Boston Celtics

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Nets, Celtics, Sixers

After the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, some Raptors fans may have turned an eye toward the offseason, with many difficult decisions awaiting the franchise this summer. However, two games later, the possibility of Toronto sneaking past the Cavaliers and into the NBA Finals is suddenly more viable, postponing those summer plans for now.

Still, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders observes (via Twitter), Bismack Biyombo‘s terrific postseason performance could create some problems for next year’s Raptors squad, since the team only holds the big man’s Non-Bird rights. The Raps would need to pay Biyombo with cap room, but wouldn’t have that cap room on hand if DeMar DeRozan returns on a lucrative new deal. Meanwhile, the Raptors are the only team remaining in the playoffs that has a top-10 draft pick, and GM Masai Ujiri will have plenty of options as he weighs whether to use or trade the ninth and 27th overall selections in this year’s draft, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.

As we wait to see how Toronto’s season – and offseason – plays out, let’s check in on a few more items related to the club’s division rivals…

  • Nuggets assistant coach Chris Fleming will be heading to the Nets, joining Kenny Atkinson‘s staff in Brooklyn, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link).
  • A group of veteran free agents will work out for the Nets at a mini-camp this week, and former first overall pick Anthony Bennett is expected to be among the players in attendance, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops (Twitter link) adds Joel Wright to the list of participants for the Nets’ mini-camp, while Nets Daily provides several more names.
  • Appearing on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final on Sunday night, Celtics GM Danny Ainge said he wants to improve his team this summer “without selling out,” per Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com. In other words, Boston isn’t about to surrender a ton of draft assets to improve right away — the focus will be on improving the Celtics’ current roster while continuing to build a team capable of sustained success. Determining the best way to carry out that plan will be similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle for Ainge and the C’s, according to Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald.
  • The 76ers, an Atlantic team that has been focused exclusively on the future for several years, are ready to start “thinking about winning” rather than “prolonging the building process,” new executive Bryan Colangelo said on Bleacher Report Radio this weekend (Twitter link via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report). In the view of Derek Bodner of PhillyMag.com, the Sixers need to kick off the offseason by using the No. 1 overall pick on the best player available, rather than the one who would fit the best.

Danny Ainge On The Celtics’ Offseason

Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge recently sat down with Dan Roche of WBZ-TV on his radio show to discuss the team’s offseason plans.  The entire transcript is a must-read, and we’ll pass along a few highlights:

On the Celtics’ overall philosophy this offseason:

“Ownership would like to see something happen faster and I know my coaches and players want to see something faster. I’ve been in their positions and I get it, I want to see something faster too. But I have to protect us from doing something irrational from doing something that gets us a little bit better.”

On the No.3 overall pick: 

“I can’t talk about any players in particular, but a player that is going to take time to develop or a player who may not come to the NBA for a year or two, if we feel he’s the best player we have to take him. We can’t let a player slip by us just because it doesn’t fulfill our immediate satisfaction, or the objective for the fans to see someone exciting. We have to pick the best player under any circumstance. There are too many examples of really good players that fans haven’t been excited about. When Kristaps Porzingis was drafted by New York, fans were booing all over the place and we didn’t understand. When I was in Phoenix and we drafted Steve Nash, we were booed.”

On adding a rim protector: 

“I’m always leery of saying what we need because you don’t just go find a good rim protector, because you lose something. We were the fourth-best defense in the NBA without a rim protector. Sometimes you get a rim protector and it hurts your offense. We have some good players, but I think we have to add a few more.”

Draft Notes: Ingram, Maker, Briscoe

One league executive told Chad Ford of ESPN.com that Brandon Ingram’s future in the NBA will be at the shooting guard position. “Back when the Pacers used to play Paul George at the 2, I felt like that was his best position,” the executive told Ford. “I feel the same way about Ingram. That’s where he can be devastating and his lack of strength won’t come back to haunt him. If he becomes a superstar, I think it will be because he developed the ability to play that spot.” Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors profiled Ingram earlier today.

  • Thon Maker will play the five spot as he develops in the league, one anonymous GM tells Ford, as he writes in the same piece. Ford speculates that the Celtics, Nuggets, Sixers and Suns may look to draft the Australian. All four of those teams have multiple first round picks.
  • Most scouts aren’t optimistic about Perry Ellis’ chances of hearing his name called on draft night, though some have him going in the second round, Ford adds in the same piece.
  • Isaiah Briscoe has worked out for the Wolves today, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets. Briscoe will also work out for the Hawks on Tuesday, Zagoria adds.

Celtics Have Three First-Round Picks

  • All the focus is on the Celtics’ third overall pick, but the team has two more selections in the first round, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Boston owns the rights to Dallas’ pick at No. 16, along with its own choice at No. 23, giving team officials a wide range of players to scout for draft night. “The higher the draft pick, you just have a better chance,” said Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel. “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.”

Isaiah Thomas Wants Celtics To Land Star Player

  • Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas intends to help the team recruit free agents this summer and admits that Boston needs to add another star if it is to move forward, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com writes. “We’re a step away. We’re a couple pieces away, I think, from being contenders in the Eastern Conference,” Thomas said. “We won 48 games this year with a team that people didn’t think could do that. That says a lot about the direction we’re going in, and I know [team executive] Danny [Ainge] and those guys in the front office are going to do whatever they can to make this team the best possible team it can be. I do think we need that next star and that guy that can we depend on. Not to sound cocky, but not just myself. We need another option. Like I said, I go to the war with the fellas I have in that [Celtics] locker room right now and I love all those guys, but we do need a little more.
  • Restricted free agent Jared Sullinger proclaimed his loyalty to the Celtics and said he wants to re-sign with the team, but acknowledged a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the upcoming offseason, Kevin O’Connor of CSNNE.com writes.

Celtics Intrigued By Zhou Qi

  • One of the most intriguing players the Celtics worked out this week was Chinese big man Zhou Qi, whose size, soft shooting touch and shot-blocking ability has caught the team’s eye, Taylor C. Snow of NBA.com writes. “I went to China and saw him play,” said director of player personnel Austin Ainge. “We’ve known about him for a couple of years. 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 to workout.

Community Shootaround: No. 3 Pick

If LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram are clearly the best two prospects in this year’s draft, then the Sixers and Lakers were the big winners at Tuesday’s lottery. Mock drafts may be split over whether Simmons or Ingram will be the better pro, but they virtually all agree that those will be the top two picks — in one order or the other.

So where does that leave the Celtics?

Boston is beginning to reap the harvest of a nine-player trade with Brooklyn in 2013 that saw the Nets give away a parcel of draft picks for aging veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. It was a short-sighted deal by Brooklyn GM Billy King that eventually cost him his job as the franchise deteriorated. Boston will get unprotected first-round picks from the Nets this year and in 2018, along with the opportunity — which now seems like a certainty — to swap first-rounders next season. Brooklyn stumbled to a 21-61 record this year, the third-worst mark in the league, and the Celtics hung on to the third pick Tuesday after all the ping-pong balls dropped.

What should their next move be?

ESPN’s Chad Ford has Boston grabbing Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray at No. 3 in his latest mock draft, calling it a tough choice between him, Kris Dunn of Providence and Buddy Hield of Oklahoma. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has Dragan Bender, a power forward out of Bosnia, rated third overall, but hasn’t updated his mock draft to include the lottery results or to consider team needs.

It’s generally agreed that apart from diminutive All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Boston has a roster filled with average to good players but very little star power. With Thomas, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley on hand and the possible return of Evan Turner, any rookie guard will have to fight for playing time in the Celtics’ backcourt.

That brings us to tonight’s question: What should the Celtics do with their pick? Is Murray the best answer? Is Dunn, Hield or Bender? Or if you think a trade is a better option, who should they target and what would it take to get a deal done?

Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

And-Ones: Dunn, Sanders, Calipari, Blatt

Representatives for Providence’s Kris Dunn don’t want him to go to a team with a young point guard already in place and may refuse to release his medical records to the Celtics and Suns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Speaking on a draft lottery special, Wojnarowski said Dunn’s agents did not submit him for a physical at last week’s draft combine, which would have made his records accessible to everyone. Dunn has undergone two surgical procedures on his right shoulder, and teams may be reluctant to draft him if they are unsure of his current physical status. Dunn has been projected as a possible No. 3 pick, but his camp apparently doesn’t want him to compete for playing time with Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart in Boston or Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight in Phoenix. The Celtics own the third selection in next month’s draft, while the Suns pick fourth.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Rutgers freshman point guard Corey Sanders will withdraw from the draft and return to school, tweets Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. There’s little chance that Sanders would have been drafted, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has him ranked 73rd among NCAA freshmen and ESPN’s Chad Ford doesn’t have him listed among his top 100 prospects.
  • Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose name has been floated for several NBA openings, plans to stay with the Wildcats for the rest of his career, he said in a message on his website. Calipari was considered a candidate for the Nets job after they fired Lionel Hollins in January, and the Kings reportedly spoke to him about taking over for George Karl last summer.
  • Spanish power FC Barcelona is interested in former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, according to El Mundo Deportivo (hat tip to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Blatt recently talked with the Rockets, Kings, Knicks and Lakers about their coaching jobs.
  • Twenty-four teams will compete in the Las Vegas Summer League July 8th-18th, the NBA announced today in a press release. The Spurs, coached by Becky Hammon, are the defending champions.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Olynyk, Draft Workouts

The Celtics were unable to jump ahead of the Sixers and Lakers to snag the No. 1 overall pick in Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery and the team will draft third as a result. With Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram likely to be off the board when Boston picks, team executive Danny Ainge indicated that he doesn’t know who the team will look to select, Mike Petraglia of WEEI 93.7 FM relays. We don’t know that yet. We’ll obviously explore that,” Ainge said. “We’re in the middle of that process right now of figuring out who’s in the draft and who’s the best fit for us. We’ll also probably get some calls for that pick I’m guessing, so there’ll be discussion of that too. But right now we’re really in the mode of preparing for the draft.

Regarding the talent level of the second-tier of players in this year’s draft, Ainge told reporters, “Last year at this time I think everybody saw that [talent drop-off] and it sort of changed between what everybody thought at this time and what happened in the draft. So it’s still too early. There’s still a lot of evaluation. When you’re looking and evaluating in some cases 18 and 19-year-old kids there’s a lot that changes between the end of their college careers and the draft, so I wouldn’t say anything is in stone in how the draft order is gonna go. We’ll just evaluate them all and see how it falls.

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • Center Kelly Olynyk underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair damage to his right shoulder, and though the Celtics didn’t announce a timetable for the big man to return to action, Ainge estimates Olynyk will be out for approximately five months, Petraglia relays in a separate article. A recovery time of that duration would mean Olynyk could return during the preseason and potentially be available to start the 2016/17 campaign.
  • The Celtics are hosting two group workouts today that will include 12 players, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com relays (Twitter link). Displaying their wares for Boston will be Abdul-Malik Abu (NC State), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin), Malik Pope (San Diego State), Zhou Qi (China), James Webb III (Boise State), DeAndre Bembry (St. Joseph’s), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Josh Hart (Villanova), Jake Layman (Maryland), Abdel Nader (Iowas State) and Taurean Prince (Baylor), Forsberg notes.
  • Former Louisiana-Lafayette center Shawn Long has a workout scheduled with the Celtics on June 9th, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe tweets.

Kelly Olynyk Has Successful Surgery

  • The Celtics announced via press release that center Kelly Olynyk underwent successful surgery to repair damage to his right shoulder. He will begin a rehabilitation program immediately, according to the team, but no timetable was given for Olynyk’s return to action. The 25-year-old still has one year and $3,094,013 remaining on his current contract.

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