Marvin Bagley III

As Lakers falter, a top pick for Celtics comes into focus


As Lakers falter, a top pick for Celtics comes into focus

 If you’re a Celtics fan, seeing the Los Angeles Lakers (15-27) struggle this season is almost as joyful as seeing the Celtics (34-10) on top of the East.

Still, the pleasure taken in seeing their long-time rival get smacked around repeatedly is even sweeter, knowing that as the losses by La La Land’s not-so-finest continue to stack up, it increases the likelihood of that high draft pick coming Boston’s way in June.


Part of the compensation the Celtics received in trading the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia before the draft last June could be the Lakers 2018 first-rounder owed to Philly from a previous trade 

If the pick falls between the No. 2-5 draft slots, it belongs to Boston.

Going into the weekend, the Lakers have the fifth-worst record in the NBA. If they stay there after the draft order is set, the Celtics would have the No. 5 pick.

So, with the potential to add another high lottery pick (top 14) for the third time in four years, it’s worth looking at the top five college players (listed in alphabetical order) and examining just how they would fit in as Celtics.

DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
Arizona losing three in a row early in the season certainly didn’t help Ayton’s draft stock. Arizona has since rebounded to win 10 of their next 11 and the play of Ayton has been instrumental in that success. A 7-footer with a frame that holds about 260 pounds, there are stretches of play when the game seems to come too easy for him and to be candid, he looks bored. It raises questions about his motor and whether he’ll bring the kind of intensity he’ll need to be successful at the next level.

As far as him fitting in as a Celtic, talent-wise that won’t be an issue. With his size, athleticism and touch, Brad Stevens will finally have a young big man to mold into what he and the franchise need going forward. The big concern with him is his motor to play with a high level of intensity on a consistent basis. Fortunately, he would have in Stevens a coach who understands intensity doesn’t always have to be a lot of screaming and yelling. True intensity comes down to playing hard, something that Ayton has not done as good a job with as he’ll have to at the next level. But if he’s on the board and the Celtics are picking in the 2-5 range, he would be a solid addition in large part because of his potential upside.

Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Of the players on this list, if the Celtics are holding the No. 5 pick, there’s a very good chance that Bamba will be the guy on the board. Because of the players in this top-of-the-draft class, he’s easily the least polished in terms of scoring the ball. But a 7-footer with a 7-9 wingspan whose game is predicated heavily on his defense can help any team that selects him.

In terms of fitting in with the Celtics, he would provide a defensive dimension that, as good as Boston’s defense has been this season, they still lack a consistent, shot-blocking presence around the basket who would make life so much easier on the guards on those nights when they have trouble defending ultra-quick guards.

Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke
There’s a lot to love about Bagley’s game. He has tremendous length, can score in a lot of ways and doesn’t shy away from the moment. But what has really stood out among NBA executives has been how quickly he picked up and dominated the college game. Remember, he was expected to spend this season in high school but opted to not re-classify and just head to Duke.  For the 6-11, 234-pound teenager to have made such a seamless transition is noteworthy.

As far as fitting in with the Celtics, that’s unlikely to be an issue. He has shown the ability to pick up on what he needs to do in order to be effective, which will put him in Stevens’ good graces early on. But if he doesn’t come out delivering on a high level, that’ll likely have more to do with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who made an immediate impact as freshmen. Still, his length, size, athleticism and just basketball smarts will allow him to be a rotation guy sooner rather than later.

Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri
After undergoing lower back surgery in November, which is expected to keep him out all of what was supposed to be his lone season at Missouri, it all but ruled him out as the No. 1 overall pick this June. There’s a lot to like about Porter’s game, which reminds some of Kevin Durant due to his ability to catch-and-shoot from several points on the floor in addition to him being nearly 7-feet tall but handling the ball like a shooting guard. He has a well-balanced game offensively, having shown the ability to score from a multitude of spots on the floor, whether it be long-range 3’s or mid-range 2’s, Porter Jr. finds a way to get buckets.

The Celtics would love to add a player of Porter Jr.’s talent, but there may be some duplication issues if you’re trying to work him into a mix that already includes Brown and Tatum. Still, if you’re Stevens and the Celtics that’s the kind of problem you don’t mind having.

Trae Young, G, Oklahoma
This season has seen a number of freshmen make an immediate impact, but Young and his long-ball heroics stand out. Most of the top prospects are big men, so Young will likely be the first college guard drafted (Luka Doncic of Real Madrid likely top-2 pick). He has seemingly limitless range on his shot, and knows how to attack off the dribble and finish around the rim despite his lithe frame. And while folks obsess over his scoring, Young has shown he can be a good passer as well. As talented as he is and projects to be at the next level, there would have to be some notable roster changes between now and the NBA draft for Boston to seriously think about drafting Young. Boston would likely be trading one of their top reserve guards (Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart), or the C’s would have to get word that Kyrie Irving doesn’t plan to re-up when the time comes. But those scenarios for now at least, are a bit far-fetched and unlikely to come to fruition.  


Blakely: An early look at some early exits

Blakely: An early look at some early exits

BOSTON – Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will undergo back surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the rest of this season, giving him a college career that will likely consist of two points in two minutes of action.
Projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in next June’s NBA draft, his injury sent shock waves throughout the college basketball landscape as well as among NBA executives, who now must weigh the injury in their evaluation regardless of how well he recovers or even he aces the physical tests he’ll surely undergo leading up to the draft.


You can count the Celtics among those to pay close attention to what’s happening with Porter Jr., a player that may be available to them in June courtesy of the first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers (via Philadelphia) that Boston received as part of the Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum trade.
As talented as Porter Jr. is, he won’t be the only high draft pick counted on to make an impact at the next level.
In this week’s Starting Five, we’ll take a look at the top five college freshman (most of whom are expected to turn pro and be in the draft in June) as well as MVP candidates; the top backcourts; the top rookies and my top five teams on the rise.

1. Marvin Bagley III, Duke: Has a double-double in four of Duke’s six games this season, averaging 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

2. DeAndre Ayton, Arizona: Has impressive numbers, but back-to-back losses by the Wildcats? Not a good look for this future lottery pick.

3. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: Depending on how his recovery/workouts/physicals go, no shocker if he winds up as the No. 1 pick when all is said and done.

4. Collin Sexton, Alabama: Big-time scorer, Sexton is a tough, tough cover in the half court or in transition.

5. Mohamed Bamba, Texas: 7-footer with a 7-9 wingspan, think Rudy Gobert with better athleticism.

1. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State: NBA champions two of the last three seasons, Curry and Thompson are the gold standard all NBA backcourts are measured against.
2. Chris Paul and James Harden, Houston: The sample size is small, but the three games since Paul’s return have been by an average of 26 points per game which speaks to how well this all-star backcourt has come together.
3. John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington: Wall’s end-to-end speed coupled with Beal’s elite shooting has made this one of the game’s most deadly backcourt duos.
4. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto: They’re the next best thing backcourt-wise to Wall/Beal in the East, but Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are right on their heels.
5. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland: You don’t hear a ton about these two because Portland has been a good-but-not-great program that doesn’t garner a ton of attention. But don’t be fooled. Lillard and McCollum are two of the league’s most dynamic scorers.
1. James Harden, Houston: A prolific scorer, Harden leads the NBA in scoring (31.1 points) and assists (9.8) per game while boasting the best record in the West.

2. Kyrie Irving, Boston:  The best player on the team with the best record who has been at his best in the clutch – that’s Kyrie Irving this season.

3. LeBron James, Cleveland: The Cavs are starting to roll up the wins and it is once again due to LeBron James doing LeBron James things.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee: The MVP front-runner the first couple of weeks of the season, the Greek Freak is still a load for teams to deal with.

5. Kristaps Porzingis, New York:  Among the NBA’s top-5 in scoring and blocked shots, Porzingis’ biggest achievement has been leading a far more competitive Knicks team than what we’ve seen the past couple of years.

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: A triple-double in the making, his statistics combined with Philly winning make him a no-brainer if he can stay healthy.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston: His numbers are solid, but he moves to the forefront of those being considered because of his two-way play and his team’s success.

3. Donovan Mitchell, Utah: His 14.3 points leads all rookies who average less than 30 minutes played per game.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: Only Simmons is averaging more points among rookies than Kuzma (16.8 points per game).

5. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago: The Bulls are bad, but Markkanen’s inside-outside is impressive regardless of how his team has fared this season.

1. Cleveland: With Boston’s loss, the Cavs have the longest current winning streak which stands at six wins in a row.

2. New Orleans: Currently with the seventh-best record in the West, the Pelicans have won seven of their last 10 games.

3. Indiana: Only Cleveland has been hotter than the Pacers, winners of four in a row.

4. Philadelphia: Joel Embiid has the Sixers three games above-.500, trending towards entering league MVP conversation.

5. San Antonio: After 4-4 start, Spurs are 7-3 since and very much in the thick of things out West.

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


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.


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.