Celtics

P.J. Tucker impressed with Jayson Tatum, 2017 draft class at USA training camp

P.J. Tucker impressed with Jayson Tatum, 2017 draft class at USA training camp

USA Basketball's roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup isn't going to have the superstar names we normally see at the Summer Olympics, but the upcoming tournament in China is a great opportunity for the stars of tomorrow to get valuable experience on the international stage.

One of the veteran players at Team USA's pre-World Cup training camp in Los Angeles is Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker.

Tucker singled out a few members of the 2017 NBA Draft class, including Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who have really impressed him during USA Basketball's camp over the last few weeks.

"Honestly, I swear all these guys are better than I realized," Tucker said Thursday, per the team. "It is crazy, playing against people a couple times a year is one thing but when you get here and you’re working every day, or you see how these guys work.

"All these young guys like De’Aaron Fox is amazing, he is way better than I thought he was, not saying I didn’t think he was good, but he is really, really good. I play Donovan (Mitchell) all the time with Utah so I know how good he is, but he’s been really great. Jayson Tatum is great. All these guys, I’m serious, top to bottom, all these guys are really good, and they are really going to be great in their individual careers."

This draft class received a ton of praise during the 2017-18 season, and it was much deserved. Tatum helped lead the Celtics to one win from the NBA Finals, while Mitchell led the Jazz to a surprising second round appearance in the Western Conference playoffs. Many other rookies from that class had impressive first seasons, including Fox, Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma.

Players from the 2017 class will be entering their third pro seasons in October, and Fox and Tatum are two to keep an eye on.

Fox had a breakout sophomore season for a young, talented Sacramento Kings team that exceeded nearly everyone's expectations by staying in the playoff race almost the entire 2018-19 campaign. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game, and his 3-point shooting rose from 30.7 percent as a rookie to 37.1 percent last season.

Tatum had a disappointing second season despite some of his stats improving. He shot too many mid-range jumpers, struggled to get to the free throw line consistently and saw declines in his field goal and 3-point percentages. Not only did Tatum struggle individually at times, the Celtics as a team failed to meet expectations en route to a lackluster second-round playoff exit.

The 2017 class will take a back seat to the 2019 class once the new season starts -- that's the Zion Williamson effect. But several members of the 2017 class will be playing important roles for teams hoping to contend in 2020, most notably Tatum (Celtics), Kuzma (Lakers) and Mitchell (Jazz). The development of these players could have a huge effect on the title race as a result.

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Handicapping the NBA's Eastern Conference before the 2019-20 season

Handicapping the NBA's Eastern Conference before the 2019-20 season

The Eastern Conference hasn't been easy to figure out in recent seasons, as the conference has seen some massive power shifts in each of the past two offseasons.

During the 2018 offseason, LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers. The ensuing move left the Cavaliers as a bottom dweller in the conference while teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Toronto Raptors rose to the top. Meanwhile, the star-studded and deep Boston Celtics failed to live up to lofty expectations.

Now, the Raptors don't look as strong despite winning the 2019 NBA title. They lost Kawhi Leonard and their potential fall has created another opening atop the Eastern Conference. Will teams like the 76ers and Bucks step up into the No. 1 spot? And can a new-look Celtics squad rise up once again? The East will be unpredictable, but here's a look at the state of the conference ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

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Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

The Boston Celtics waived Max Strus, Kaiser Gates, and Yante Maten on Saturday, trimming their roster to the regular-season limit of 17.

With the moves, summer league standout Javonte Green appears to have clinched the team’s 15th roster spot. Gates and Maten will have a chance to latch on with the Maine Red Claws as affiliated players after they clear waivers.

The Celtics signed Strus to a 2-way deal after he went undrafted then promoted him to the 15-man roster earlier this week on a partially guaranteed deal. That opened a 2-way slot to sign 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall.

Strus played well late in the exhibition slate and made 5 of his 12 3-point attempts overall. The combination of Fall’s potential and his popularity forced the team to maneuver. With help from his springy hops, Green made 16 of his 20 shots in the preseason and showed an ability to be an aggressive perimeter defender, helping him edge Strus in the competition for the final spot on the parent roster.

The Celtics open the regular season on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

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