Celtics

Draft primer: Tweeners

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Draft primer: Tweeners

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Next month's NBA draft is considered one with very few high-impact, superstar talents. While it's clear that this draft has its share of holes -- pot holes if you're picking near the end of the first round like the Boston Celtics -- there's no doubt the best shot at landing a quality player will likely come by snatching one of the many "tweeners" at the forward position; that is, players whose skillset andor size may result in them seeing time in the NBA at both the small and power forward positions.

You look at the Celtics' roster, 6-foot-9 Jeff Green falls under this category.

His versatility is among the many reasons why Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has made it clear that the Celtics have every intention of re-signing Green during the offseason.

Even if the C's are to re-sign Green, there still exists plenty of areas in need of addressing.

And adding a player with the ability to play both forward positions, for a C's team with plenty of roster spots in need of filling, can't hurt.

Here are some of the top frontcourt "tweeners" in this year's draft, which includes, in bold, players that the Celtics may be in position to land with the No. 25 pick.

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Derrick Williams, 6-foot-9, SFPF, Arizona

By the Numbers: 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists per game

Strengths: The most NBA-ready player of anyone in this year's draft. Combines the around-the-basket craftiness of a Corliss Williamson, with the shooting touch of a Michael Beasley. Has a wingspan of more than 7-feet, which should allow him to hold his own defensively against taller players in the NBA.

Weaknesses: Does a nice job of scoring around the basket and from deep range, but needs to develop a mid-range game; like most rookies, could benefit from getting stronger, especially if whatever team drafts him decides to play him for stretches at the power forward position.

Projected draft status: Top-5 pick, likely to go No. 1 or 2

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Kawhi Leonard, 6-7, SF, San Diego State

By the Numbers: 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game

Strengths: Definitely falls under the "high energy" category with his ability to make the intangible plays, such as getting to loose balls, deflecting passes or forcing turnovers by switching out at the last minute defensively on an unsuspecting ball-handler. Has a nice pull-up jumper and with a high release, it becomes extremely difficult to block or for that matter, contest.

Weaknesses: Needs to develop a more consistent perimeter game at the NBA level; has a tendency to gamble too much defensively; his ball-handling skills are suspect.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Jan Vesely, 6-11, SFPF, Czec Republic

By the Numbers: 10.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.3 rebounds per game

Strengths: Exceptional length and athleticism makes him a tough cover whenever he's on the floor. Is not afraid to attack the basket, and yet still has the talent to knock down shots from long range.

Weaknesses: Needs to get stronger, which would help him become a more reliable rebounder. Not a particularly good ball-handler, which could become an issue in the NBA where players at the small forward position often have the ability to take their defender off the dribble. His post-up game has improved, but still needs work.

Projected draft status: Lottery pick (top-14)

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Marcus Morris, 6-9, SFPF, Kansas

By the Numbers: 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game

Strengths: Has the potential to score from either forward position in the NBA; Has great footwork around the basket and good form on his jumper.

Weaknesses: Poor free throw shooter (68 percent); might struggle defensively because he doesn't have the athleticism or length of comparable hybrid forwards; one of the few players whose wing span (6-7) measured out shorter than his height (6-9).

Projected draft status: Middle of the First round

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Chris Singleton, 6-9, SFPF, Florida State

By the Numbers: 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game

Strengths: Has great instincts defensively, has the potential to develop into a lock-down type defender in the NBA; Runs the floor well, which leads to easy baskets in transition; explosive athlete who can play above the rim.

Weaknesses: Has improved his shooting, but doesn't have the tools to be a consistent scorer; ball-handling skills need work.

Projected draft status: Middle to late part of first round

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Davis Bertans, 6-10, SF, Latvia

By the Numbers: 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. (Combined averages for teams in Latvia and Slovenia.)

Strengths: Has a ridiculously quick release that, at his size, creates a lot of problems for a defense; handles the ball well enough to create his own shot.

Weaknesses: Rail-thin, even for a small forward; lateral quickness makes him a liability defensively; doesn't seem comfortable going to rim either to score or to grab rebounds.

Projected draft status: Late first round

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Tobias Harris, 6-8, SFPF, Tennessee

By the numbers: 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game

Strengths: Can score around the basket in a variety of ways; tremendous upside when you consider he won't be 19 until after the draft; long arms should help him defensively.

Weaknesses: Doesn't have a low-post game or the deep ball in his repertoire; too slow to guard most small forwards, not strong enough for most power forwards; weight may become an issue.

Projected draft status: Middle to late-first round

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.

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Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE