Rebuilding is a four-letter word to Brad Stevens.

More to the point, it’s something the second-year coach of the Celtics doesn’t have time to consider. Let Danny Ainge be concerned about the semantics of “putting young pieces in place” or “restructuring the roster.” For Stevens, his focus is on the here and now and near-future.

He made that much perfectly clear when asked if adding 20-year-old Marcus Smart and 18-year-old James Young to the roster Thursday night meant that he was entering the second year of a rebuilding program.

“That’s going to have to be a question for all of you and maybe pose that question to management or pose that question to people who aren’t coaching,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when you’re a coach and you’re in the midst of it, you’re trying to win every game and you’re trying to win the next game. You don’t look at anything as rebuilding. You look at it as the next opportunity. As long as you can prepare and strive and do your best, it’s hard for me to say that because I don’t want to sell our team short.”

Stevens is excited about this much — he’s getting two young talents that know how to create their own shot, something that was missing last season in the 25-win campaign.

“The only thing I would say that we were at least discussing coming into play with the second pick was perimeter scoring,” Stevens said, referring to the selection of Young at No. 17. “I guess the current roster construction you might say that played a role in that. But at the end of the day, we wanted to take the best players available, that we thought were the best players available for us.

“I feel a lot better standing here today than I did on July 4 last year, with how I feel heading into things, how much more comfortable I am understanding the schedule of the NBA, the way to get the most out of our team as we move forward, the way to get the most out of our individuals. We’ll have a lot of guys back that have been a part of this and understand how we want to do things. I think we’re adding two good workers. I think we’re adding two guys that will be hungry to help and I think that’s all a positive. Can I predict how many wins that creates? I can’t predict that. I think we’ll be a lot more prepared from the standpoint of the big picture, both on the court and in our preseason and everything else than I would’ve felt last year at this time.”

Here is more of Brad Stevens from Thursday night and his reaction to the addition of Marcus Smart and James Young:

“First of all, we’re very pleased we were able to get these two guys where we got them. When you looked at the draft, I had both of these guys in my Top 11. I think at the end of the day, you feel really good about that. That said, I look at it more from the big picture of there’s a whole group and these guys are now parts of that group and we’ve all got to move in one direction and I feel good that that’s happening. I’ve said over the last couple of weeks that our young guys are in there working, doing things the right way, doing things with great pace and doing things together and that’s a good thing moving forward.”

“James’ M-O is that he’s always been a scorer. To start with him, he’s a guy that shot it at 35 percent from three but 47 percent from two. He’s a shot that can shoot it deeper. He’s a got a stroke that’s just going to get better and better. He’s a young guy but we felt like he was a very, very undervalued scoring wing in this draft. Everybody in the room had him ranked a lot higher than 17th so we were surprised at 17th, and thrilled that he was available at 17th.

“Marcus is a guy that I think his shooting is much better than his percentages. He can still improve in that area but unlike a lot of shooters that struggle in college, depth is not going to be an issue with him. He’ll get good range on his shot. He’s got good arc on his shot. He’s got pretty good mechanics. He’s worked hard on it. In our last workout with him, he reeled off about four or five in a row in live competition from three, with the games on the line. So, shooting is something he will improve and get better at. Hey, the NBA is a transition for anybody but I think you can really work with both of those guys from that standpoint. I feel they are two guys that help make our team better.”

On Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart playing together:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt they can play together. I think it would great for Marcus to have a guy like Rondo to look up to, to learn from. Not many guys get that opportunity, especially early on in the draft like this. Marcus is another guy I was thrilled he was there at six because he’s physically ready to play and he competes every single minute of every single day and that will do nothing but help your team, regardless of what position he’s playing at. I expect him to play some off the ball and some with the ball. But he’s a young guy. He’s going to be playing with a guy there that’s been in the league for a long time that can really help him learn about it. I think it’s great. I think it’ll be great for both of them.

“I haven’t talked to [Rondo]. We talked about him the other day when we were watching the workout together. We were just shooting the breeze more than we were necessarily evaluating players. Again, I think Rondo can play with a lot of different people. It’s kind of like what we’ve talked about in the past — if you can find guys that are tough, that are versatile defenders [that helps your team]. We think Marcus is a better shooter than he’s shot and we think that he gives you the ability the guard the 1, 2 and then sometimes the 3. You watch his games, he’s a guy that can switch a lot of screens because he’s a 230-pound guard. So, he gives you a lot of versatility on the wing for a guy that’s a little bit shorter, especially with his 6-9 wingspan.”

On impressions of Marcus Smart:

“First of all, I never really watched him his freshman year. So, when I started watching him was the summer basketball when he played with USA basketball and his entire year this year. Obviously, he had some ups and downs this year for a guy that his level of expectations. And at the same time, he’s come in here twice in the last three weeks and we’ve absolutely fallen in love with his leadership and work ethic and his spirit and the way he goes about things. So, I’d say as an organization that he decided to go back to school because he wouldn’t be on the Boston Celtics if he didn’t. We think he’s got a really high upside and he’s still a really young guy.

“I’ve always looked and tried to say, ‘If we have a primary ball-handler on the floor, two and three are pretty interchangeable with regard to actions, with regard to who they can guard, depending on who we’re playing. You just kind of mix and match that way. I think he can play some 2, I think he can play some 3 against certain teams. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there but he’s a player and anybody that’s a player that can put the ball on the floor and put the ball in the basket [is valuable]. We’ve talked about our struggles to score. He’s a guy that can create offense and create offense whether it’s versus a closeout or being defended on the perimeter.”

On whether Stevens will consider a three-guard backcourt to utilize Rondo, Smart and Avery Bradley:

“I think that before I commit to any number of guys, we’ve got other guys that are on contract, too. I see a highly-focused, highly-competitive, very supportive group of guards there. We’ll figure out who plays the best and then go from there.”

On the youth of both Smart and Young:

“Marcus isn’t much older. A lot of our guys aren’t much older. We’ve got a pretty young group when you factor in all the guys that are under contract for next year. It was never a factor in deciding whether to take him. We wanted to take the best players at each spot.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Danny Ainge was true to his word Thursday night – he decided to take the two picks he had in the first round and stay right where he was after all trade talks fell through.

As Ainge predicted 90 minutes before the draft began, there was no draft night drama for Boston. The Celtics selected powerful point guard Marcus Smart and super swingman James Young at Nos. 6 and 17 respectively in an effort to get younger and stronger at the same time.

“We’re very excited about the two guys that we drafted,” Ainge said. “Marcus Smart and James Young, we think they have a bright future. We can’t wait to get them started and get them ready for Summer League.”

Summer League begins Saturday, July 5 and runs for a full week in Orlando. “I just think they’re two guys that can be starting players in the NBA for years to come. I just don’t want to put too much pressure on them right away. We need to let these guys develop and sort of earn their stripes. I think they’re going to have very, very bright careers.”

Smart is a 6-foot-4 point guard that happens to weigh in at 230 pounds. Young is a 6-foot-7 swingman who weighs nearly 20 pounds less but showed in the NCAA title game against UConn that he can do what is an absolute must for a wing in today’s NBA – get to the basket and score. He led Kentucky with 20 points as an 18-year-old in the 60-54 loss to UConn.

In his freshman season at Kentucky, Young was the second-most prolific freshman 3-point scorer in school history with 82 threes. He was named to the 2014 All-SEC second team and All-Freshman team. In 40 games (39 starts), he averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 32.4 minutes per game.

“They’re young players and very talented,” Ainge said. “Good size for their position, good length and good scoring for their positions. James played very good defense and he had to guard the different perimeter positions throughout his college freshman year. He’s very young. Marcus is a terrific defender and really defends the pick-and-roll and is a guy that goes downhill on pick-and-rolls, gets to the basket, absorbs contact, plays through contact, initiates contact.”

After being recruited as a sharp-shooting wing in high school, (earning McDonald’s All-American status in Rochester Hills, Mich.), Young saw his percentage drop to 40.7 percent for John Calipari in his only season at Kentucky.

“He was a good shooter all throughout his high school life,” Ainge said. “He didn’t shoot the ball as well this year as he has in the past but he shot the ball great in the NCAA tournament. We know he’s a good shooter. He’s got a good athletic body, good size, good length for a small forward and we think he’s a prototypical small forward.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

With NBA free agency opening Tuesday, we begin our annual examination of the options available to the Celtics at each position. Today’s focus: Point guards. Unlike recent seasons, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is expected to have more flexibility than any summer since 2007 when the league’s moratorium on free agent signings is lifted and the salary cap (an estimated $63.2 million) is officially set on July 10.

The Celtics have eight players under guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for $48.5 million (Rajon Rondo $12.9M; Gerald Wallace $10.1M; Jeff Green $9.2M; Brandon Bass $6.9M; Joel Anthony $3.8M; Vitor Faverani $2.1M; Kelly Olynyk $2.1M; Jared Sullinger $1.4M) as well as $4.1 million in cap holds for first-round picks Marcus Smart and James Young. Pending decisions on or by Kris Humphries, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, the C’s could have as much as $10 million in cap space — or more if they use the stretch provision on Wallace.

While the Celtics still have an All-Star point guard on the roster, Rondo’s name will continue to be mentioned in trade talks for the remaining year on his deal. The addition of Smart combined with Phil Pressey‘s non-guaranteed contract gives Ainge inexpensive solutions behind Rondo. Should the C’s anticipate Rondo’s departure or envision a significant upgrade over Pressey, they could still chase any free agent floor general not named Kyle Lowry.

Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at their options, separating the current free agents into three categories.

THE RAJON RONDOS

A four-time NBA All-Star at just 28 years old, Rondo has already helped steer the Celtics to an NBA title and could do so again with the right talent around him. Without that talent on the roster, though, Ainge could trade his captain, and the free agent market offers a number of options who could help fill the void left by his departure.

Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe

RICH MAN: ERIC BLEDSOE

Status: Restricted

2013-14: 1,416 min, 17.7 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 spg, 57.8 TS%, 19.6 PER

Why? Ainge has eyed Bledsoe since 2013, when the Clippers nearly traded him and DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett. In short, he’s a 24-year-old stud.

Why not? It’s hard to imagine the Suns letting a player of Bledsoe’s caliber walk, and even if he does leave Phoenix, word is he’ll be seeking a max contract offer.

COMMON MAN: ISAIAH THOMAS

Status: Restricted

2013-14: 2,497 min, 20.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 57.4 TS%, 20.5 PER

Why? Like Bledsoe, Thomas has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Celtics (and Rondo in particular). Once the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, he enjoyed a breakout statistical season during his contract year.

Why not? Much of his production resulted from playing in Sacramento, where defense hasn’t exactly been a priority and losses have mounted for a decade. It’s hard to imagine him averaging 15.2 shots for a winner.

POOR MAN: SHAUN LIVINGSTON

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,974 min, 8.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 55.1 TS%, 14.5 PER

Why? Ironically, after years spent recovering from surgeries, Livingston emerged as a starter for a playoff team following a series of injuries to his Brooklyn teammates. He could be an inexpensive stop-gap as Smart develops.

Why not? After suffering a devastating knee injury in his third NBA season, Livingston played more than 1,500 minutes for the first time since 2007. Even though he’s still just 28 years old, his best days are behind him.

HOMELESS MEN: Greivis Vasqeuz (1,779 min, 9.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.2 rpg, 53.7 TS%, 14.1 PER); Ramon Sessions (2,214 min, 12.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.4 rpg, 53.9 TS%, 16.0 PER); Kirk Hinrich (2,116 min, 9.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.6 rpg, 1.1 spg, 49.4 TS%, 10.8 PER); Mo Williams, restricted (1,834 min, 9.7 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 rpg, 50.7 TS%, 11.8 PER); Mario Chalmers (2,178 min, 11.8 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, 56.7 TS%, 14.0 PER).

THE JERRYD BAYLESSES

Bayless, 25, became a stable force in a young locker room upon joining the Celtics in January, even if his production wasn’t so consistent. He plays both guard positions, and Ainge prefers versatility. While Bayless has publicly stated his fondness for Boston, this group might not be the worst backup point guard backup plan.

Patty Mills

Patty Mills

RICH MAN: PATTY MILLS

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,527 min, 10.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 58.8 TS%, 18.7 PER

Why? Good enough for Gregg Popovich, good enough for the C’s. Mills and his 42.5 3-point percentage this past season played a vital role in beating the Heat.

Why not? Following his NBA Finals success, it wouldn’t be surprising for a team to overpay Mills only to see him regress outside of the San Antonio system.

COMMON MAN: DARREN COLLISON

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 2,069 min, 11.4 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 spg, 57.5 TS%, 16.2 PER

Why? While he hasn’t shown much progression since a fairly impressive rookie season, the 26-year-old has since put up consistent numbers and studied under some of the league’s best coaches as a backup.

Why not? Collison declined a $2.0 million player option this coming season, so his asking price may end up skying too high for a once promising point guard who has played on four teams in the past five years.

POOR MAN: SHELVIN MACK

Status: Unrestricted

2013-14: 1,490 min, 7.5 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.2 rpg, 51.0 TS%, 13.2 PER

Why? Mack helped Celtics coach Brad Stevens lead Butler to two consecutive NCAA championship games, and maybe — just maybe — the two former Bulldogs can recreate some of that magic in Boston.

Why not? In and out of the league since being drafted in the second round three years ago, Mack doesn’t do anything exceptionally well and hasn’t produced despite several opportunities on lottery teams.

HOMELESS MEN: Jordan Farmar (912 min, 10.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.5 rpg, 53.3 TS%, 15.0 PER); Jordan Crawford, restricted (1,859 min, 11.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.3 rpg, 51.6 TS%, 14.3 PER); Brian Roberts (1,667 min, 9.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.9 rpg, 52.9 TS%, 13.4 PER); Devin Harris (818 min, 7.9 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 rpg, 51.7 TS%, 14.6 PER); D.J. Augustin (1,939 min, 13.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 1.8 rpg, 56.9 TS%, 16.2 PER); Steve Blake (1,498 min, 6.9 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.9 rpg, 50.8 TS%, 11.0 PER); Aaron Brooks (1,557 min, 9.0 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.9 rpg, 51.8 TS%, 12.5 PER).

THE PHIL PRESSEYS

Either not worth the asking price or not worth any price, these guys are a dime a dozen and wouldn’€™t be an upgrade over Pressey or any other available point guard at the league minimum. Thanks, but no thanks.

Luke Ridnour: 1,141 min, 5.0 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.6 rpg, 45.2 TS%, 9.0 PER
Beno Udrih: 643 min, 4.9 ppg, 2.8 apg, 1.4 rpg, 52.3 TS%, 12.7 PER
Sebastian Telfair (China): 1,270 min, 26.1 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, 57.5 TS%, 26.1 PER
Nando De Colo: 494 min, 3.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 52.6 TS%, 13.1 PER
Toney Douglas: 675 min, 4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 49.3 TS%, 9.2 PER
Chauncey Billups (restricted): 309 min, 3.8 ppg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 rpg, 42.7 TS%, 5.3 PER
Toure Murry: 373 min, 2.7 ppg, 1.0 apg, 47.9 TS%, 11.1 PER
Daniel Gibson (2012-13): 919 min, 5.4 ppg, 1.8 apg, 1.3 rpg, 47.5 TS%, 7.7 PER
Earl Watson: 161 min, 0.5 ppg, 1.2 apg, 47.0 TS%, 2.1 PER
Jamaal Tinsley: 110 min, 1.1 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 rpg, 22.5 TS%, 1.9 PER
Leandro Barbosa: 368 min, 7.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 50.6 TS%, 11.5 PER

How the Celtics handle the point guard position entirely depends on what becomes of Rondo this summer. As currently constituted, they don’t need another point guard on the roster. In fact, Rondo, Smart and Pressey might be the best combination of players at any position for this team. Given Rondo’s contract situation, however, it seems more likely the C’s will trade their captain, leaving two young projects to man the position.

Should a Rondo trade not include a point guard like Thomas in return, Ainge would need to find a stop-gap should Smart not immediately emerge as a legitimate starter or Pressey not progress beyond a facilitating competitor with little to no scoring ability. It’s hard to imagine the Celtics dedicating big money to Bledsoe when they already have a better player in Rondo more worthy of a max contract and a younger player in Smart under their control.

While Bayless remains an option as a young veteran presence in the locker room capable of both starting or backing up either guard position, the intriguing low-cost option is Mack. His familiarity with Stevens’ system could help bridge the transition to Smart, and in the end that’s the C’s ultimate goal for the point guard position this season.

 

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics hope draftee Marcus Smart can bring passion and fire to his new team. (AP)



MIKE PETRAGLIA

BIO | ARCHIVE


It's finally time for the Celtics to say goodbye to Rajon Rondo. (AP)

It’s almost as if the Celtics had their 2014-15 marketing campaign in mind upon selecting players named Smart and Young with their two first-round picks.



BEN ROHRBACH

BIO | ARCHIVE


There were some eyebrows raised when the Celtics selected 18-year-old swingman James Young out of Kentucky with their second pick of the first round Thursday night. But listen to the Celtics’ brass and they will tell you they were the lucky ones.

Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said there were cheers galore in the team’s war room when Young fell to them at No. 17. Pagliuca made several references to Young’s 20-point performance against Connecticut in the national championship game in April..

“There were two or three players that we felt like we would love to get at 17, and he was the one we really wanted to get,” Pagliuca said. “We were on pins and needless in there as the selections went by. We were thinking Chicago might take him but they didn’t so we were really, really happy. There was a big cheer in the war room when his name was available.

“Young, as evidenced by the final game, the top two teams in the nation playing, scoring 20 points. He’s got an inside game, an outside game. He moves well. He will fit well with Brad’s ball-movement system. So, Young’s going to bring us a player that can slash and move and hit the outside shot. He’s crafty and can defend. We’re really excited to get him at 17. Thought he could’ve gone a lot earlier.”

What was also very clear was management’s sense that Young could play several positions and serve different roles for the Celtics, even at a young age. Combine this with the backcourt versatility the Celtics see in Marcus Smart and the Celtics think they’ve added two pieces they can put in different places in Brad Stevens‘ flex offense.

“Absolutely, actually, James can play the 3. He’s 6-7, prototypical NBA body,” Pagliuca added. “And Marcus Smart is a versatile player. He can play the 1 or 2. We’re going to have a very versatile and great team. We’re really excited about this. We had these guys ranked higher than Danny drafted them. Our staff is ecstatic.

“James Young is a versatile player. He’s 6-7, he’s Young, 18 years old. Young is young. We really feel he can develop into a versatile player and help us a lot. Twenty points in the final, 14 points per game average. NBA-length and quickness. He can shoot the ball. We’re really excited about him at 17. We think that’s a great steal.

“Danny [Ainge] is always looking at all the options. We had Young ranked a lot higher than he went. He scored 20 points in the [NCAA] final. He’s really progressing. Marcus Smart is a competitor, intense. As Red always said when we bought the team, he wanted us to get instigators, not retaliators. Marcus Smart is an instigator. He got fouled just about more than anybody in college basketball. We’re really excited about his addition.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

It was the first question that came to the mind of most Celtics fans when the team selected Marcus Smart with their first first-round pick Thursday night – what does this mean for Rajon Rondo?

It was the first question that came to the mind of most Celtics fans when the team selected Marcus Smart with their first first-round pick Thursday night – what does this mean for Rajon Rondo?

Well, according to owner Wyc Grousbeck, the answer is not much at all. The reason for Grousbeck’s public stance is head coach Brad Stevens, who proved through a 25-win season that he could handle most of what Rondo could throw at any first-year head coach.

“It’s interesting, that wasn’t a topic of conversation tonight,” Grousbeck said. “We have confidence in Brad that he can manage a roster but we also had confidence that of the “Top 6″ we were going to take the best available as opposed to trying to slot in. That’s a strategy when you’re rebuilding a team, you take the best available athlete and then you let it all work out. We’ve got an all-star point guard so that’s not a question here.”

“I don’t think this has any impact on Rajon at all.”

Grousbeck acknowledged he hadn’t spoken with his star point guard before the selection was made.

Earlier this offseason, Grousbeck hinted at possible “fireworks” this summer if the Celtics found a trade partner.

“I always said fireworks were a possibility,” he said. “It takes two to tango around here. There just hasn’t been that much movement tonight. Typically on draft day, we make two trades if not three. That’s just the way we roll, “Trader Danny,” and it’s had great effect for us. We like to be aggressive about rebuilding this team. We like to become contenders again as quickly as possible. So, we’ll keep working the phones but it takes two partners to make a trade.”

So the Celtics did what Danny Ainge predicted they would at the beginning of the night — hold onto their selections at six and 17 overall, taking Smart and Kentucky’s James Young.

“We knew there were six or seven kids that we wanted,” Grousbeck said. “So, the idea of moving to eight or 10, moving slightly higher in the draft really wasn’t of interest. Maybe there’s a cliff in the draft. We wanted to stay at six or move up. We wanted to make other trades in recent days. We’d been on the phone quite a bit with other teams about other ideas. Nothing ever really seemed close to fruition, no matter how hard we tried. I remember trading for Kevin Garnett in ’07 and I got a call from Minnesota on July 30 or 31st, [so] the trade season is not over yet.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Once again, the Celtics stood pat and selected Kentucky wing James Young with their No. 17 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.

James Young

James Young

Once again, the Celtics stood pat and selected Kentucky wing James Young with their No. 17 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The 18-year-old averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 32.4 minutes per game as a freshman during the Wildcats’ run to the NCAA championship game this past season. He’s probably best known for “>his aggressive dunk as part of his 20 points in Kentucky’s title loss to UConn.

Considered a potential impact scorer, Young shot just 40.7 percent from the field at Kentucky after being highly recruited out of high school. Questions also exist about his commitment to defense.

The C’s selected Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart with their No. 6 pick.

More to come. For a complete scouting report, click here.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach