CHICAGO – Two league sources told CSNNE.com Friday that the Boston Celtics are “very open” to moving up in next month’s NBA draft.
And while the sources did not indicate which player Boston was targeting, there are growing signs that they have their sights set on trying to draft Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein.
Projected to be among the first 10 players selected, the Celtics would have to move up several spots from their current position - the 16th overall pick – in order to select the 7-foot center.
Cauley-Stein was one of the first players the Celtics interviewed this week at the pre-draft combine.
As much as players take this time to sell themselves to teams, the Celtics have made of point of making sure that players know as much about the Celtics franchise as possible.
Needless to say, Cauley-Stein liked what he was hearing.
“The organization, the way they’re running, they’re on a tight ship,” Cauley-Stein said when I asked him about his impressions of meeting the Celtics’ brass. “They got a lot of young guys, but a lot of young talented guys. To be that young and to be where they’re at is really amazing. You can tell that begins with the coaching staff. The players have to buy into it.”
While his focus was on leading Kentucky to a national championship – they came up short in losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four – he did manage to follow a little bit of Boston’s late-season run that catapulted them into the postseason where they were swept in the first round by Cleveland.
Cauley-Stein had more than a passing interest with one of his former teammates, James Young, a member of the Celtics.
“I try to keep up with him as much as possible,” Cauley-Stein said. “They (Celtics) did some really good things towards the end of the season to get where they were at. That’s what’s so intriguing about it; to do all that with young guys is amazing.”
In his conversations with Young about the NBA and the Celtics, Cauley-Stein came away with a better sense of understanding how challenging the leap from college to the NBA can be.
Look at Young for example.
He was the best player on the floor for the Wildcats during Kentucky’s national championship runner-up finish in 2014.
Young slipped to the Celtics at No. 17 and spent a good chunk of his rookie season playing for Boston’s Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
“Just the amount of work that has to be put in,” Cauley-Stein recalled Young telling him. “The time, learning the game, studying the game, which is big hearing that from James.”
Cauley-Stein added, “You can tell you have to grow up at a rapid pace. By going to Kentucky, you’re prepared for that. You have to grow up real fast and pay attention to detail. That’s a lot of stuff he was telling me. When you get up there, you have to pay attention to detail, learn at a fast rate; dudes (are) ahead of you. You have to try and pick up the slack.”
Regardless of where he’s drafted, Cauley-Stein will have to be a quick learner. In the NBA, success involves being as strong mentally as well as physically which was among the many lessons he honed when he decided to return to Kentucky this past year after bypassing the 2014 NBA draft when he was seen as a first-round pick who would have been selected in the mid-teens or early 20s.
“It helped me a lot mentally,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m one of the older dudes in the draft which is cool. Went through a lot of different things at Kentucky so staying there an extra year, didn’t do anything but make it better for me to enter the draft now.”