BOSTON – The NBA has become more of an international game as teams scour the globe in search of the next big basketball talent.
While some franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs have been poaching talented international players for years, other franchises have been more locked into adding American-born ballers.
The Boston Celtics have paid close attention to the best international players for several years.
- Blakely: Celtics' success lies in balancing big-money deals with bargains
- Tanguay: 'I would give up the farm' for Kyrie Irving
- Thomsen: Think Celtics are still preparing for blockbuster trade
But more often than not, additions to their roster through the draft have come from the college ranks with an occasional international player added via free agency.
This season's team will definitely have a certain international flavor to it with overseas additions coming by way of players they drafted and signed as free agents to bolster what should be one of the deeper teams in the East.
Boston has six rookies with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season, four of which were born outside of the United States.
And of those four rookies, three of them – Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall pick); Ante Zizic (23rd overall pick) and Abdel Nader; 58th overall pick) – were selected in the 2016 draft but didn't join the team immediately.
Yabusele who is originally from France, spent most of last season in China and came to the States and played briefly with the Celtic’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He will be among the bevy of young players competing for minutes off the Celtics bench.
Zizic, born in Croatia, spent last season playing in his native country as well as in Turkey. The 7-foot center will come into training camp competing for playing time, possibly as Boston’s starting center.
And then there’s Nader, a G-League all-star as well as the G-League’s rookie of the year last season. The Egyptian-American wing player showed promise in each of the last two summer leagues which is in part why the Celtics signed him to a four-year, $6 million deal with only the first year fully guaranteed.
They each have different strengths that only add value to a Boston squad that’s being built to play just about every style of play imaginable.
But the Celtics didn’t limit their pursuit of international talent to just the draft.
Boston has also signed German Forward Daniel Theis.
Unlike the international players drafted by Boston, Theis is a bit of a mystery to most Celtics fans.
Last season he averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds for Brose Bamberg of Germany, while shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range and 59.8 percent from the field.
And that season ended with a German championship, just like the previous two seasons for the 6-9, 243-pound forward who is expected to come in and compete for playing time off the bench for a Celtics team that’s looking for
BOSTON – The Celtics have had legit drama in their past two training camps, each involving a fight for 15 – as in the 15th roster spot.
Two years ago, it was Perry Jones III winding up on the outside looking in.
Last season, it was R.J. Hunter being edged out for the final roster spot by James Young.
Who will it be this year?
- BLAKELY: Why the Celtics getting Kyrie Irving is highly unlikely
- Atlantic Division snapshot: Scouting each team's offseason
- BLAKELY: Four takeaways from Jason Tatum's summer
Because for the third season in a row, the Celtics are on the verge of heading into camp having at least one too many guaranteed contracts.
The agent for Shane Larkin told CSNNE.com that his client will be joining the Celtics for this upcoming season, which would bring Boston’s total number of guaranteed contracts to 16. That includes the announced signings Thursday of German forward Daniel Theis and the team’s first-round pick in 2016 and 16th selection overall, French big man Guerschon Yabusele.
Making their deals official gives the Celtics one more guaranteed contract than the NBA-maximum a team can take heading into the season. That figure does not include the recent addition of Kadeem Allen, who agreed to a two-way contract and does not count against the team’s total.
The past two training camps have produced some hotly contested battles, which has seemingly brought out the best in those competing for roster spots as well as the team’s more established players.
This camp should be more of the same, especially when you consider the talent assembled thus far has a foundation that has a high level of interchangeability.
Coach Brad Stevens, slowly but surely, is getting closer to having the kind of roster that can compete at the highest levels regardless of their opponent’s preferred style of play.
“We’ve become more versatile as the years have gone on,” Stevens said. “We entered the playoffs a couple years ago [against Cleveland], we only had a couple guys who could really swing that 3 [small forward] and 4 [power forward] spot. Being able to slowly add the right guys … you look at guys like Jaylen [Brown], you look at a guy like Jayson [Tatum], you look at Semi Ojeleye, those guys have the body to do it.”
Fortunately for the Celtics, they are not the only players on the roster with an element of versatility to their game.
Here’s a look at the team’s current roster broken down into the four primary positions – guards, wings, perimeter bigs and bigs.
WINGS (bigger point guards, shooting guards, small forwards)
BIGS (Power forwards and centers)