Isaiah Thomas

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Fultz, Tatum, Theis

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, has risked his legacy by trading the top pick in this year’s draft, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Mannix points out that Ainge gave up Markelle Fultz, a player who scouts seem unanimously sold on, for a chance at Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, who play the same position as Boston’s first pick from last year, Jaylen Brown. Ainge may be preparing for a larger deal, but the Pelicans seem to have no desire to move Anthony Davis, and the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler or the Pacers’ Paul George would probably be just a brief rental. Mannix believes Philadelphia now has a team that can contend for the playoffs next season and possibly grow into the East’s next power. If that happens, Ainge’s reputation will take a major hit.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • The Celtics get an A-minus for the deal and the Sixers get an A-plus from Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. He writes that Fultz’s skills don’t fit with Boston’s immediate needs and his presence would have complicated Isaiah Thomas‘ free agency in 2018. Ainge, who owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder next season, may have two lottery picks to work with if the Lakers’ choice falls between No. 2 and 5. If not, he will have the Kings’ first-rounder in 2019.
  • Despite reports that they are pursuing another deal, the Celtics are telling agents they plan to use the No. 3 pick, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • Tatum is a strong possibility for the Celtics if the Lakers opt for Jackson at No. 2, according to Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link). Boston ranks Fultz, Jackson, Tatum and Lonzo Ball as its top four prospects.
  • The trade slightly raises Boston’s cap space to $19.8MM, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM, who adds that it can still be increased with other moves. The Sixers now have $40.2MM available, second only to the Kings.
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation examines the Celtics’ possible motives for the deal, including a desire to take Jackson, to avoid conflict with Thomas, to set up a bigger deal involving Butler or George or to build a team capable of taking over the East when LeBron James retires.
  • The Celtics have “serious interest” in German forward Daniel Theis, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 25-year-old is a free agent after his contract with Brose Bamberg expired.

Draft Notes: J. Jackson, Ball, Fultz, Strategies To Avoid

Is Josh Jackson a better prospect than Lonzo Ball? In a fascinating detail-rich piece, Rob Dauster of NBC Sports tackles this question. The column focuses on Jackson, outlining his strengths and weaknesses. The Kansas product’s most prominent strengths include his length, superior athleticism, competitiveness, and versatility. Dauster considers the forward’s main weaknesses to be his jump shot and his tendency to make defensive lapses.

After a careful and extensive consideration of Jackson’s game, Dauster concludes that he is a better prospect than Ball and the second-best prospect in the draft. In fact, the writer contends that the gap between Markelle Fultz and Jackson is smaller than the gap between Jackson and Ball.

Here are a couple more draft-related items:

  • Speaking of Fultz, the point guard said Tuesday that he has had multiple conversations with Danny Ainge since the draft combine, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.  Fultz told ESPN: “I want to be the No. 1 pick really bad. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and I feel like I would fit well in Boston.” The Washington freshman elaborated on his fit with the Celtics and star Isaiah Thomas: “We can both play on or off the ball. We can both score and also pass. I think we’d be great together. When we’ve talked since the lottery, we haven’t really talked about basketball much. He’s been through a lot lately.”
  • What are the most dangerous mistakes that NBA teams make during the draft? Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders describes the seven most common flawed strategies that can lead to “egregious error” in the draft. We strongly encourage you to read the full piece on the topic, as it includes juicy details, such as which players from this year’s draft class are potential busts based on each blunder from the list. Check out the piece to see Brigham’s full list.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Thomas, Offseason Plans

Jaylen Brown was the third overall pick in the NBA Draft last year and was expected to be a strong reserve option, growing into the rigors of the NBA lifestyle. However, injuries allowed Brown to get crucial experience as a starter with the Celtics. As of CSN New England writes, Brown is not worried about his label as a “future” contributor and instead focused on the now.

“I’m excited about the now. I’m excited about this summer,” Brown said. “I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

Brown averaged 6.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 78 games (20 starts) for Boston, and by the end of year, he was guarding LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals. By his own admission, Brown says coming to the NBA was a daunting experience as he did not know what to expect. However, now he’s focused on improving himself in the offfseason.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

  • A lot of news and speculation has circulated throughout the NBA in regard to point guard Isaiah Thomas. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post examines the dilemma of Thomas’ contract situation; he’s a free agent after next season and his last two dominant seasons line him up for a hefty payday. However, 5’9″ guards do not have a great history of sustained success in the NBA, which could make the Celtics apprehensive of a long-term commitment. For his part, Thomas has stated he’s willing to hold off extension talks until next year so the Celtics can lure top tier free agents.
  • Speaking of free agency, Chase Hughes of CSN New England examines the Celtics ahead of the offseason. The team owns the No.1 overall pick and has several impending free agents, soon-to-be free agents, and players of interests in the trade and free agent markets, including Blake Griffin, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and more. Regardless of their targets, the Celtics are expected to be one of, if not the, busiest organizations in the NBA.

Danny Ainge: ‘We Want To Keep Isaiah’

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge won’t let financial concerns force the team to get rid of Isaiah Thomas, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Since Boston’s playoff run ended, there have been rumors that Thomas may not be part of the team’s long-term future, despite the outstanding season he just turned in. The two-time All-Star averaged 28.9 points per game and was considered part of the MVP race.

Thomas has one season left on his contract at about $6.26MM before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018, when the Celtics will also face decisions about Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. Thomas is eligible for an extension this summer, and while Ainge didn’t promise that will happen, he tried to quash rumors about a possible deal.

“Yeah, we can fit everybody in,” Ainge said. “But listen, those are questions that I don’t even have answers for yet. That’s part of the difficult puzzle that is all hard. All I’m saying is those are things I have to worry about that even I don’t like to think about. And I know that those are going to be difficult decisions at some point. But we want to keep Isaiah.

“All I know is that he’s had an amazing year, and who doesn’t want Isaiah Thomas on their team? Like, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Thomas was third in the league scoring race and earned second-team All-NBA honors. Ainge said he had one of the most impressive seasons ever compiled by a Celtics player, putting it in a class with the best of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.

He also laughed at the idea that money will be a factor in keeping Thomas.

“Why do the fans need to worry about how much money he makes?” Ainge said. “I can understand if Isaiah and his wife and his agent are worried about that, but I don’t understand why that’s a conversation that needs to be had in the media.”

Ainge: Celtics Have Good Players But We Need Great Ones

Coming off a season in which the Celtics were the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference and stole a win against the Cavaliers in the conference finals, the team has every reason to be optimistic. However, team President Danny Ainge now enters the offseason with a lot of key decisions to make that could potentially restructure the entire roster.

Ainge spoke to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald to discuss his team and plans moving forward. While Ainge views the 2016/17 campaign as a positive step, he acknowledged that the road to a championship will be the biggest challenge moving forward.

“I feel like it doesn’t really matter what we’ve accomplished. If we’d lost Game 7 against the Wizards, I don’t feel any different than if we’re where we are today,” Ainge said. “I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great. I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”

All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas will hit free agency after next season and is open to putting off extension talks to allow the Celtics to lure free agents. Also, the team holds the No.1 overall pick in the NBA Draft — which they’re expected to use on Washington product Markelle Fultz. In terms of free agents, the team will will have to make decisions on Gerald Green, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Jerebko with Kelly Olynyk a restricted free agent. Players like Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley currently figure into next year’s plans but trades for superstar players could results in any one of them moving.

“We have a lot of good players,” Ainge said, “but we need some great ones.”

Also, the team’s young but successful head coach Brad Stevens will be a key influence in the team’s decisions. An argument can be made that Stevens’ presence will be as big a recruitment tool as any player on the the roster. All told, fans, players, coaches, executives, and anybody associated with the Celtics should expect a revamped team — in some form — next season.

“So I feel like, yeah, this will be a very busy summer with a lot of difficult decisions,” Ainge said. “I feel like we will be prepared and are prepared. The only person that hasn’t been involved in day-to-day discussions with what we’ll try to do is Brad [Stevens], and he will be filled in on everything once he gets a little bit of rest. He will be filled in and be a big part of the decisions that we make.”

Isaiah Thomas Wants Celtics To Upgrade Before Extension Talks

Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is set to hit free agency after next season but he’s willing to put aside his contractual situation in order for the team to upgrade in other areas.

Thomas, 28, has evolved into one of the NBA’s biggest bargains: he signed a four-year, $27MM deal in 2014 before he was the third leading scorer in the league, this year averaging 28.9 PPG for Boston. The Washington native’s current deal expires after the 2017/18 campaign but the team comes before him, Thomas said to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” Thomas said. “Anything Danny [Ainge] and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship, and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.”

Thomas missed the final three games of the Celtics’ five-game Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Cavaliers due to a hip injury. Before the injury, however, Thomas led the team past the Bulls in six games and the Wizards in seven games. In the regular season, the Celtics were able to sneak past the Cavaliers to finish with the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

A lot of Thomas’ run has been unprecedented; Ainge reportedly considered trading Thomas for a draft pick last year and now he’s generally viewed as the team’s best player. Entering this offseason, the Celtics own the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, and are expected to select Washington’s Markelle Fultz.

There will be a lot of speculation in regards to Thomas’ future in Beantown but his preference is to stay put and help the Celtics hang their 18th championship banner.

“I love this team and I don’t think anybody in this organization would think this team is better without me,” he said. “I don’t even think my teammates would say that.”

Celtics Notes: Free Agents, Thomas, Green, George

Next season’s Celtics may have little resemblance to the group that earned the East’s top seed and reached the conference finals, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Free agents Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko are both very unlikely to be-resigned, according to Deveney. Johnson started 77 games this season, but his role was cut severely in the playoffs. Fellow free agents Gerald Green and James Young will also probably be let go. Kelly Olynyk may be a tougher call as a restricted free agent. The Celtics would like to keep him, Deveney notes, but they aren’t certain to match a large offer. The team would also like to trade center Tyler Zeller, who has one year left on his contract at $8MM, which won’t be guaranteed until July 2nd.

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Isaiah Thomas is eligible for an extension this summer, but it’s unlikely to happen, Deveney states in the same story. Thomas has one year left on his deal at the extreme bargain price of about $6.26MM. The most likely scenario, according to Deveney, is that Thomas will play out his current contract, then pursue a max deal starting at more than $30MM per season in 2018, either from the Celtics or another organization. There has been speculation about a possible Thomas trade this summer, but Deveney says the Celtics haven’t talked to anyone about dealing him. Other offseason decisions include possible extensions for Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, and Deveney notes that Boston can’t afford to invest big money in all three guards.
  • Executives around the league believe the Celtics will hold on to the No. 1 draft pick and select Markelle Fultz, Deveney adds in the same piece. They will take a year to see how he meshes with Thomas, Bradley and Smart before making any long-term decisions. Kansas forward Josh Jackson is probably the most likely choice if they pass on Fultz, according to Deveney.
  • At today’s exit interview, Green said he wants to return to the Celtics and help them win a title, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. The 31-year-old played just 47 games during the season, but started seven times in the playoffs.
  • Al Horford, who signed with the Celtics last summer, believes Boston will be a popular destination for free agents, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “I think it’s gonna be very attractive,” he said. “If you look at our team, the upside and everything, it’s a good time to be a Celtic.”
  • Boston has the assets to land Paul George in a trade if he refuses to sign a long-term deal with the Pacers, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Marks and Chris Mannix discuss the Celtics’ offseason options in a video on the Vertical website, with Marks saying a trade with Indiana is feasible without including the Nets’ pick for this year or 2018. He suggests a package of Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier, Zeller and the Grizzlies’ 2019 first-rounder may be enough to get a deal done.

Celtics Were Willing To Deal Thomas For Lottery Pick In ’16 Draft

The Celtics had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft and they used the selection to nab University of California’s Jaylen Brown. GM Danny Ainge wanted to acquire another lottery selection in addition to the team’s top-3 pick and he dangled everyone on the team in trade discussions, including Isaiah Thomas, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reports.

“Before the draft last year, Danny was trying to get two picks, not just Jaylen Brown,” MacMullan told Bob Ryan on his podcast (h/t Comcast Sportsnet). “He was on the phone with everybody from coast to coast, and he was offering everybody. That includes Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, and anything else they needed to get where he wanted to go. There were no untouchables on that team last year.”

MacMullan believes the only untouchable on Boston’s roster this summer will be Al Horford. The big man signed a four-year, $113MM deal with the team last offseason.

The Celtics won the lottery earlier this week and earned the top selection in the 2017 draft. In addition to the No. 1 overall selection, the franchise owns three second round picks. Only the Sixers have more selections in the upcoming draft.

If Boston wants to acquire another lottery pick in this year’s draft, I’d speculate that trading Thomas would fetch them a top-14 selection this time around. The point guard had an excellent season, scoring 28.9 points per game, a figure which only trailed Russell Westbrook and James Harden. He has just one season at a salary of approximately $6.26MM left on his deal after this year.

Isaiah Thomas To Miss Remainder Of Postseason

Isaiah Thomas will miss the remainder of the playoffs because of a hip injury, according to the Celtics’ website. The team called the ailment a re-aggravation of a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear.

“Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred,” said Celtics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian McKeon. “The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, and in order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue.”

Thomas first injured his hip back in March and it forced him to miss two starts. He aggravated the injury in Boston’s Game 6 loss to the Wizard before re-aggravating it again during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.

The team added that the point guard is currently evaluating treatment options. The Celtics traveled to Cleveland to play Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, but Thomas did not make the trip.

Isaiah Thomas Injures Right Hip

The Celtics fell apart in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals clash with the Cavaliers but that may not be their only concern. As Chris Forsberg of ESPN details, All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas left the game with a hip strain after the first half and didn’t return.

The injury may not be a new one, however, and Chris Mannix of the Vertical tweets that, per Danny Ainge, Thomas even went to a hospital for tests on the same hip following Game 6 of the C’s Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup against the Wizards. Within the C’s organization, Mannix tweets, there were doubts that he would even play in Game 7 of that series.

The club will know more about Thomas’ prognosis ahead of Game 3 after the guard is evaluated on Saturday, Forsberg tweets.

Although the game was well out of reach when Thomas was ultimately shelved, the big question surrounding Boston now is whether or not they’ll have their leading scorer when the series shifts back to Cleveland.

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