try to focus a lot on those guys. But there are franchise that have been drafted in every range and that’s the benefit of having multiple picks, multiple swings at the bat.

“It’s all in context. You have their high school career, their college career, their workouts, their measurements, some of the background information we collect. It all just adds up so it’s all just small bits of information adding together. Can’t let one bit sway everything and certainly a workout won’t but it helps us.

“I think that’s the case in every draft, and it’s not that they end up being the same, it’s just hard for us to tell. We always say six of these next 40 picks are going to end up being really good players. It’s just that we don’t know which ones. It’s hard.”

Since 1970, the Celtics have picked 16th three times, Troy Bell (2003), Lucas Nogueira (2013) and Terry Rozier (2015). Rozier is the only one to have played with the Celtics. In that span, Boston has chosen 23rd twice, in back-to-back years, when they took Charles Bradley in 1981 and Darren Tillis in ’82. 

“The higher the draft pick, you have a better chance,” Austin Ainge added. “There’s going to be really good players available at 16, there’s going to be really good players available at 23. It’s just harder to identify in that range. It’s a little harder. We’re going to work really hard to do the best we can.”

The guard-rich Celtics certainly don’t figure to be in need of a guard, and they weren’t last year. But that didn’t keep them from taking Rozier and Hunter. The case could be the same this year if they feel a particular guard out of a good program could help them win.

On guard: Keep a very close eye on Ryan Arcidiacono. The senior out of Villanova who flipped the title-winning assist to Kris Jenkins at the buzzer in Houston worked out this week for the Pacers and has many of the same characteristics that Stockton had but – at 6-foot-3 has a bigger frame. He was not an NBA prospect before this season but then he led Villanova to another 30-win season and shined in the tournament. He’s got all of the intangibles (toughness, great internal clock, intelligence, leadership) that someone like Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens look for. He led a high-profile program to a national title and handled himself in a way that causes NBA GMs to take notice. The team that takes a chance on him could wind up with a hidden treasure.

“Toughness is a big part of our program,” Austin Ainge said. “We value that so putting them in strenuous situations and see how they react matters.”

The Sixers are such a team in desperate need of a point guard and while they certainly love the elite skill of Providence’s Kris Dunn, Arcidiacono is a player who went up against him in the Big East. Archie was 5-1 head-to-head against Dunn. One player can’t turn everything around overnight but a guy like Arcidiacono, who played up the Main Line from Wells Fargo Center, could certainly give the Sixers a more professional look. 

The Celtics took a close look at Arcidiacono’s backcourt teammate Josh Hart this week. The junior out of Nova had an uneven shooting performance at the Combine in Chicago but is still regarded as an NBA prospect. He’s said many times that’s he’s 50-50 as to whether he might commit to the draft. He tweeted Saturday that he still hadn’t made up his mind but it’s sounding more and more like he’ll return to the Main Line. 

The same could be said for many of the prospects that work out early in the pre-draft process for NBA teams. Hart, Sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu (N.C. State), Sophomore Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Junior DeAndre Bembry (St. Joe’s) are all underclassmen who have until this Wednesday to make up their mind to stay in or go back to school. 

“They’re just here for feedback so we’ve been in communication with their college coaches, talk to them a little bit, try to give them some honest opinions, try to help them make them make their decisions. Big decision for those kids,” Austin Ainge said. 

Abu is a 6-foot-8 forward who played with the Ainge family at Marblehead High before transferring to Kimball Union prep and moving onto N.C. State. 

“Malik’s a great kid. He played on my little brother’s high school team,” Austin Ainge said. “I’ve seen him play a lot, play a lot. He’s a great kid, really athletic, still a little raw skill-wise. He’s made improvements on his body and his game in his two years at N.C. State. He’s got a tough decision to make.

“As with all the kids, we have a pick in just about every range. We’ve been able to get a lot of these kids in. And we targeted them. We got a lot of kids in that we know will probably go back to school. It just helps in our evaluation for the future.”

Danny Workout Warrior: The Celtics had 12 more players in for workouts on Wednesday. All the workouts can get repetitive which is why Danny Ainge gets personally involved. 

“He’s out there. He likes to interact with them a little bit to try and get a feel for them,” Austin said of dad. “As much as strategy, I think he’s kind of bored and having fun as well.

“We’ll have few more [workout players] than normal but that has more to do with the rule change than the number of picks we have. We always try to work out guys in every range, partly because we don’t know the range yet. Top 10 or 15 might be kind of vaguely in a range but then after that, it’s really all over the place. We have more guys coming in but that’s more due to the rule change, and the fact that we they will come in with the number of picks we have.”

Going Big: Dragan Bender is not the only 7-footer that has the interest of the Celtics. Chinese big man Zhou Qi (Joe chee) is 7-foot-1 and he came to Waltham this week to work out. While not as advanced physically or well known as the Croatian 18-year-old, Qi was someone who piqued the interest of Austin. 

“I went to China and saw him play. We’ve known about him for a couple of years,” Ainge said. “He’s probably the third or fourth-most recognized name in Chinese basketball so he’s a known commodity. But it was great to have him in today and have him work out. He doesn’t speak a ton of English. I compare him to kind of when I took Spanish I in junior high, kind of that level of English. But he knew basketball stuff real easily and picked it up quickly.

“He’s so long. He’s got a good touch, just real skinny still.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

As the days pass leading up to June’s NBA Draft, we want to encourage the 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 scorer Buddy Hield or Cal forward Jaylen Brown

The case for Hield

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield

Did you watch a second of college basketball this season? 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

The senior thing actually works against him among NBA types concerned that he’s already at or near his ceiling. 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, though Brad Stevens could change that. The biggest knock on Hield is that he’s a finished product with a not of room to grow, and in the NBA everyone loves the ability to daydream about best-case scenario projections.

The case for Brown

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

Brown is in many ways the opposite of Hield: He’s a raw athlete with explosive leaping ability, but an unpolished offensive game. The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder could excel in one of Stevens’ small-ball lineups as an undersized but athletic power forward who creates matchup problems on both ends while defending multiple positions. He’s a tremendous finisher on the break and at the rim, and a good rebounder for his size. He averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game as a freshman.

The case against Brown

His offense is limited. He shot just .294 on 3-pointers and .654 on free throws. He also disappeared down the stretch, shooting a combined 5-for-29 in his conference tournament and NCAA tourney games. Cal was a one-and-done against Hawaii in the Big Dance, and Brown finished his career with just four points and two rebounds while committing seven turnovers. He’s got a little bit of Jared Sullinger to his offensive game in that he’ll pound the ball and take contested jumpers.

The verdict

Brown may be more athletic and projectable, but Hield has the potential to be a legit NBA scorer with unlimited range. We’ll take polish over potential.

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Blog Author: 
John Tomase

As the days pass by leading up to this year’s NBA Draft, we want to encourage the debate regarding what the Celtics should do with the No. 3 overall pick. In that spirit, we present, “Celtics choice” …

Today: Trading for Jahlil Okafor, using the No. 3 pick as the primary chip, or drafting Dragan Bender.

OkaforThe case for Okafor

As the No. 3 overall pick a year ago, the Sixers forward established himself as a legitimate, top-notch NBA big man. At just 20 years old, Okafor was named to the NBA All-Rookie team, having averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game, while playing 30 minutes per contest. His the legitimate, go-to, 7-footer the Celtics crave.

The case against Okafor

Google “Okafor, trouble” and you’ll get a flurry of posts using words like “trouble,” and “off-court incident.” He also isn’t the kind of rebounder the Celtics might want from their presence in the paint.

BenderThe case for Bender

He is 7-foot-1, just 18 years old, and is filled with the kind of potential you don’t get every year in the NBA Draft. Bender is mobile and athletic for his size, showing good ability to get off, and down, the floor. Upside. Upside. Upside. NBADraft.net offers a detailed breakdown of what we’re talking about.

The case against Bender

When you hit the Draft after playing in just 36 games in the Israeli Pro League, averaging only 12.3 minutes per game, that doesn’t fill anybody with a flurry of confidence. (For some video on Bender, click here.)

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Blog Author: 
WEEI

Brandon Ingram looks like the No. 2 pick. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

Brandon Ingram looks like the No. 2 pick. (Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports)

According to a story on Bleacher Report, the Lakers will seriously entertain offers for the No. 2 pick in the draft, which is widely expected to be Duke shooter Brandon Ingram. Such a move could seriously impact the Celtics.

If Los Angeles deals the No. 2 pick, that would make the Celtics’ third pick that much less valuable. If the Philadelphia 76ers select LSU’s Ben Simmons first overall, as expected, the Lakers hold the ticket for Ingram. The talent dropoff is considered steep after those two and the Celtics own first crack at the best of the rest.

Still, if a club is willing to listen on a player like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George, or Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, the second pick will be a lot more enticing than the third.

The Lakers, according to the report, are willing to listen on the pick because they want to improve sooner rather than later, particularly with the 76ers holding their first-round pick next year if it falls outside the top three.

From the story:

Still, the Lakers will actively explore trading the pick. They want to get better as soon as possible—in part to make sure Philadelphia doesn’t get too good of a pick next year when the Lakers’ first-rounder conveys to the 76ers if it’s outside the top three. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is also seeking a better blend of youth and experience on the roster.

But it’s an open question if the Lakers can find a star another club is willing to send away. Trading away the likes of Paul George or Jimmy Butler would be hard-to-explain steps back for the Pacers or Bulls. And with George Karl gone and a new arena to open, the Kings aren’t likely to move DeMarcus Cousins.

It’s also valid to wonder why the Lakers would want to give up young assets they have under cost-controlled contracts that would fit perfectly with massive incoming free-agent deals.

So while nothing is definite with any of these picks, it’s worth noting that the Celtics may soon have some competition on the trade front.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

WALTHAM — Nigel Hayes knows you need confidence to play in the NBA.

The 6-foot-6 forward from Wisconsin also knows you need a jumper to play for the Celtics.

Hayes showed this week he has the first component. And he told the Celtics he can definitely work on the second.

Mar 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) shoots against Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (35) during the first half in a semifinal game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) shoots against Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (35) in the NCAA tournament. (Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Nigel Hayes knows you need confidence to play in the NBA.

The 6-foot-6 forward from Wisconsin also knows you need a jumper to play for the Celtics.

Hayes showed this week he has the first component. And he told the Celtics he can definitely work on the second.

“We were talking in the locker room, we need a wing player, someone who can really shoot the ball well. I told the guys, ‘Take me third, I’ll shoot 5,000 shots a day for you. I’ll go stand in the corner and knock down shots for you.’

“Just show them that if they need a wing player, I could fill that void. All you’ve got to do is just put in the time to be a good shooter. Putting in the time would be no problem, make a lot of shots a day, hopefully get in some games. Hopefully, make some shots in a game and have a great career.”

Hayes was a 44.1 percent shooter from the field in his three years at Wisconsin, which included 12 points and five rebounds in the 2015 NCAA national semifinal stunner over Kentucky. In that game, he knocked down 2-of-5 from 3-point range.

When Hayes spoke Wednesday, he was asked why confidence is such a big part of his game.

“I always think it’s a great thing. The number one question they ask: ‘Why should we pick you on our team?’ My first response is always, ‘I’m a winner.’ Obviously, you need winners. Winners know what to do to win. They can help those around them win. Also, I’m a basketball player and I think if you want to be good or great at any level at anything you do, you need confidence in yourself. I’ll always have confidence in my abilities on the basketball court.”

What did Austin Ainge think watching Hayes this week?

“Nigel played well. He’s had a great career,” Ainge said, referring to his three-year career with the Badgers that included a 15.7 points per game average this past season. “The kid has had a ton of success in college. And he’s a very smart kid, a finance major. Just a took a final on Monday. He’s an intriguing prospect.”

Indeed, Hayes is a winner. He went to the Final Four in his first two seasons in Madison. He was part of the Sweet 16 team that beat Xavier on the buzzer-beater by Bronson Koenig this past March. Now, he has to make up his mind by June 13 as to whether to commit to the draft or go back to college.

“Hopefully, I can work out and work well enough and get into the first round,” Hayes said. “And if not, if the second round is the option, to go to a team who has some veterans on the team, who I’ll be able to learn from, expedite my growing process as an NBA player because it would definitely help me more to play behind some guys who have been there, maybe have won some championships, played on teams, played for great coaching, won a lot, I think that would help my development as an NBA player.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia


WALTHAM – One takeaway from the news that Kris Dunn reportedly doesn’t want to be chosen by the Celtics with the third pick is that he and his handlers are fairly confident that he’ll be the first guard taken.

This nugget is of keen interest to the Celtics, and in particular director of player personnel Austin Ainge.

“Over the next little while we’ll figure out who is confident in their pick range and who wants to come in and who doesn’t,” Ainge said Wednesday after the Celtics held pre-draft workouts for several prospects. “The picks between 3 and 16, there’ll probably be a couple of guys who’ll say, ‘We’re not going 3, we’re not going 16, so we’re not going to come in.’ So, there’ll probably be a couple.”

Now Ainge and the Celtics can narrow down the pre-draft field to those players they are targeting.

“We’ll start that coming up here,” Ainge said. “Probably a little of both but we’ll have to see.”

In addition to owning the third overall pick, the Celtics have the 16th and 23rd picks in the first round and five picks in the second round.

“The higher the draft pick, you have a better chance,” Ainge said. “There’s going to be really good players available at 16, there’s going to be really good players available at 23. It’s just harder to identify in that range. It’s a little harder. We’re going to work really hard to do the best we can.”

Ainge’s comments Wednesday were interesting because they came before the news of Dunn’s wish not be drafted by the Celtics came out.

With the Celtics in the market for a wing shooter and rim protector, a guard wouldn’t seem to be at the top of their list. But Danny Ainge said Tuesday after the lottery that his objective would be to take the best player available with the third overall pick. If the Celtics are looking at guards, especially later in the draft, the ideal situation would be to get a lot of them on the court at the same time to compete against one another.

To do that, the Celtics must first contact those players who have already hired agents and get in touch with others who have not.

“Everything has been on hold for a lot of the guys that feel they’re in the range for No. 3 until the lottery and so, we’ll start those negotiations with the agents coming up here,” Austin Ainge said. “So, I don’t know yet, to be honest.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Celtics may take a long, hard look at Kris Dunn as a candidate for their third overall pick in the upcoming draft.

But the feeling may not be mutual.

According to veteran NBA scribe and Yahoo Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski, those handling the star point guard out of Providence don’t want him working out for or being taken by Boston.

Mar 19, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) waves to the fans after being removed from the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena. The Tar Heels won 85-66. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) waves to the fans after being removed from the game against the North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. He is considered the top point guard in the draft. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics may take a long, hard look at Kris Dunn as a candidate for their third overall pick in the upcoming draft.

But the feeling may not be mutual.

According to veteran NBA scribe and Yahoo Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski, those handling the star point guard out of Providence don’t want him working out for or being taken by Boston.

The reason is simple. The Celtics already have an established point guard in Isaiah Thomas and the possibility of moving Thomas to the ‘2’ guard is iffy at best. It’s the same case in Phoenix, which has Eric Bledsoe running the point.

Why is this such a big deal?

At 6-foot-4 and having played in the guard-heavy Big East, Dunn is regarded as the best point guard in this class, with draft projections have him going anywhere from third to sixth. Dunn didn’t take a physical at the Chicago combine, so the possibility exists that he could withhold medical information from the teams in addition to not meeting with or working out for them.

“They can’t stop them from drafting Dunn, but will those teams do it without his medical records, without a personal workout, without an interview with him? Because I’m told Boston and Phoenix will likely have to do that with Dunn,” Wojnarowski said in his “The Vertical” podcast.

It’s going to be fascinating to see what the Celtics do because they could theoretically trade with the point-less Sixers, who are reportedly dying to get out of the No. 1 spot and drop to No. 3 and draft Dunn as their point guard of the future. The Celtics would assumedly love to move up to the top spot and get Brandon Ingram and certainly have the equity to do so, with eight draft picks, including three in the first round.

If the Celtics hold at No. 3, they are likely to target 18-year-old Dragen Bender, the 7-foot Croatian wing shooter they could use. Danny Ainge said Tuesday after the lottery that if the Celtics hold onto their No. 3 pick, they will take the best player available, and Bender would seem to fit that mold more than Dunn in terms of their needs.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

On Tuesday night, the Celtics were slotted into the third overall pick in the NBA draft, meaning Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have a tough decision to make should he hold onto the pick. With the draft about a month away and many experts predicting Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will be the top two players selected, here’s a look at the players Boston is most likely to draft at No. 3 in June.

1. Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia

Bender, 18, is one of the more mysterious players in this year’s draft. A 7-foot-1, 215-pound big man, Bender played in only 36 games for Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2015-16 season, averaging only 12.3 minutes per game. Despite the Croatian’s limited playing time, scouts are impressed by his offensive playmaking ability and potential on the defensive end. It might make sense for Ainge and the Celtics to take a chance on the power forward, considering Boston will be looking to address its frontcourt issues.

2. Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky

It was a successful freshman season for the 19-year-old Murray, who was Kentucky’s go-to scorer for most of the year. The Ontario native averaged 20 points per game, shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from behind the 3-point line. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound shooting guard has shown he can score at will, but teams will be hesitant to draft Murray when considering his ball-handling skills. He averaged 2.3 turnovers and 2.2 assists, which raises the question if Murray will ever be able to become a combo guard in the NBA.

3. Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma

Hield was arguably the best player in college basketball last season, winning the Wooden Award and carrying Oklahoma to the Final Four. The 22-year-old led the nation in scoring (25.0 ppg), and his 147 3-pointers were the most in a season since Steph Curry hit 162 for Davidson in 2008. Hield constantly demanded double teams and played his best with the game on the line, but his defense is a question mark. Although his defense vastly improved throughout his four years under coach Lon Kruger, Hield is undersized at the shooting guard position (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and may lack the quickness needed to cover some of the NBA’s best scorers.

4. Jaylen Brown, SF, California

Brown, 19, started all 34 games for the Golden Bears, averaging 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He did most of his scoring in transition or by spotting up, but got better at creating his own scoring opportunities as the season went on. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year definitely has the physical tools necessary to succeed in the ever-evolving NBA; at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, he could use his strength and size to learn the power forward position. Brown has the potential to grow as a scorer, but he must improve his consistency and decision making. His -6.48 pure point rating is one of the worst among guards in this year’s draft.

5. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

In 33 games with the Friars, Dunn averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists. The 2016 Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year has physical attributes (6-foot-4, 205 pounds, 6-foot-9 wingspan) that will prove helpful at the NBA level, and his quickness and vertical are some of the best among the players in this year’s draft. Although he’s had injury issues during his time at Providence, Dunn remains a pesky wing defender, averaging 2.5 steals last season. One area of concern surrounding Dunn is his ability as a jump shooter. He did shoot 37.2 percent from 3-point land, but he’s not consistent enough to be labeled a scorer.

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier