CelticsHub Boston Celtics Blog for information, in-depth analysis and discussion about CelticsHub. 2016-05-29T00:41:43Z http://www.celticshub.com/feed/atom/ Matthew Simon <![CDATA[Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor Are Reportedly Available via Trade]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58348 2016-05-29T00:41:43Z 2016-05-29T00:41:43Z The NBA draft may be less than a month away, but the Celtics will be evaluating plenty of draft night trade candidates before then. A couple of key names on that list could be coming from Philadelphia as the 76ers are reportedly looking into trading Nerlens Noel and/or Jahlil Okafor in the weeks leading up to […]

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Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 12.29.54 PMThe NBA draft may be less than a month away, but the Celtics will be evaluating plenty of draft night trade candidates before then. A couple of key names on that list could be coming from Philadelphia as the 76ers are reportedly looking into trading Nerlens Noel and/or Jahlil Okafor in the weeks leading up to the draft.

In a radio interview on Thursday, ESPN’s Chad Ford said, “there’s a very high likelihood” that one or both of Noel and Okafor will be moved before draft day on June 23. Such a move would make sense for the rebuilding Sixers, as they will have a logjam in the frontcourt to begin next year.

In addition to Noel and Okafor, former Kansas standout Joel Embiid will finally be making his debut for Philadelphia after spending two years recovering from surgery on his right foot, and Croatian forward Dario Saric is likely to join the team this fall after playing overseas in Turkey since being drafted with the 12th overall pick in 2014. The Sixers also hold the #1, 24, and 26 overall picks in the draft, and could potentially add more big men to their roster via that route before the season begins.

Critics have already expressed their doubts that Noel and Okafor are capable of coexisting on the court, given that they are both prototypical big men in that they live in the post and around the basket, but are incapable of stretching the floor. Over the course of their combined careers, Noel and Okafor together have attempted just eight threes.

In today’s NBA, having more than one player on the floor who is not a threat from deep can seriously limit a team’s offensive potency, and add in the fact that Embiid possesses the same limitations as Noel and Okafor, it makes sense that in all likelihood, at least one of the big men are going to be shipped out of town.

So how does this affect the Celtics? Well, it’s certainly no secret that Danny Ainge is in the market for an impactful post player to add to the roster. Okafor has also already been on the Celtics’ radar earlier this season. Right after the trade deadline, Ainge said in a radio interview that the Celtics almost traded Brooklyn’s first round pick for an unnamed player, but that the other team backed out at the last minute.

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald later reported that Okafor was “mystery player” that Ainge nearly swapped the pick for. In addition, the names that Celtics have been linked to in the past few months, whether via trades or free agency, include a number of post players like Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, and others. All are big men with proven track records, and could immediately step in and help the Celtics in some critical areas of need.

Defensively, an elite shot blocker and rebounder would certainly provide a boost to an already strong defensive unit. The Celtics ranked 22nd in the league in blocked shots this past year and 26th in defensive rebound percentage. Amir Johnson, who led the team in blocks, and Jared Sullinger, the team’s leader in defensive rebounds and second on the team in blocks, could be on the chopping block this summer, if the Celtics need the salary cap room.

Should they depart, it would leave the Celtics with a serious hole to fill on the defensive end. Offensive production from big men has been an issue as well. Although the Celtics rotated their big men frequently this season, thereby not giving any one player a serious opportunity to stand out in the box score, their highest-scoring big men were Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, who averaged just 10.3 and 10 points per game, respectively.

Both Noel and Okafor could help the Celtics address those issues, albeit in different ways. Noel, who was born in Malden, MA and went to high school at Tilton in New Hampshire before heading to Kentucky, is a super-athletic player who thrives on the defensive side of the ball. Though he has only averaged around 10 points per game in his two seasons in the league, he has averaged over 8 rebounds per game throughout his career, and had over 100 blocked shots every year. Noel would immediately become Boston’s top interior defender, and provide a nice compliment to Boston’s strong perimeter defense.

Okafor, meanwhile, is almost the opposite of Noel. The former Duke standout is not a particularly strong defender, but was second among all rookies in scoring, averaging 17.5 points per game, and was third among the group in rebounding, with 7 per game. The Celtics have been seriously lacking a consistent inside scoring threat for some time, so the addition of Okafor could add a new dimension to Boston’s offense, giving teams another scorer to worry about, or in time even create a potent 1-2 punch of Okafor and Isaiah Thomas.

Both Noel and Okafor have some serious risks associated with them as well, however. Brad Stevens likes his players to be fast, athletic, and versatile, and the one-dimensional strengths of both players would not mesh very well with the Celtics’ current playing style. Additionally, Okafor has struggled with off-court issues throughout his rookie season, highlighted by a street fight outside of a Boston bar in November.

By trading for a younger player like Noel or Okafor, the Celtics would be committing themselves to a longer rebuilding process. There are no indications that either player is ready to help lead a team on a championship run at present, and would need time to develop their skills.

Trading for Okafor would almost certainly require dealing the #3 overall pick to Philadelphia, and many fans might believe that the pick could get better value elsewhere, whether through the talent in the draft, or as part of a package for a more polished big man, who would allow the team to become more competitive immediately. Noel is set to become a restricted free agent next summer, so his asking price would not be as high as Okafor.

Many Celtics fans may be hoping that the team is planning on adding a big-time post player in the offseason via free agency, with both Horford and Whiteside being potential additions who would provide a better on-court product than either Noel or Okafor. Very often in the sports world, however, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if Ainge’s past interest in Okafor is to be believed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he explores a move to bring one of the two big men on board in the coming weeks.

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Brian Robb <![CDATA[Avery Bradley Named to All-Defensive First Team]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58344 2016-05-26T18:52:20Z 2016-05-26T18:52:20Z Post written by Matthew Simon In the midst of playoff chaos and offseason uncertainty, Celtics fans received some good news on Wednesday when the league announced Avery Bradley had been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. Golden State’s Draymond Green, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Defensive Player of […]

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Post written by Matthew Simon

In the midst of playoff chaos and offseason uncertainty, Celtics fans received some good news on Wednesday when the league announced Avery Bradley had been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. Golden State’s Draymond Green, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, who was the only unanimous selection, joined Bradley on the First Team.

The announcement was expected considering Bradley finished 6th in DPOY voting, most among all guards, but nevertheless was an exciting and well-deserved accolade for Bradley, who received the third-most votes at any position in the All-Defensive team voting, behind only Leonard and Green. Bradley’s selection marks his second All-Defensive team honor, as he was named to the All-Defensive Second Team following the 2012-13 season, and is the first Celtic to be named to the First Team since Kevin Garnett in 2010-11.

The award only reinforces Bradley’s reputation as one of the best, if not the best, perimeter defenders in the NBA. His play has been lauded by nearly everyone within the Celtics organization, from Isaiah Thomas to Brad Stevens to Danny Ainge, who called Bradley “the best perimeter defender in the league,” on Twitter earlier this year, but opponents have taken notice as well.

After the Celtics’ 116-109 loss to the Trail Blazers in late March, Portland guard Damian Lillard said, “I told [Bradley] he was the best perimeter defender in the league,” when speaking with reporters after the game, “Because he is.” Two days later, when the Celtics dealt the Warriors their first home loss of the season, Lillard’s teammate C.J. McCollum echoed his sentiments.

Before the loss, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr agreed as well, calling Bradley, “as good of an on-ball defender as there is in the league.”

Though Bradley may have received most of the praise for leading Boston’s fourth-ranked defense throughout the year, he was not the only Celtic acknowledged for his defensive prowess in the All-Defensive team voting. Forward Jae Crowder narrowly missed out on a Second Team selection, finishing behind Indiana’s Paul George by just a single point in the voting. Guard Marcus Smart also received seven points in the voting, including two First Team votes.

While more reflective of individual performance, the Celtics’ strong representation in the All-Defensive team voting only helps the team down the road. It is a public endorsement of the high level of defense that takes place on Causeway Street, which could be a great recruitment tool to use in attracting free agents this offseason. Furthermore, the accolades only increase the value of Bradley, and to a lesser extent, Crowder and Smart, thereby making them more enticing to other teams via trade. Regardless, having three players who can perform at such a high level defensively only spells out good things to come for Boston whatever path they choose.

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Brendan Jackson <![CDATA[BiyombNO! Bismack playing his way into big money…]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58335 2016-05-24T13:55:45Z 2016-05-24T13:55:12Z …from a team other than the Celtics. Boy, is Bismack Biyombo fun to watch! His joyful exuberance coupled with massive basketball-related limitations make him the third most important reason to watch the Cavs/Raps series (Reason 1: Kyle Lowry back from the dead! Reason 2: Inefficient hero-ball from Kyrie Irving and Lebron getting blamed for it. […]

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Biyombo…from a team other than the Celtics.

Boy, is Bismack Biyombo fun to watch! His joyful exuberance coupled with massive basketball-related limitations make him the third most important reason to watch the Cavs/Raps series (Reason 1: Kyle Lowry back from the dead! Reason 2: Inefficient hero-ball from Kyrie Irving and Lebron getting blamed for it. 3: Biyomblocks! Biyombombs! Biyomb(insert pun here)).

He would be the best non-crotch-related story-line of these NBA playoffs if it weren’t for his crotch. His rebounding, toughness, screen-setting, screen-hedging, shot-blocking, and ability to switch out on to perimeter players are making people lose their minds. Just look at what the best basketball writer in the game Tweeted last night:

What?

A year removed from the now regrettable fireworks comment, we are talking about Biyombo being a substantial free agent acquisition. That’s not even a sparkler.

I was excited as anyone when an ultra-athletic, relative-unknown lumbered his way into the lottery in 2011 (and still am!!) but now is not the time to overpay for a that guy who became a role player. The Celtics almost won 50 games this season only to demonstrate that having a good coach and players who play their keisters off means nothing when the league is run by stars (even a Red Dwarf like Paul Millsap). I am all for targeting players who play hard and know their role, but before Danny Ainge does anything to address his role players he needs to address how to prevent his team from imploding if Avery Bradley gets hurt.

To paraphrase the great Jackie MacMullen, “They want the next [Bismack Biyombo] — they want to discover [Bismack Biyombo], and get value for that.” Which is exactly what the Celtics did by drafting Jordan Mickey in the second round and giving him a four-year contract. Before we get Mike Zarren to work his cap magic on Biyombo, let’s see what this kid can do!

These playoffs have been vastly more entertaining than I thought they would be. However, the delay to the Celtics free agency is an unfortunate byproduct. Add that to the draft lottery results and this offseason is starting to feel like one big Biyombo finger-wag to the face. Let’s hope Ainge does not overreact to a good series by a replaceable player and by all accounts, he won’t.

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Brian Robb <![CDATA[The Case Against Trading For Jahlil Okafor]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58329 2016-05-24T14:20:04Z 2016-05-23T16:48:20Z The following is a guest post from Seth Landman Next time you hear someone refer to a young basketball player as “NBA-ready,” please do me a favor and roll your eyes as dramatically as you can manage. Remember how Jabari Parker was supposed to be more NBA-ready than Andrew Wiggins? The trope goes back further […]

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The following is a guest post from Seth Landman

Next time you hear someone refer to a young basketball player as “NBA-ready,” please do me a favor and roll your eyes as dramatically as you can manage. Remember how Jabari Parker was supposed to be more NBA-ready than Andrew Wiggins? The trope goes back further than that. In 2004, Emeka Okafor was more NBA-ready than Dwight Howard. In 2003, LeBron was going to be a superstar, but ‘Melo was more ready. Just last season, many of our most esteemed basketball minds believed that Jahlil Okafor was more NBA-ready than Karl-Anthony Towns. You can look it up.

These days, there is some buzz (again!) that the Celtics are interested in trading for Jahlil Okafor, and many C’s fans feel like this is a good idea. The logic is that Okafor would be at least the 3rd best player in this coming draft, so giving up the 3rd pick for him would be a great idea. He’s an elite post-scorer, right? He averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie! He’s going to be great!

Unfortunately, Jahlil Okafor’s game seems to be perfectly calibrated to dupe people into believing he’s a much better player than he is. In fact, we learned this season that Okafor was not NBA-ready at all.

Let’s start with Okafor’s supposedly elite post-up game. Remember how he was supposed to be more polished than Towns? Well, take a look at these numbers (per nba.com/stats):

POST-UPs Possessions Points/Possession Percentile
Okafor 315 0.85 54.7
Towns 251 0.92 74.0

 

Towns was more efficient even when you only consider post-ups, which is the area in which Okafor was supposed to be most NBA-ready. In every other aspect of playing basketball, Towns is so much better than Okafor it isn’t even worth discussing.

So, if Okafor isn’t as efficient a post-up player as we’d hoped, is he at least making up for that with his rebounding? Nope. Okafor grabbed just 12.8 percent of available rebounds when he was on the floor, which put him 53rd among 62 qualified centers this season. The last rookie center to play as many minutes as Okafor with a worse rebound rate was Nenad Krstic over a decade ago (per basketball-reference.com).

It probably goes without saying that Okafor’s defense is troubling as well—the 76ers gave up 108.7 points per 100 possessions with him in the game and 105.4 with him out—but what is really surprising is that the team’s offense cratered when he was in the game, too. With Okafor on the floor, Philly managed just 92.0 points per 100 possessions, but when he sat, they made their way to 99.6.

These numbers are telling, but they probably obscure the real point, which is that basketball is a game full of contingencies that individual statistics almost never are able to fully articulate. The history of the NBA is rife with players who had sublime individual talent but were unable to find a way to make that talent sync up with any sort of team concept. When I look at Jahlil Okafor, I see the ghost of somebody like Eddy Curry; a tantalizing offensive talent who just never really made sense on any NBA team, no matter how many post buckets he was getting.

And yet, when we watch basketball, we count points. It’s how we determine who wins, so it makes sense that we gravitate towards players with visible offense skills. Jahlil Okafor’s post game is fluid and controlled. He has great footwork and a smoothness to his moves that makes him seem mature beyond his years, but if he can’t protect the rim or rebound the ball, can he help an NBA team? Does it matter if he’s scoring 20, 25, even 30 points per game if his team is getting blown off the floor when he’s in the game?

What is it that makes you think Jahlil Okafor is a safer bet than whatever player the C’s might target with the 3rd pick in the draft? What evidence is there that he’s capable of helping a basketball team win basketball games? Maybe being “NBA-ready” just means you’re already done.

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Jesse Alling <![CDATA[The Third Pick Just Leaves Boston With More Questions]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58311 2016-05-19T16:57:25Z 2016-05-19T16:33:09Z   As Ryan alluded to, the Celtics ending up with the third pick Tuesday night is a fitting homage to this team right now – it’s fine, better than people were bracing for or even expecting, but noticeably short of where they want to be. A #1 or #2 pick would have meant a star in […]

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As Ryan alluded to, the Celtics ending up with the third pick Tuesday night is a fitting homage to this team right now – it’s fine, better than people were bracing for or even expecting, but noticeably short of where they want to be.

A #1 or #2 pick would have meant a star in some form, either the weird super-combo of Rajon Rondo and Giannis Antetokounmpo that is Ben Simmons, or the sweet-shooting two-way string bean that is Brandon Ingram. Or maybe they use the allure of those two to finally pry Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins from the everlasting vice grips of their respective teams.

A #4 pick or worse would have resulted in groans and bemoans of Boston’s continued lottery futility, followed by a 99.9% chance of a Craigslist ad submitted by a “DA17Green” for all the picks in the 2016 draft in return for just about anything more tangible than yet another bleeping one-skill role player.

But the third pick? It’s so perfectly down the middle. No one, including Danny Ainge, seemed quite sure of how to react, other than to say something to the effect of, “Every option is on the table for us.” Which, duh.

Even if every option is, indeed, still on the table, the preference still has to be a trade. The Celtics are looking to improve now from back-to-back unceremonious first round exits, and any of the youngsters below the two big names will, even in the best case scenario, take a season or two to develop into what you want them to. (The one exception may be Buddy Hield, but I’m not sold on him as anything more than a very good microwave-type scorer off the bench. Evaluating draft prospects are also a never-ending story for another day.)

The struggle, as always, is finding a trade partner. When it comes to draft picks, teams want to know the value upfront. That’s one of the reasons it was so hard to find a partner at the most recent deadline – nobody knew where exactly Brooklyn was going to end up, and at the time the Nets were actually performing OK enough to possibly be in the 8-10 range. As of now, that third pick means you’re getting someone who has the best chance of the rest to be a very good player, maybe even a great player if you develop them the right way, but you’re going to have to likely wait a while for it to happen. If you want to make the move now and center the trade around the number 3 pick, you need a team with a star who is projecting downwards and wants to blow it up to rebuild, someone willing to wait and develop young players into pieces they can use.

The problem is there aren’t too many of those teams out there. Chicago has some major makeup issues to address, but shipping Butler doesn’t seem to be high on their list of desires right now.

Memphis is a thought if you’re looking for someone like Marc Gasol; they may be looking at the end of the road for Grit’N’Grind. But he’s in his 30’s, making a ton of money, and hasn’t held up well healthwise in recent years. There would probably have to be another move made in conjunction, which just gets weird to think about, and the Grizzlies would also require much more than #3.

Some rumblings have occurred where it would seem to make “perfect sense” to trade the pick to the Sixers for Jahlil Okafor. I really don’t get those – Okafor is the exact kind of player Philly should keep and see what he can do with a real point guard, and Boston’s offensive and defensive schemes both seem like terrible ideas for a gigantic offensive-only post player. Yea, maybe Coach Stevens could make it work, but that just doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing he would like.

All of this also is predicated on the idea that Ainge can convince other teams that where they draft, combined with whatever other flotsam, is worth giving up a franchise player. That’s going to be a tall order right now since, again, teams generally hate unknowns. The Nets’ other picks sound nice in theory, but if they somehow become good next year then it’s all for naught. The real value is right now, and it’s unquantifiable.

If you’re a fan who wants nothing to do with this pick, what needs to happen in the next month is for one or two of these prospects to separate themselves from the rest of the bunch. It’s not impossible for stocks to change drastically like that – teams had D’Angelo Russell nowhere near the top 3 for quite some time last year. Then the Celtics can put a discernable value on that third pick, go to other teams and say, “Look, you might be losing your star, but now you’re getting Player X to replace them”, as opposed to, “Hey, look at all these fun skill and role players you can choose from.” Maybe it’s Dragan Bender, maybe it’s Jamal Murray, maybe it’s Kris Dunn.

Also, understand that finishing third helps in potential trades, but it’s not exactly a blockbuster piece like Andrew Wiggins was for Kevin Love. It’s going to take other Brooklyn picks, players like Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, multiple assets people might not be so happy to “give up” on. Boston can certainly get a franchise player if they want to, but there’s no room to be cute and try to “buy low”. It’s really going to hurt.

For now, an offseason made unclear by trade options disappearing from the table left and right just got a whole lot murkier. The path Boston eventually takes will depend a lot on the next month of workouts and phone calls, and anyone who insists they have an answer as to what that path will be is kidding themselves. They could trade the pick for a veteran. They could trade it and other things for a superstar. They could keep it and keep giving Stevens more youngsters to play with. Nothing would surprise me at this point. The third pick isn’t exciting, and it’s not depressing. It’s just kind of shrug-worthy, and anyone hoping to have answers after the lottery got very little.

 

Follow Jesse on Twitter: @JesseAlling

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Ryan Bernardoni <![CDATA[The Nearly Year For The Celtics]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58307 2016-05-18T18:19:53Z 2016-05-18T17:11:11Z The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks. Zach Lowe, On […]

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The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.

Zach Lowe, On the 2015 NBA Draft

With that, The Nearly Year began for the Boston Celtics.

Wyc Grousbeck, the Celtics owner and drawing room rep, was reduced to this: hoping for “3,” the only ball that would hold Boston in the No. 3 slot, a one-in-eleven shot at that exact moment.

Zach Lowe, On the 2016 NBA Lottery

With that, The Nearly Year ended for the Boston Celtics.

It’s been a year of promise and frustration, in nearly equal measure, for Celtics fans. Coming off a 40-win season and a brief playoff appearance, the team did all they could to jump up in the 2015 draft to grab Justise Winslow. Teams from the Knicks all the way back to Miami rebuffed their “all in” offer for the rugged wing. In retrospect it looks like a good thing that no one did take Ainge’s proposal, even with Winslow looking like one of the better prospects in his class, but in the moment it always hurts to make a play and have it not work out. It felt like we were nearly there; a move that would have moved the needle. But it wasn’t to be, so the team moves on.

The preseason projections portrayed a team on the cusp. The big-picture media saw the Celtics as a fringe playoff team; the analytics crowd saw a potential 50-win squad. The early season results did nothing to clarify the picture. A strong point differential but a lagging win-loss record gave reason to be excited and cause for concern. This was nearly a really good team.

By the trade deadline, things seemed to be coming to a head. Trade rumors swirled and almost always included the Celtics. Were we in play for Al Horford? Making a move for Winslow’s Duke teammate Jahlil Okafor? Was there a secret pact to be made? In the end, no. The deadline was a dud; even Trader Danny can’t get beyond “nearly a deal” when everyone is holding fast. Another checkpoint passed; another opportunity for a move, good or bad, in the rearview mirror.

We focused back on the court but the outlook was still hazy. The wins started to edge up as the point differential leveled off. Was this a good team climbing up or an average team leveling out? It seemed like the former as the team surged towards the 50-win mark and a home playoff series. Even that wasn’t to be as a late season rash of minor injuries, the kind that nearly keep a player off the court, stemmed the momentum. A final week lapse and a final 24 minute surge left the team at 48 wins. Nearly to 50.

Nearly home court advantage. Why do divisions matter after the league tells us they don’t? I guess that’s what happens when you change only nearly all the rules. The Celtics draw the Hawks and the road. It was so nearly a big step forward.

In Game 1 of the playoffs they mount a furious comeback and look poised to wrestle home court advantage back to Boston. They nearly made it, but Avery Bradley’s hamstring stopped that cold. A series loss in six games. A bit of progress that could have been so much more with a some luck and health.

A month earlier, Celtics fans were dreaming of playing in a Conference Finals game the night of the lottery. Instead of Danny Ainge sitting on the dais, it was Masai Ujiri splitting his attention between ping-pong and basket balls. And yet, things were rosy for Bostonians. The Nets didn’t nearly blow up, they went all the way. After cutting bait on Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, Brooklyn sent a jolt of energy up to Boston by losing enough to sink below even the hapless Phoenix Suns into the third best lottery odds. The Celtics, possessing both a sordid lottery history and a leprechaun toting a bag of marshmallows, made it all the way to the final commercial break in the lottery show without seeing their name. A top-3 pick was in the literal cards.

At that moment, when Isaiah Thomas made his way to the front of the lottery stage, the Celtics had a 56.6% chance of picking in the top two. They were so close to the top flight talent that could alter a franchise. This is only The Nearly Year, though.

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Cameron Tabatabaie <![CDATA[Celtics Land the 3rd Pick at the NBA Draft Lottery]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58297 2016-05-18T00:30:50Z 2016-05-18T00:30:50Z The dust has finally settled, and the Boston Celtics will have the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft this June. The pick, which originally belonged to the Brooklyn Nets, should yield either a promising young rookie or could become a major pillar of a larger trade package. Boston had a 15.6 percent chance […]

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The dust has finally settled, and the Boston Celtics will have the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft this June. The pick, which originally belonged to the Brooklyn Nets, should yield either a promising young rookie or could become a major pillar of a larger trade package.

Boston had a 15.6 percent chance at the 1st overall pick going into tonight, and had similar odds at landing the 2nd or 3rd pick. Ultimately, Boston walked away with the third pick.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the top draft prospects ahead of the NBA draft, which will be held in NYC on June 23. Undoubtably there will be plenty of coverage and speculation ahead.

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One of the most interesting things will be whether or not the Celtics front office keeps this pick or choses to bundle it with other assets to land a more established player a la the Ray Allen trade of 2007.

The last time the Celtics drafted in the top 3 was in 1997 when the team took Chauncey Billups. And in fact, the C’s haven’t had the 1st pick in the NBA draft since 1950, when Boston drafted Chuck Share, who happens to be the first draft pick in NBA history.

Isaiah Thomas was in attendance for the 2016 lottery, and as Danny Ainge put it, he was meant to be the team’s good luck Leprachaun. Apparently IT took that to heart.

Along with this pick, the Celtics also hold the rights to the 16th and 23rd pick in the 1st round, as well as a flurry of 2nd round picks.

Please follow me on Twitter @CTabatabaie

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Ryan Bernardoni <![CDATA[Market Watch: Exploring the Value of Second Round Draft Picks]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58288 2016-05-16T16:17:02Z 2016-05-16T18:00:13Z This post will be the first in a series where I dive into the value of some of the Celtics’ lesser loved assets. I won’t only be focusing on the specific value to the Celtics, but also how the value of the type of asset is changing in the larger context of the league. We’ll start […]

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This post will be the first in a series where I dive into the value of some of the Celtics’ lesser loved assets. I won’t only be focusing on the specific value to the Celtics, but also how the value of the type of asset is changing in the larger context of the league. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite penny stock: 2nd Round Picks.

Through years of wheeling and dealing the Celtics have amassed a glut of draft picks, including eight this June. The sheer number of picks has led to numerous discussions over if the team would be able to use all the selections, and if having that many all at once is actually a bad thing. No one questions the utility of the three 1st round picks, but the five 2nds seem to leave people at a loss.

One of the issues in discussing these 2nd round picks is that, maybe because the team has so many, they tend to get lumped together as one block. Like the 1st round, the 2nd round can be broken down into tiers by historic performance and utility. Let’s start by defining those tiers for 2nd round picks, then think about how the changing league landscape impacts each type of picks.

Historic Pick Utility

Picks in the 31-40 range have a few traditional uses. The first is that these picks are just an extension of the end of the 1st round. The 35th pick projects to produce only 2.5 total win shares fewer than the 25th pick over the first five years of their respective careers. Players selected in the 1st round get a guaranteed contract and the luster of a label, but in terms of talent it’s just an arbitrary line and teams picking at the top of the 2nd round may often be taking players they would have been happy with ten picks sooner.

The second use for these picks is related to that lack of a guaranteed contract. Foreign-based players often have a buyout in their contract. Teams are only allowed to pay up to a set amount, not included against the salary cap, for buyouts ($650K in 2016-17). Anything over that has to come out of the player’s own salary.

All first round picks are tied to rookie scale contracts so if a player is selected, for example, 20th, they can make up to $1.56M this coming season. If that player is making $750k in Europe and has a $1.5M buyout, the team could pay an additional $650k for the buyout but the remaining $850k would be owed by the player, meaning they would end up actually making less than their current salary if they came to the NBA.

A player like that can slide out of the first round even if they have late-teens pick talent because they won’t come to the US. If they get selected in the 2nd round, rookie scale no longer applies so a team can pick them there and pay them enough to cover their buyout. This is why a talented foreign-based player is often selected in the first few picks of round two.

Picks in the 41-50 range start to show a more precipitous drop in expected value. It seems like the average draft gets to about the 45th pick with guys who have a real chance to stick in the league. Beyond that you get a handful of great stories (and great players) but the rate of players who never even play in the league goes way up. These mid-round picks are the real lottery tickets of the round. Teams take chances on raw athletes, international players who really shouldn’t have been in the draft but who you can hold the rights to, and medical or mental red flags.

The very end of the draft, picks 51-60, produces a few gems like Isaiah Thomas but is mostly nothing. The majority of these players never make an impact on the league, if they play at all. The one use that they sometimes do have is cutting luxury tax bills. Drafted players carry a lower tax charge than undrafted players in their first few seasons, so if a team knows they’ll be over the tax, it’s better to have a drafted player at the end of the roster than a free agent. That’s why Brooklyn bought the 60th pick to take Cory Jefferson in 2014. From a fan perspective there’s really no value in a team selling off one of their picks like this. The team’s ownership collects a little money but that has no impact on the experience of fans, unless you see it as a minor offset that frees up spending on more important things in the future.

Changing Valuations

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The influx of new TV money that is pushing up the salary cap has an impact on all of the tools of team building, including 2nd round picks at each of these defined tiers. Those end of round picks will likely become even less valuable than they have been in the past. The cap increases will bring with them luxury tax threshold increases, so there really aren’t any teams looking to to buy an end of the draft body just to cut a few dollars out of the budget. The Celtics’ picks at 53 and 58 may drop from being almost worthless to really, really, almost worthless.

An under-the-radar move from last offseason could also have an impact on how franchises value the lower two tiers of picks. In last year’s draft, J.P. Tokoto was an athletic guard-forward tweener projected as high as the top of the 2nd round. He slid down the draft board and was eventually taken by Philadelphia with the 58th pick.

In order to maintain a player’s draft rights, a team must offer that player a contract. For 1st rounders, the contract has two guaranteed seasons at a scale amount. For 2nd rounders, the required contract, called a tender, is just a non-guaranteed single year deal for the league minimum. Players selected late in the 2nd round, like Tokoto was, are usually drafted with the hope (or expectation) that they will not sign this tender and will instead go through the stages of preseason trying to earn a better deal, and then head overseas or to the D-League if they don’t make the team.

If the player does agree to stay out of the NBA for the year, the team can hold onto their draft rights without taking up a roster spot. In exchange for that, the player gets an implicit guarantee of a future spot on Summer League teams, a spot in the D-League when more lucrative foreign league seasons are done, and a chance to come to training camp.

If the player does sign the tender but then does not earn a spot on the team they forgo those benefits, but become a free agent able to latch onto any team’s NBA roster. Teams usually do not have space on their 15-man roster to carry the 55th pick in the draft, which is why they try to balance taking the highest upside player they can, but who they do not think will demand the tender.

In my opinion, just about every 2nd round pick should sign their tender if no better deal is offered. The ability to sign for 30 different NBA teams if you prove your worth overseas (or in the D-League) is more valuable long-term than a slot in the preseason. The somewhat rare action of signing the tender is what Tokoto did, resulting in his being cut from the Sixers.

The gambit may never work out for him, but if his move is the start of a trend where agents advise players to do this, then it will devalue late round picks because teams will not see a way to keep their rights under franchise control. This is already why more talented players slid all the way through the draft while someone like Marcus Thornton, who was open to not taking his tender and instead playing in Australia, was selected by the Celtics with the 45th pick last year. Boston again holds the 45th pick and may again see the value limited by having to take someone besides the best available player, if that player wants to force their way onto an NBA contract.

If trends in the cap/tax and player behavior are pushing down the value of late 2nd round picks, the same forces may be increasing the value of early 2nds. As we’ve stated, good 2nd round picks have very little performance difference from late 1sts. On top of that, we can see that the early 2nd round has consistently been getting more productive over the past few decades.

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The chart above shows the rolling 5-draft average win shares from the players taken in slots 31-40. The win shares are for the first five seasons of each player’s career, so only drafts through 2011 are listed. The draft in 2012 produced Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, and Khris Middleton between 31-40 so you can be sure that the upward performance trend continued beyond the end of the graph.

The challenge with players at the top end of round two is related to those tricky tender offers. Only players selected in the first round carry a signing exception with them. That means that a team over the cap can still always sign their 1st round picks for up to 120% of their scale amount. Second round picks don’t have a scale contract so they can be signed for anything up to the max salary, but their team has to use cap space or an exception to do it.

If a team is under the cap this usually isn’t a big deal; the Celtics were able to do all their moves last year and still reserve $1.2M in cap space for Jordan Mickey. If a team is over the cap, their exceptions like the MLE become precious commodities that they may not be willing to use on the 35th best prospect in the draft. The team can always offer a minimum salary contract, but those don’t extend long enough to establish full Bird Rights, meaning the team is at risk of losing the player if they turn out to be a gem, and the player is more likely to take the tender and get out even earlier than that, like K.J. McDaniels did a few seasons ago.

With the cap rising, teams do not have to worry so much about this issue. Almost every team can, if a prospect that they like slips into the 2nd round, trade up to take them with confidence that they won’t have any issue signing them. That increases the pool of teams considering trading up, increasing the relative value of the picks.

This particular draft is also thought to be deep in international talent. As discussed above, the top of the 2nd round is a good place to draft good foreign players with large buyouts. If one or two players in that class aren’t selected in round one, the Celtics could see the 31st and 35th picks as targets for multiple trade bidders, while also knowing that at least one of the picks may be valuable to use themselves.

Practical Application

Realistically, the Celtics aren’t going to make all five of their 2nd round picks. The team has largely neglected the international players market for a long time so you actually can make a case for trying to catch up with the rest of the league on that front all in this one draft, but really they’ll be trying to trade or sell at least a few of these picks. Of the five, the two highest value picks should see their value increasing over past years while the lower three may be dropping. In aggregate that’s a good deal for the team.

The ideal 2nd round for the Celtics, if no major trade has been agreed to that ships out the picks, could play out like the following. A high buyout international player slips because of concerns about the ability for him to come to the NBA. The Celtics grab this player at 31 and he agrees to stay overseas for at least a year before the Celtics overpay him to clear the buyout.

At 35, another team sees a player they had 20th on their board still sitting there and jumps in to trade for him, maybe as part of a package deal or for some future season draft asset. At 45 the team starts to stock their international cupboard with a lower ceiling player with some interesting skill. At 53 the team finds a buying team willing to spend a little cash for someone they’d like to get into camp. At 58 the team goes local and takes David “Sky” Walker from Northeastern because I went to Northeastern and The Force Awakens was pretty great.

If you’re going to own 1/6th of the 2nd round, it may as well be in a year where the high value assets in that market are appreciating.

 

You can follow me on twitter @dangercart where I will intermingle some salary cap insights with musings on TV commercials that annoy me. In Part 2 of Market Watch I’ll take a look at how Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko’s strong seasons changed the calculus on their non-guaranteed contracts.

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Cameron Tabatabaie <![CDATA[Celtics to Partner with New Balance and Build New Practice Facility in Allston-Brighton]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58279 2016-05-10T16:28:22Z 2016-05-10T16:23:10Z The Boston Celtics announced that the team would begin construction on a new practice and training facility, scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2018. The team will partner with the NB Development Group LLC, the organization responsible for Boston Landing, the space that now houses the Boston Bruins’ new facilities.   ”We are […]

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The Boston Celtics announced that the team would begin construction on a new practice and training facility, scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2018. The team will partner with the NB Development Group LLC, the organization responsible for Boston Landing, the space that now houses the Boston Bruins’ new facilities.

 

”We are proud to team with New Balance Development in the creation of a best-in-class athletic training and practice facility that will provide Celtics players, coaches, and training staff with the resources, technology, and programming to compete at the highest level in an increasingly competitive NBA landscape,” Rich Gotham, President of the Boston Celtics, said of the project in a press release. “The Boston Landing location will bring us closer to our game day home at the TD Garden while providing high impact brand visibility.”

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A snapshot of Boston Landing in it’s current state.

Boston Landing is located in Allston-Brighton, and between the new Bruins practice facility, administrative building and New Balances’ own office space, the area is hard to miss. In a press release, the team announced just how visible the final product will be, saying:

The Celtics new practice home, including the team’s 17 NBA championship banners, will be highly visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike with a forty foot glass wall enclosing the practice courts that face the approximately 130,000 daily commuters. The practice facility will encompass approximately 70,000 square feet.

This new practice facility is slated to include two practice courts for the team,  as well as strength, conditioning, training and recovery equipment. There will also be facilities for nutrition and physical therapy, including hydrotherapy pools. There will also be administrative offices for the team, a players’ lounge, and space for media and broadcast needs.

The project is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2016, and when the team finally moves to Boston Landing in 2018, it will serve to advance an already bustling area.

Please follow me on Twitter @CTabatabaie

 

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Brian Robb <![CDATA[Danny Ainge Has A Long Offseason Wish List]]> http://www.celticshub.com/?p=58276 2016-05-07T15:54:37Z 2016-05-07T15:54:37Z Danny Ainge was busy making the rounds this week following the conclusion of the Celtics’ postseason in six games against the Atlanta Hawks. After holding court with reporters on Wednesday in his end-of-season press conference, Ainge took to the radio on Thursday for his weekly hit with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub. […]

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Danny Ainge was busy making the rounds this week following the conclusion of the Celtics’ postseason in six games against the Atlanta Hawks. After holding court with reporters on Wednesday in his end-of-season press conference, Ainge took to the radio on Thursday for his weekly hit with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

While perimeter shooting remains at the top of Boston’s needs entering the 2016 offseason following a dismal performance for the second straight year in Round 1, Ainge pointed to another theme that has been consistent target in past summers for Boston: Rim protection.

“It was pretty incredible that we were the fourth-rated defense in the NBA without a shot blocker, really. I mean, Amir does a pretty good job, but he’s the only one that really provides length at the rim. And that’s a real testament to our perimeter defenders. But that is one thing in the offseason that we will be looking for is somebody who can be more of a rim protector. At least a specialist.”

While a shot blocker and a go-to scorer are just a couple of the items on Ainge’s wish list, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations believes he’s in better position to deliver on those needs than back in the summer of 2007 when he landed Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in separate trades. He explained his mindset behind that stance on Thursday as well.

“We’re in better position because I think that we’re more appealing to a multitude of teams that could do deals, because we have more assets. But we don’t have Paul Pierce, but we have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder. There’s a lot of people around the league that find those guys very attractive also. And I’m not saying from a trade standpoint, but I’m saying from an attractiveness standpoint of wanting to play with them, and feel like we do have a good nucleus. And so I think that it’s a little bit different, but I think what we have to offer other people is more at this point than we did in 2007.”

The excess will be put to use this offseason, whether it’s young prospects, future draft picks or the salary cap space that could potentially fit up to two players. The first step in the process will wait until May 17th though when Ainge finds out just how strong of an asset he has with Brooklyn’s unprotected first round pick.

 

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