Celtics

Celtics' youth movement shows NBA not finished with one-and-dones

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Celtics' youth movement shows NBA not finished with one-and-dones

LONDON – It wasn’t that long ago when finding an NBA coach that hated the "one-and-done" rule for college players was easy.

They're not ready to help right away and lack a fundamental understanding of the game’s fundamentals. Those were part of the arguments against players coming into the league after only a year of playing in college.  

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Now, we’ve seen more and more NBA teams roll the dice on players with slightly more than a semester’s worth of college to their name. It's to the point where on many levels it's become the rule rather than the exception.

And you know what?

It’s working.

Of the 30 players taken in the first round of the most recent NBA draft, 10 of the first 11 picks opted for the draft after their freshman year of college and a total of 16 first-rounders turned pro after their first season of college.

There may not be a better example of the one-and-done player’s success story than the Celtics' Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, each taken with the No. 3 pick in the 2016 (Brown) and 2017 (Tatum). 

“I’ve been real impressed with our last two guys who came from college, played one year,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “They were obviously ready for a lot of the demands of the NBA.”

And on Thursday in London, they face a Philadelphia team whose core group is built around players who also took their talents to the NBA just one year removed from high school.

When you take a look at both rosters, Boston has three players – Kyrie Irving, Brown and Tatum – who left college after just one season.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia boasts four players – Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and former Celtic James Young, who recently signed a two-way player contract with the Sixers.

Stevens has maintained an open mind in his time in Boston when it comes to players who come into the NBA with just one year of college under their belts.

While he understands the concerns that some coaches and front office executives may have with players being so green coming into the league, his perception of how one-and-done players are viewed is heavily influenced by the players he has coached.

But with the draft and all the components that come with it, there have been players who left college after one year who struggle.

One of those players was Young.

Drafted by Boston with the 17th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Young simply didn’t work out. He spent three seasons with the Celtics, appearing in 89 games while averaging 2.3 points per game while shooting 36.7 percent from the field and 27.6 percent on 3’s while playing 8.4 minutes per game. 

He’s now with the Sixers’ G-League affiliate after signing a two-way player contract. Because of the nature of his deal which limits him to just 45 days with the Sixers, there’s a definite level of uncertainty about his status.

But when it comes to Brown and Tatum, now that’s an entirely different matter.

Brown was a member of the All-NBA rookie second team last season and has shown the kind of growth Boston was hoping to see from him in his second NBA season.

His ability to come in and hit the ground running was among the many reasons why the Celtics had no hesitation in having Tatum play a more prominent role after Gordon Hayward’s injury.

“When it happened, we all kind of knew we would have to step up individually,” Tatum, referring to Hayward’s injury, told NBC Sports Boston. “So that’s all I did; just step up and make the most of the opportunity.”

Brown added, “Every situation is different. Even though me and Jason were the same pick, our situations were very different; just come in and try to adapt. Adaption is the key to surviving in the league.”

Tatum had planned on leaving Duke after one season, but he acknowledged he wasn’t sure how well his lithe frame could handle the bumping and grinding of the NBA.

“Could my body withstand playing that many games,” Tatum said was a question he asked himself frequently before entering the draft. “Just the physical part, playing against grown men.”

Simmons, the top overall pick in 2016, knew he would leave after one year when it became clear that he would be among the first players selected.

“It’s been a dream to play in the NBA,” said Simmons who ranks among the top assists men in the NBA this season as a rookie. “As soon as I had that opportunity, I was going to take it.”

While all the aforementioned players have room to grow, it’s hard to imagine another year or two of college would have made them better prepared for the NBA.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart left Oklahoma State after his sophomore season, but he too contemplated an early exit after his freshman season.

The extra year spent in college was instrumental to Smart’s improved play that catapulted him to being the sixth overall pick by the Celtics in 2014.

“The experience. There’s nothing like going to college and experiencing the feeling of your peers and fellow classmates, going crazy,” Smart said. “The vibe was crazy; the people that I was with. That ultimately made my decision easier.”

Things worked out well for Smart.

But not every player who considers turning pro makes the right decision.

Former UNLV standout Anthony Bennett was the top overall pick in 2013, but his career has been in a tailspin since. Drafted by Cleveland, he was part of the trade that sent Kevin Love from Minnesota to Cleveland. It wasn’t too long afterward that Bennett was out of the NBA but he still played well enough to be on the fringe of getting back in.

He’s now playing for the Celtics’ G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He has appeared in two games for Maine, averaging 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 13.9 minutes.

Bennett aside, the success stories among one-and-done players are more prevalent and makes it a path that NBA teams are becoming more comfortable with pursuing as more and more enter the NBA and, like the aforementioned players for Boston and Philadelphia,  make their presence felt immediately.

Kyrie Irving voted in as All-Star Game starter

Kyrie Irving voted in as All-Star Game starter

Kyrie Irving has been voted in as a starter in this year's NBA All-Star Game.

Irving led all Eastern Conference guards from in votes from fans, media, and players. It'll be his fifth All-Star appearance.

Here's the full list of starters from both the Eastern and Western conferences:

Irving is averaging 24.1 points per game this season and shooting a career-high 47.3 percent from the field.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Kyrie Irving out vs 76ers with shoulder injury

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Kyrie Irving out vs 76ers with shoulder injury

BOSTON – Brad Stevens said Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving will sit out tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Irving aggravated his shoulder in Boston’s 116-113 overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday, and was held out of the team’s practice on Wednesday. 

Without Irving, Boston will start Marcus Smart in the backcourt along with Jaylen Brown, with the frontcourt consisting of the usual trio of Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE