Celtics

Change in top recruit Marvin Bagley's status would put him on Celtics' radar

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Change in top recruit Marvin Bagley's status would put him on Celtics' radar

BOSTON – Marvin Bagley III has proven himself to be among the best high school basketball players in the country, a 6-foot-11 left-handed power forward whose skills are as close to NBA-ready as you will find in the prep ranks.
 
Sensing his jump to the NBA might be sooner rather than later, he’s attempting to re-classify himself and play college basketball this season rather than play another year in high school.

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It is a complicated process, one that becomes even more convoluted when you consider the 18-year-old has already attended three high schools (two in Arizona, one in Southern California), meaning there will be at least three different paper trails the NCAA must take into account if he is to have clearance to play Division I basketball this upcoming season.
 
And that doesn’t even take into account that for most universities, the school year officially begins in a couple of weeks.
 
If he does manage to get the green light to play from the NCAA, it has potential ramifications for both the college game (whatever team he signs with will likely be the odds-on favorite to win a national championship this season) and NBA teams, such as the Celtics, who are likely to have one of the top draft picks next year courtesy of yet another first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade in 2013.
 
As much as the Celtics would love to be in position to draft a player with Bagley’s talent, having him start the one-and-done process this year rather than the fall of 2018 has other benefits as well.
 
It provides yet another talented option near the top of the 2018 draft board for the Celtics to choose from, just in case they don’t get the No. 1 overall pick.
 
And if they do get it, maybe they will trade it, which is exactly what they did in June.
 
In return, they slid down two spots to No. 3, where they selected Jayson Tatum from Duke in addition to acquiring a future first-round pick.
 
And while the Celtics get plenty of praise for landing top-tier free agents each of the past two summers in Al Horford and most recently Gordon Hayward, championships are won by teams with both stars and a supporting cast that learns how to become stars in their respective roles.
 
We’ve seen that with Golden State and Cleveland as they’ve gone back and forth with the Larry O’Brien Trophy the past three years.
 
And we see Boston in the early stages of assembling a team with similar growth among its youth, such as second-year wing Jaylen Brown, whose play steadily improved with him earning a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie second team while playing on the team that finished with the best record (53-29) in the Eastern Conference.
 
Boston still has some pieces to add on before they are firmly entrenched as a championship contender, but they know the quickest way to get there is to draft a player with superstar talent from Day One.
 
The 2018 draft, more so than the past couple of draft classes, appears to have a handful of players many believe can come in and contribute significantly to any team – even one that’s a legitimate title-chaser like Boston – in part because of their size and versatility.
 
Bagley III would join an elite top-of-the-draft class of big men that includes 6-foot-11 Missouri-bound forward Michael Porter, 7-footers DeAndre Ayton (Arizona) and Mohamed Bamba (Texas) and Texas A&M big man Robert Williams. The top international prospect is Luka Doncic, a 6-7 wing from Slovenia.
 
Of course, Boston’s chances of landing one of those players rests heavily in the hands of the Nets, who are once again projected to struggle this season.
 
If the Nets have the kind of season most anticipate, the Celtics will be in line to use that pick from the Nets and add one of those players next June to help strengthen a roster that’s trending in the right direction in its quest for what truly matters to this franchise – Banner 18.

Baynes in Celtics starting lineup in battle with Whiteside

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Baynes in Celtics starting lineup in battle with Whiteside

Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup may fluctuate based upon who they play which is indeed the case against the Miami Heat tonight.

Stevens said 6-foot-11 center Aron Baynes will replace Marcus Morris in the starting lineup tonight to help battle Miami 7-footer Hassan Whiteside. He will join a unit that includes Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.

Boston defeated Miami earlier this season 96-90, but Whiteside did not play due to injury.

“We’ve mixed and matched all year with our starters,” Stevens told reporters.

Regardless of who the Celtics were playing tonight, there was a good chance that Baynes would be in the starting lineup for Morris who is having some more soreness in his left knee which sidelined him for the first eight games of the season.

Morris, who has started the last four games and seven of the last eight, is questionable to play tonight.

“We’ve been trying to manage his minutes the best that we can,” Stevens said. “But for whatever reason, he had a little bit (of soreness) in Dallas. He feels a lot better, two days later. But we want to make sure.”

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Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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