Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

In the days leading up to the Celtics’ most significant draft in the last ten years, it’s a good time to take a look at how they might approach their picks (if they keep all eight). 

In this mock, we propose the Celtics go with the player who can help them the most in the post. 

First round:

No. 3 – Dragan Bender: The Celtics have been scouting and watching him like a hawk, debating whether the 18-year-old could turn into the next Dirk Nowitzki. The 7-footer is a highly versatile player, who can play both forward positions and occasionally center. Right now, he’s primarily a power forward. Scouts believe the Croatian has all the necessary tools to become a classic stretch 4. With good ball handing, high basketball I.Q, very good court vision and excellent passing skills, Bender is just about NBA ready on the offensive end. He can play the pick and roll as both a ball handler and as a screener, a rarity for an 18-year-old. Throw in the fact that he runs the open floor and can lead the fast break due to his good ball handling and is a quickly improving shooter with the potential to be a very good mid-range and long range threat, it’s easy to see why the Celtics see him as such a valuable investment with the third pick. Here’s the WEEI.com profile on Bender

No. 16 – Taurean Prince: Another versatile forward. At 6-foot-7, Prince is a 215-pound slightly shorter version of Diallo. He has long arms, and very good lateral quickness. Prince saw more playing time at Baylor than Diallo did at Kansas and has more maturity, as he played four years for the Bears. While Diallo is a post presence, Prince’s physical tools in addition to his defensive instincts and intensity projects him as a player capable of guarding both shooting guards, and a large portion of small forwards at the NBA level. Scouts love his developed skills while general managers sense a very high defensive IQ. Prince is the type of player who could transition from zone to the varied man-to-man schemes in the NBA. Here’s the WEEI.com profile on Prince.

No. 23 – Brice Johnson:  The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Johnson has the perfect mix of scoring instincts, size, mobility and championship pedigree. He’s an elite athlete who doesn’t force the issue offensively and never tries to do too much. He’s a four-year product of North Carolina whose shot selection is very good, explaining his high percentage from the field. He is a very effective scorer around the basket and at the rim, thanks in part to his quick leaping abilities. He’s very explosive in the open court and gets out on the fast break and runs the floor extremely well. If the Celtics get him at No. 23, they’re getting a very mobile, agile and coordinated for a player his size who can outrun other bigs in transition. Here’s more on Johnson

Second round: 

No. 31 – DeAndre Bembry: Celtics stay athletic in the second round, nabbing a flashy 6-foot-5 athletic wing from St. Joe’s in Philadelphia, with a flare for making highlight plays. This is an explosive player with a big wingspan that could electrify fans at the Garden. He’s very fast and thrives in transition. A smooth athlete who excels in the open floor, both with the ball or filling the lane. Has the shake and wiggle to get by defenders in ISO and create shots in the lane or at the rim and has a quick first step. Once at the basket, he’s considered an excellent finisher, very similar to Kris Dunn.  If the Celtics say goodbye to Evan Turner, Bembry is the kind of athlete who could step in and fill that role. Scouts like his ability to get his feet organized quickly when attacking the basket and his ability to get around the defense. He also possesses a mean Euro-step, a must for any player from 10 feet and closer to the bucket in today’s NBA.  Vision and passing skills also strong. Here’s the WEEI.com profile on Bembry

No. 35 – Ante Zizic: The Celtics scouted him in Croatia before heading to Israel to watch Dragan Bender. He has all the measurables, including wingspan (7-foot-3) and height (6-foot-11). His long arms help him be effective on both ends of the floor while running the floor well. Scouts consider him a very active and energetic type of player. He is a monster rebounder with a high motor. He is much bigger (230 pounds) than Bender and uses the weight on the floor.  Also a more experienced and developed player in the pick and roll on offense. At 19, a “draft and stash” candidate. Here’s the WEEI.com scouting report on Zizic

No. 45 – Perry Ellis:  At 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, Ellis can move remarkably well around the basket. Showed at Kansas over four years that he can hit the mid-range jumper. His long-range shot has come a long way, thanks in part to him staying in college all four years.  

No. 51 – Isaia Cordinier: International scouting continues to pay off as the Celtics take a chance on a 6-foot-5 shooting guard. Cordinier, if he is open to it, is another classic “draft and stash” candidate. Here’s the WEEI.com scouting report on Cordinier.

No. 58 – Zach Auguste: Local kid makes good as the Togo Palazzi protege from Marlboro is scooped up with the last pick. Good length (6-foot-10). Good skills. Terrific program (Mike Brey-Notre Dame), Great story. Here’s more on Auguste.

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.

DRAGAN BENDER

Position: Power forward

Country: Croatia (Maccabi Tel Aviv)

Age: 18 (turns 19 on Nov. 17)

Height: 7-foot-1

Weight: 225 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-2

Key 2015-16 stats: 4.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists

Scouting report: With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a 9-foot-3 standing reach, Bender’s size makes him stand out on the court. Add in his savvy rebounding, his dependable jump shot, and his amount of potential, and it’s clear Bender is one of the best big men available in this year’s draft. Projected to be a top-five pick and one of the Celtics’ options with the third overall pick, Bender has a high basketball IQ, and is a gifted passer. He’s efficient at passing the ball out of the post, and moves very well off the ball. Bender could be either the ball handler or the screener on a pick-and-roll, something not seen very often in the NBA. He has the lateral quickness needed to defend smaller players, and that standing reach allows him to control the paint.

Many NBA scouts believe Bender will succeed professionally as a stretch four, a power forward who can space the defense out with a perimeter jump shot. The prototypical stretch four is Golden State’s Draymond Green, and Bender is very familiar with the Warriors’ defensive anchor.

“He’s the guy who is trying to organize the game,” Bender recently told Tablet magazine. “He is passing the ball, he is rebounding, he is scoring, he is all over the court, so that is what I am trying to be.”

As far as his weaknesses, Bender is a below-average athlete who lacks the explosiveness often seen in the NBA. He isn’t very strong, which results in him getting pushed around in the paint and relying too much on his perimeter game, which shows promise but definitely still needs work. His post defense also is a question mark, as Bender is not as good at protecting the rim as he probably should be.

Notes: Bender has a brother, Ivan, who currently plays at the University of Maryland. … He made his professional debut at the age of 15 and signed a seven-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv at 17 years old.

Related articles:

Tablet: Is Dragan Bender the NBA’s next unicorn?

Sports Illustrated: Who is Dragan Bender?

SB Nation: The case for Dragan Bender as the 3rd-best player in the 2016 NBA draft

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

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.

DAMIAN JONES

Position: Center

School: Vanderbilt

Age: 20 (turns 21 on June 30)

Height: 7-foot-0

Weight: 244 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-4

Key 2015-16 stats: 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 59.0 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Projected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round, Jones has the size and athleticism found in the NBA’s top centers. Already a physical freak, he has a frame that still has plenty of room to grow, and Jones is very mobile for a big man and gets up and down the court rather easily. He’s shown that he can hit a mid-range jump shot, and he shoots very efficiently from the field, doing most of his scoring one-on-one on the block. He has soft hands and can dunk effortlessly, but he understands that it is a different game at the next level.

“I’ve been working on my offense a lot, trying to create more separation, maintaining contact,” Jones told The Advocate last month. “In college, you can get away with going around a guy. In the NBA, you have longer guys, so you’ve got to create more contact between you and the man.”

The biggest problem for Jones seems to be his intensity and focus during games. He often vanishes during games, making him a very inconsistent option. He needs to assert himself on the court at times in order to fully utilize his talent rather than showing flashes of it. Besides consistency concerns, Jones is poor from the charity stripe (53.6 percent) and does not rebound very well for someone with his length and size.

Notes: Jones made first-team All-SEC after finishing his junior year seventh in the conference in field goals (184) and sixth in 2-point field goal percentage (59.6 percent). A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jones made the SEC Academic honor roll his last two seasons. His 36-inch standing vertical leap was the second best at the NBA draft combine, and his wingspan was the third longest measured.

Related articles:

The Advocate: Damian Jones jumps into NBA draft waters with both feet

SB Nation: Wade Baldwin and Damian Jones measure well at NBA combine

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

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.

CARIS LEVERT

Position: Point guard/shooting guard

School: Michigan

Age: 21 (turns 22 on Aug. 25)

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 191 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-10

Key 2015-16 stats: 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists

Scouting report: What is unsure about LeVert is how he will be able to hold up in the NBA. Over the past two seasons he played just 45 percent of the possible games, missing time his junior year for a broken left foot and then senior year for a lower left leg injury. LeVert just recently had the boot removed from his left foot after getting surgery on it in March to repair a Jones fracture. That surgery marked the third one LeVert has had on his left foot.

Analysts also have expressed concern that LeVert could be pushed around in the NBA because of his lack of strength, and he will need to work on his pull-up jump shot. According to Synergy Sports Technologies, in LeVert’s college career he made only 62 of 222 shots off of the dribble. On defense LeVert will need to make some improvements in his ability to prevent players from getting inside the paint.

When LeVert is healthy he has shown that he has elite passing ability and he is able to get to the rim with a good first step. LeVert was a guard in college, but because of his 6-foot-7 stature he has the potential to play multiple positions in the NBA, and his size could be a mismatch nightmare for smaller point guards. LeVert is projected to go somewhere in the early to middle second round.

Notes: Because of the surgery on his foot LeVert might not be able to start playing basketball again in July. … LeVert originally committed to play for Ohio University before withdrawing his letter of intent after coach John Groce left for Illinois.

Related articles:

Detroit Free Press: Analysts say Caris LeVert’s NBA combine hurt draft stock

Detroit Free Press: Caris LeVert has boot off, is training for NBA draft

Blog Author: 
John Hand

ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman joined Rob Bradford and Mike Giardi Sunday morning to discuss the NBA draft and who he thinks the Celtics will take with the third overall pick in this week’s draft. To hear the full interview, go to the WEEI audio on demand page.

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman

ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman joined Rob Bradford and Mike Giardi Sunday morning to discuss the NBA draft and who he thinks the Celtics will take with the third overall pick in this week’s draft. To hear the full interview, go to the WEEI audio on demand page.

With the NBA draft only a few days away, there remains some uncertainty with who the Celtics will select with the No.3 pick, assuming LSU forward Ben Simmons and Duke big man Brandon Ingram are the first two players selected.

“I talked to Danny [Ainge] a week or so ago, and it was interesting because he said one of the fun things for him was to sit back and watch all the people on the Celtics organization talk about who they like [with the third pick],” Goodman said. “He just kind of sat back and listened and didn’t weigh in. He probably has by now, when they started some serious conversations about who they wanted, but he would just listen and each guy would kind of go for a different player. There really are five or six guys they’re going to look at.”

When asked who he thought the Celtics would take, Goodman gave the same answer he gave on the show a month ago: 22-year-old Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. The shooting guard led the nation in scoring last season with 25 points per game and won the Wooden Award after leading the Sooners to an appearance in the Final Four.

“I hope that’s who they take, because I do think he can help them the most and certainly help them the most immediately,” Goodman said. “The one thing that you question with Buddy is he’s older, so some people use that against him. To me, it’s like ‘alright, but he’s proven it.’ He’s gotten better, he’s athletic, he can shoot it, he’s a high character kid. … I would say, gun to my head, I’ll go Buddy, because nobody else has them picking Buddy, and I know Danny well enough to know he spins everybody. So when I see that, I think to myself, alright, I’ll go Buddy or [Providence point guard] Kris Dunn.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

On Washington forward Marquese Chriss: “He wasn’t on anybody’s Top-100 back in November. … I wasn’t even expecting him to leave this year, he wasn’t expecting to leave this year, never mind potentially going No. 4 to Phoenix. He’s 6-foot-10, he’s athletic, he’s skilled, doesn’t rebound at a high clip. [It] kind of surprises me that Phoenix, from what I’m hearing, is likely to take him, because he’s a guy that’s probably not going to help you today, kind of like [International big man Dragan] Bender. He may not help you a ton today, but at the end of it, in three, four or five years, we may look at this guy and say oh my god, he’s the best one to come out of this draft because of his upside.”

On California small forward Jaylen Brown: “Just my gut says [Ainge is] not going to take a guy that’s not a skilled guy right now. … Physically, he’s got a great body, already 6-foot-7, 225. He’s a man, you could put him in there today. The equivalent I’ll give you with him is Stanley Johnson, the Pistons rookie who kind of looked like a man-child. But Stanley Johnson has proven that he can make shots, Jaylen Brown hasn’t. That would scare me if I were the Celtics, to bring on another really non-shooter at this point. He may develop into a decent shooter.”

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

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.

BUDDY HIELD

Position: Shooting guard

School: Oklahoma

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 212 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-9

Key 2015-16 stats: 25.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Scouting report: Simply put, Hield is one of the premier scorers available in this year’s draft. After Hield shot 45.7 percent from behind the 3-point line, NBAdraft.net writes that he is “a player that needs to be guarded out to 26 feet away from the hoop.” Hield also tends to play his best in big games — his 46-point performance in a triple-overtime loss at Kansas is just one of many examples. During his four years at Oklahoma, the shooting guard has vastly improved his ball-handling, often dribbling out of trouble or past defenders to the rim.

In an interview with ESPN’s Heather Cox, Hield discussed the benefits of staying in college although he likely would have been a top pick in last year’s draft.

“It just helped me be a better player,” Hield said. “A better person on and off the court and just helped me to better my game a lot. And my coaches have picked up on my weaknesses, so I used that to get better.”

The knock on Hield, is his defense. Hield will be somewhat undersized at the shooting guard position in the NBA, and although his defensive fundamentals are improved, his defense isn’t strong enough to make up for his lack of size. Also, his lateral quickness is just adequate, so he may have issues keeping up with the athletic guards at the next level. He has been mentioned as a possibility to the Celtics at No. 3.

Notes: Hield, who led the nation in scoring with 25.0 ppg, won the John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year and the Big 12 Player of the Year. A consensus first-team All-American, he finished his career as the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer, and ranks second at OU in total points with 2,291. … Hield helped carry the Sooners to the Final Four in 2016 before they were defeated by eventual champion Villanova. … Earlier this month Hield set a Celtics workout record by hitting 85 out of 100 3-pointers. … Hield is a native of the Bahamas. He came to America to attend high school in Kansas.

Related articles:

The Oklahoman: Where will Buddy Hield go in the NBA draft?

USA Today: Why NBA scouts are misreading Buddy Hield, just like they did Steph Curry

CBS Sports: Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield fueled by his roots of growing up in the Bahamas

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

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.

TYLER ULIS

Position: Point guard

School: Kentucky

Age: 20

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 149 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-2

Key 2015-16 stats: 17.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists

Scouting report: Ulis was one of the premier point guards in college basketball this past season. The sophomore was in charge of one of the top offenses in the nation and he ran it with a significant amount of freedom.

“I’ve coached a lot of great leaders and great point guards in all my years of coaching. Tyler Ulis is the best floor general that I’ve ever coached,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said when Ulis declared for the draft. “What I loved is he grew into that position. You couldn’t speed him up and you couldn’t slow him down unless he wanted to do one of those things. He coached the team this season as much as I did, and I’m proud to say that.”

Whether it is in transition or in half-court offense, Ulis is intelligent with the ball in his hands and is able to run the offense efficiently by using excellent court vision and striking a balance between distributing the ball and keeping the rock for himself. When the ball is in his hands, Ulis uses his superior ball handling and array of dribbling moves to create space, but what is most attractive about Ulis is his explosiveness and quickness that allow him to set the pace to the offense.

The big concern about Ulis, the second-shortest player at the combine at 5-foot-10, is if he can succeed at the next level against taller and stronger guards. He is projected to be drafted in the early to middle part of the second round.

Notes: Ulis was named the SEC Player of the Year, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. In this year’s SEC championship game, Ulis played all 45 minutes of the overtime game, posting a career-high 30 points, and was named the SEC Tournament MVP. Kentucky was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the round of 32 by Indiana, but in that contest Ulis scored 27 points. 

Related articles: 

Courier-Journal: Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis eager to prove himself again 

CBS Sports: Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis may be one of the grittiest players in the NBA draft 

Blog Author: 
John Hand

Cleveland finally has its championship.

Kyrie Irving’s 3-pointer with 53 seconds left broke an 89-89 tie and gave the Cavaliers the lead for good. The final result was a 93-89, Game 7 victory over Golden State, punctuating the Cavs comeback.

Cleveland finally has its championship.

Kyrie Irving’s 3-pointer with 53 seconds left broke an 89-89 tie and gave the Cavaliers the lead for good. The final result was a 93-89, Game 7 victory over Golden State, punctuating the Cavs comeback.

The Cavs not only become the first team in NBA history to comeback from a 3-1 deficit, but brings Cleveland its first professional sports championship in 52 years.

Leading the way for Cleveland was LeBron James, became the third player in NBA history to claim a triple-double in an NBA Finals Game 7, scoring 27 points while grabbing 11 points and dishing out 11 assists. Irving finished with 26 points.

The game was sealed after a missed 3-pointer by Steph Curry with two seconds remaining. Curry struggled all night, finishing the night going just 6-for-19 from the field, and 4-for-14 from beyond the 3-point stripe.

Draymond Green led the Warriors with 32 points and 15 rebounds.

Click for a complete recap.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford