And down the stretch they come . . .

With the NBA draft set for Thursday night and the Celtics still unable to move the No. 3 pick, focus has narrowed on whom they might select at that spot, with draft insiders focusing on two names — Providence College point guard Kris Dunn and Cal forward Jaylen Brown.

And down the stretch they come . . .

With the NBA draft set for Thursday night and the Celtics still unable to move the No. 3 pick, focus has narrowed on whom they might select at that spot, with draft insiders focusing on two names — Providence College point guard Kris Dunn and Cal forward Jaylen Brown.

ESPN’s Andy Katz reported on Twitter that the Celtics are leaning towards Dunn, a better, more explosive version of Marcus Smart. Katz’s colleague, Jeff Goodman, said on the network that he hears the Celtics will either take Dunn or Brown, an athletic wing player.

Both Dunn and Brown are considered NBA-caliber athletes, with Brown more advanced defensively and Dunn a more gifted offensive player.

With that in mind, we present our final Celtics Choice: Kris Dunn vs. Jaylen Brown.

The case for Dunn

See if this sounds familiar: the Providence guard is powerfully built and physically gifted for his position, with the ability to defend multiple positions and a toughness NBA GMs like Danny Ainge love. If that sounds like Smart, it’s because Dunn shares many characteristics with the Celtics guard. Where he separates, however, is on the offensive side of the ball. Dunn is a better ball handler, passer, and scorer than Smart. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and with a 6-9 wingspan, Dunn possesses tremendous defensive instincts and court vision. He’s a terror in the open court and can finish at the rim authoritatively with either hand. He’s a true playmaking point guard who can also score (37.2 percent on 3-pointers). Just call him Smart 2.0.

The case against Dunn

In the delicate ecosystem of an NBA locker room, one malcontent can lead to disaster, and it’s fair to question Dunn’s fit when his agents have suggested he won’t play for a team — including the Celtics — with an established point guard. There are also reports that he “desperately” wants to play for the Sixers. He can’t stop anyone from drafting him, but his health could be an issue because Dunn required two shoulder surgeries during his PC career. On the court, there’s also the question of Dunn’s stroke — his inconsistent jumper includes a lot of moving parts — and his occasionally sloppy and reckless ball-handling.

The case for Brown

Brown is all about projection. 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 Brad Stevens’ small-ball lineups as an undersized but athletic power forward who creates matchup problems on both ends while defending multiple positions. He’s got Draymond Green potential as a versatile athlete wreaking havoc at both ends, especially on defense. 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. If his offensive game fails to develop, it will severely limit his upside as an NBA player.

The verdict

This is a tossup. Dunn is the more polished player, but Brown the better athlete with the higher upside. Dunn is the safer pick, even if he’d require moving some parts off the roster. But Brown should be an impact wing defender, and if his offensive game develops, those players are at a premium. We’ll take Brown.

Previous entries

June 9: Buddy Hield vs. Jamal Murray
June 7: Dragan Bender vs. Kevin Love
June 2: Al Horford vs. DeMar DeRozan
May 31: Buddy Hield vs. Avery Bradley
May 26: Kevin Love vs. Paul George
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: 
John Tomase

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

DOMANTAS SABONIS

Position: Power forward/center

School: Gonzaga

Age: 20

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 240 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-11

Key 2015-16 stats: 17.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 60.6 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Sabonis is a true center — a premier rebounder with exceptional post moves who has solid fundamentals, runs the floor well and gives maximum effort. The concern is that at 6-foot-10 and with a wingspan of only 6-foot-11 he might not be able to continue his success against bigger and more athletic players in the NBA.

A lefty, Sabonis runs the pick-and-roll well, and on the other end of the court he defends it well. His great footwork around the basket leads to him getting fouled a lot, and he can finish with contact. He also converts at a 76.8 percent rate at the free throw line. His mid-range jumper is just OK, and that’s something he’ll need to refine in order to have success in the pros.

He finished his two-year Gonzaga career with a school-record 63.2 field goal percentage.

“[Domantas] is as impressive of a person and player as I’ve ever coached,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in a statement after Sabonis declared for the draft. “He has an insatiable desire to get better.”

While he defends the post well, it’s not clear if Sabonis will be able to protect the rim with as much success at the next level due to his lack of length and athleticism.

Sabonis might not have as much potential upside as some other draft candidates, but he’s a safe pick in that he’s a reliable low post presence who will give an honest effort every time out. The problem for the Celtics is it would be too much of a reach to take him at No. 3, and he’s unlikely to remain on the board at No. 16 as he’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

Notes: Sabonis was born in Portland, Oregon, when his father, Hall of Fame center Arydas Sabonis, was playing for the Trail Blazers in the latter part of his career. Sabonis went to Spain and played for Unicaja Malaga’s junior and senior teams (without signing a contract so he could remain eligible for the NCAA) before returning to the Northwest to play at Gonzaga. … Playing for Lithuania at the FIBA Europe U20 Championship last July, Sabonis set a tournament record by grabbing 28 rebounds. Later that month, he became the youngest player ever to play for the Lithuanian national team and went on to win a silver medal at the FIBA Europe 2015 Championship. … Sabonis declined an offer to participate in the draft combine, and he only worked out for four teams — the Celtics among them.

Related articles:

Seattle Times: Where will Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis go in the 2016 NBA draft?

SB Nation: Domantas Sabonis, the next big thing from Lithuania

Toronto Star: Domantas Sabonis revels in his father’s name

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

GEORGIOS PAPAGIANNIS

Position: Center

Country: Greece (Panathinaikos)

Age: 18 (turns 19 on July 3)

Height: 7-foot-2

Weight: 230 pounds

Wingspan: n/a

Key 2015-16 stats: 5.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists

Scouting report: With his height and toned body, Papagiannis is an imposing force down low. He gets up and down the court quickly for someone his size, and is uniquely explosive for a big man. He’s great at setting screens and is an efficient scorer when the opportunities are created for him. A projected early to mid-second-round pick, Papagiannis has above-average hands that make him a great option for lob passes, which helps to explain why he shot 72 percent around the rim. His offensive game is somewhat predictable, but scouts believe there is room for Papagiannis to grow.

Defensively, his outlook is not as bright. He isn’t very disciplined, often getting into foul trouble, and his size works against him when defending one-on-one. His intensity also has a tendency to dip at times, affecting his rebounding numbers. At his height, one would expect Papagiannis to grab boards at a higher clip, but that isn’t the case. Yet his potential to continue to improve makes him an intriguing draft option.

Notes: Nicknamed “Big George,” Papagiannis made his A1 debut at age 14 when he played in the 2012 FIBA U16 European Championship. He attended Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for the 2013-14 season before signing a deal with Panathinaikos.

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Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

As it becomes more and more likely the Celtics will wind up making their pick at No. 3, one of the likely candidates for selection is renewing his public affection for Boston. 

Mar 19, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) shoots the ball past North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) in the second half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) says he’d be fine playing in Boston. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

As it becomes more and more likely the Celtics will wind up making their pick at No. 3, one of the likely candidates for selection is renewing his public affection for Boston. 

“I’d be fine if they selected me,” Kris Dunn said Wednesday in the final media availability before Thursday’s draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “I’d definitely be comfortable. My friends and my family are right down the road.”

Dunn made headlines at the start of pre-draft workouts when reports came out that he did not want the Celtics to draft him. Last week, he denied that claim and reiterated it Wednesday in New York. 

Dunn also revealed that not only did he not work out for the Celtics, he added that didn’t formally workout for any team. The Providence College product, considered by many to be the top guard in the draft and a definitely Celtics possibility at No. 3, had two shoulder surgeries in his first two seasons at Providence. 

He tore his labrum in June 2012 and immediately underwent shoulder surgery immediately. He was able to recover and made his freshman debut in late December, playing 25 games that season and averaged 5.7 points. Then the next season, in Dec. 2013, Dunn had a second shoulder surgery and missed the rest of his sophomore season after playing only four games.

But Dunn recovered impressively in his final two seasons, winning back-to-back Big East defensive player of the year honors while establishing himself as one of the most explosive guards in college basketball at the basket. Dunn has rocketed up the mock draft boards of late, despite not working out for teams. 

The speculation around the Celtics includes the suggestion that they might draft him and trade either Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley to make room on their roster. 

In another bit of news Wednesday, Buddy Hield told reporters that the Celtics went out to California to see him work out twice. 

Wednesday also provided the first public glimpse of Dragan Bender, the 7-foot, 18-year-old Croatian forward/center who is considered a top-10 pick but has slid down many mock boards. 

“Anything’s possible,” Bender said. “It’s a lottery so you never know what’s going to happen. You just have to wait for that moment when they call your name. Whatever that place is, you just fulfill your dreams and that’s it.” 

There’s also Jaylen Brown, the 6-foot-6 swing man from Cal who might be rising fast on the Celtics draft board. 

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the draft. We don’t know what might happen. People might trade up. People might switch their picks around. For me, all I can do is focus on me. I can’t focus on what everybody else is doing. All I can do is hope that I end up in the right place. You never know at this time. It’s draft time. It’s driving me crazy, actually.”

Brown went on to add that if the Celtics indeed do pick him, he’d be more than happy about it. 

“The city of Boston is amazing. I love being there,” said Brown, who added that he felt like he connected with Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens on June 1, when he came to Waltham to work out on the same day the Celtics announced contract extensions for president of basketball operations and the head coach. 

“The teams know who they want,” added Marquese Chriss, a power forward out of Washington. “None of us really know that much. I just think whoever’s blessed enough to go up there is fortunate. If it’s me, I’m going to be very happy and very grateful to be playing for such a good team and organization like that.”

“It’d be great, working with Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ulis is like Isaiah Thomas so it’d be cool,” said the ever-confident Jamal Murray. “I’ll get better offensively and defensively. I think I have a lot to learn.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

BRICE JOHNSON

Position: Power forward

School: North Carolina

Age: 21 (turns 22 on June 27)

Height: 6-foot-11

Weight: 210 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-0

Key 2015-16 stats: 17.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 61.4 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Johnson relies on his top-notch athleticism on the court, using his explosiveness and mobility to dominate above the rim. A big man known for his efficiency, Johnson rarely takes bad shots, which explains his high shooting percentage. According to DraftExpress.net, the big man ranked eighth in the country in points per possession. Johnson has a solid jump shot, he’s a ferocious rebounder, and his athleticism gives him defensive potential.

Johnson recently told scout.com that one of the things he wants to show off to NBA teams is his mid-range game.

“A lot of teams see me play around the basket or with my back to the basket and they just think I dunk the ball,” Johnson said. “But I can step away from the basket and knock down the 15-foot jumper if I needed to. In my workouts with the teams I’ll probably go out there and show them that I can really shoot the ball because I think that’s the one question they have about me: whether I can shoot it or not.”

If Johnson wishes to thrive at the professional level, he’ll need to build his frame more and work on his upper-body strength in order to compete down low with the big men of the NBA. At times Johnson shied away from physical contact. During his four years with the Tar Heels, he used his instincts and leaping ability to corral rebounds; however, he likely won’t have the same success at the next level if he does not improved physically. He’s expected to be drafted in the middle or latter part of the first round.

Notes: Johnson was one of the top players in college basketball last season, making the consensus All-America first team and being a finalist for both the Naismith Award and the Wooden Award. He made ACC first team and helped North Carolina to the national championship game, where the Tar Heels lost to Villanova on a buzzer-beater.

Related articles:

Scout.com: UNC’s Brice Johnson has more to prove

CBSSports.com: Brice Johnson’s senior season improved his stock

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

There has been a lot of debate over the last few weeks of what the Celtics will do with the No. 3 overall pick. Will they select a player, or will they trade it away?

Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

There has been a lot of debate over the last few weeks of what the Celtics will do with the No. 3 overall pick. Will they select a player, or will they trade it away?

According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it seems like as of now, the more likely scenario is they will make the pick.

“More likely scenario is Boston will pick off their board there and then it’s a grouping of Dragon Bender, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown,” he said via CSNNE. “There is a group there at No. 3 where internally with a lot of organizations there is debate about people rate those guys very differently and I know Boston has a lot of internal debate there about who they view as the best prospect there.”

But, that doesn’t mean the Celtics won’t be working the phones right up until the pick as they will have to weigh all their options.

“I think Boston is going to continue to try and find a trade, for an established veteran — whether it is an All-Star or a really talented difference maker who can come in and help them get to the next level in the Eastern Conference,” Wojnarowski said. “I think they are going to pursue all those avenues all the way up until it’s time for them to make their pick at No. 3 and then make a decision based on what is available trade-wise versus how strongly they feel about picking a player at No.3. I think with Boston at No. 3 and Phoenix at No. 4, they are chasing a lot of the same players offering different assets. I think this goes right down to the wire and Danny Ainge has to make a decision of what way he is going to go.”

For more Celtics news, visit weei.com/celtics.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

DENZEL VALENTINE

Position: Shooting guard

School: Michigan State

Age: 22 (turns 23 on Nov. 16)

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 210 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-11

Key 2015-16 stats: 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists

Scouting report: Valentine was a do-it-all type of player his senior year under Spartans coach Tom Izzo, often flirting with triple-doubles and taking over games. His best attribute is his passing, making extraordinary passes and keeping his offense running smoothly. He has a tremendous basketball IQ, which makes up for his lack of size and length. Projected to go in the middle or latter part of the first round selection, Valentine is a superb shooter and hustles on the glass. He really plays more like a point forward then anything else. NBA teams will also love his leadership abilities on the court.

Valentine participated in the NBA draft combine, but it was discovered that the guard had a rather significant knee issue. However, Valentine claims that his right knee is not a problem at all.

“I’ve only missed four games in my career,” Valentine told mlive.com last month. “If they want to hold that against me, that’s on them. All I can do is control what I can control. I’m healthy right now, I have workouts, I’ve been going about my business no problems.”

Despite his success last season, many don’t expect Valentine to flourish in the NBA due to his lack of physical abilities. He’s not very athletic or explosive, and he was able to get by in college, but likely will need to improve in order to generate open looks at the professional level. Valentine also is a liability on defense, as he’s too slow and not long enough to consistently stay in front of his man. He’ll also turn 23 in November, meaning his potential might be completely tapped out. Valentine is one of the most difficult prospects to figure out heading into the draft.

Notes: A consensus All-American and the 2015-16 Big Ten Player of the Year, Valentine is the only college basketball player in the last 30 years to average over 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. … His father, Carlton, was a four-year letterwinner at Michigan State in the ’80s, after starring at the same high school Denzel attended. Valentine’s brother Drew played basketball at Oakland University in Michigan.

Related articles:

Mlive.com: Denzel Valentine says he feels healthy as NBA teams ask about his knee

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SB Nation: Denzel Valentine is going to make one NBA team look very smart

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier